Monday, January 7, 2013

Interview with Freehold's Associate Partners

Freehold's Associate Partners include Daemond Arrindell, Liza Comtois, Gin Hammond, and Annette Toutonghi. To read our Associate Partners' biographies, click on their names above.

You all have such a wealth of experience in the performing arts. Can you share a little bit about how you were called to your craft?

Daemond: This question always cracks me up- I wrote my first poem as a senior in high school for an assignment over the holiday break. Being the procrastinator I am, I put it off til the day before it was due, then went with what was the shortest assignment - a poem. I thought I'd crank it out in 30 min. But spent all night on it. It ended up in my school's literary journal and I was officially hooked on writing.

Gin: In my teens I was painfully shy, and I saw acting as a way of finding masks to hide behind. As I got older, I realized that great acting was quite the opposite, so I was locked in a struggle between what I aspired to do, and being an introvert. I still remember standing on a sidewalk one sunny day in Minneapolis, feeling existentially lost, and asking the Universe what I was meant to do. "ACT!" boomed clearly in my ears, (really, it did). I thought "Oh nooooo!" and yet the sudden and profound happiness rushing through me was undeniable.

Annette: I was living in a small town in Alaska. In high school, we were visited by a rural outreach group from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. They directed a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with us. Like Gin I was particularly shy, but I think the size of the language inspired me...and I found that with acting I was able to open up and share my heart in a way that I wasn't comfortable with in day-to-day life. And finally, I was a big reader, always drawn to stories. This particular form of storytelling seemed absolutely magical to me.

Liza: I have been embracing and running from this profession my whole life. It’s crazy, unpredictable, unforgiving and amazing. Sometimes I think I am crazy for fighting so hard to be a part of it and other times I am so grateful I didn’t walk away. This world is a rough place and making theatre is the only way I can figure out to help make it better.

What drew you to Freehold and what continues you to inspire you in your work here?

Daemond: Jodie Knowles told me that I'd be great with the Engaged Theatre program and that the new direction could really benefit from some poetry. Next thing I know I'm in a meeting where Robin Lynn Smith, Freehold's Artistic Director and a Freehold founding member, says, "ok, so we are gonna go in and do yadda yadda yadda. And then Daemond's gonna do HIS thing." I quickly raised my hand, "uh, Robin ... what's my 'thing'?"

We managed to work it out and I had an incredible experience doing a workshop with the women as part of Freehold's Engaged Theatre program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Robin invited me back several times, then invited me to join the faculty.

Gin: When I moved to Seattle from NYC, Freehold faculty member Kate Wisniewski, (fellow alum of the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard), suggested I look into teaching a Voice class at Freehold. "The rest is history." What continues to inspire my work at Freehold, (aside from its wonderful students), is how Robin Lynn Smith (Freehold's Artist's Director) continues to push my ability to expand my repertoire as it relates to teaching voice-related classes. Robin throws down the gauntlet and I do my best to rise to the challenge. Through that, I've realized it's all part of the same Core; in fact, everything taught here is so incredibly interrelated!

Annette: I met Robin Lynn Smith in Graduate School at the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program. I studied under Jack Clay, but Robin worked with us for a year as well. She was an inspiring acting teacher and I was smitten with her right away. Her passion, smarts and clarity around the craft moved me. I was interested in teaching as well and was lucky that she was our teaching mentor because she lit a fire in me for the craft of teaching too! I taught at South Seattle Community College, University of Washington and in the late 90's started teaching at Freehold.

Liza: I came to Freehold because of Robin, the work she strives to create and the artists and faculty she attracts. Integrity in the work, a dedication to craft, a search for truth and an authentic interaction with an audience are what brought me to this profession and it fed my soul to find kindred spirits to walk the road with.

If you could have a career wish come true, what would that look like for you?

Daemond: This would be hard to narrow down to one thing, so I'll cheat and give two - star in my own one-man show and have a faculty position teaching Spoken Word at a college, like Cornish.

Gin: For better and for worse, I already love everything I do. If anything, I wish I had a team of assistants! Probably one-long term, lucrative voice-over gig would help make that a reality. Also, I wouldn't mind checking out a few of the many fabulous voice workshops being taught all over the world. There's one coming up in Tuscany that doesn't sound too bad...

Liza: We have a 4-year old and I would love to be a part of making theatre for him to learn about the world.

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