Monday, September 23, 2013

The Power of Art in Action: WCCW Residency by Eva Abram

Freehold facilitates an annual residency at three separate Washington Corrections facilities including the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), in which we enable the participants to write, direct, rehearse, and perform their own show in a five-month period. Residencies guide participants through the creation of an original performance based on an exploration of the archetypal hero’s journey. Participants invite their peers, friends and family to watch their performance at the culmination of the residency. The residency performance at WCCW is held in the spring.

When I was invited to participate in the Engaged Theatre WCCW Residency, learning that a theater-oriented group of people would guide participants through a series of writing exercises that would then be used to create a play, I was, well, curious.  As a storyteller and actor I’m quite familiar with story structure so I wondered how random writings would be used to create a cohesive, thematic play. 

I didn’t have to wonder long.  The ‘Group of Five (or so)’ Teaching Artists held meetings long before entering the WCCW.  We held several planning meetings to discuss ways to approach our task, asking questions such as: What classic stories might we use to start the creative juices flowing that might lead to possible themes?  We explored well-known stories that helped guide us in gathering ideas about how to approach the writing workshops. 

Still we had lots of questions to answer:  How do we create prompts that will encourage writing and not intimidate participants?  How do we convince those who have never written to write from a place of truth?  What kind of physical exercises could we do within WCCW rules to help mentally free the group?  These questions and many more had to be addressed before setting foot into the workspace.

In thinking about these tough questions, I had one of my own, “Are you sure I’m the one you need for this work?”  I sat in the meetings with a talented playwright, (a newbie like myself) and three veterans of the program.  As the playwright and I struggled to get up to speed, my concern vanished; I simply had no time to worry over that.  We listened, learned and discovered ways to contribute. Another question was, “How do you convince the new participants that ‘Yes, we can and will use your writings to create an awesome play?’"

I found that if we, the ‘Group of Five or so’, were willing to open up and share writings about ourselves, participants were more than willing to do the same.  We presented writing prompts that were developed with sensitivity for our participants.  Through thoughtful self-exploration, the women created heart-felt stories; they wrote of love, loss, death, forgiveness, standing up against injustice and transformations.  Through this program, lives were changed. 

The participants’ stories were beautifully astonishing and the truth in their messages was well received by those privileged enough to experience the play Cape-able Women, Journey through the Maze.

Throughout the creative writing process I was inspired, renewed and honored to have been a small part of this program with its audacious ideas and huge goals, all of which were met in the end.


For more information about Freehold's Engaged Theatre program, go here.

My Film Directing Class Experience by Andy Tribolini

In January 2013 Freehold offered a new workshop - Film Directing Class - whose goal was to give eight directors the skills and support to write, direct and produce their own 5 minute films. It was also the first time that Robin Lynn Smith and John Jacobsen would co-teach a class. Freehold has offered theatre focused Directors Labs in the past, taught by Robin as well as Tony award winners Bartlett Sher and Brian Yorkey, and the Acting and Directing for the Camera series taught by John Jacobsen, but this was the first attempt to combine the two disciplines in a single offering.

Having worked with Robin and John over the last few years as a student and production assistant, I jumped at the chance to assist them in creating the class. It was a little more complicated than I imagined. First we hammered out a syllabus from combined notes that Robin and John had made in a preliminary meeting. The challenge was that Robin and John had substantial course material – John’s story structure module from The Film School three week intensive and Robin’s past acting and directing course work. However after some thoughtful discussion they were able to pare the material down to the essentials. I tried to bring the perspective of a student to the discussion - documenting specifically what preparation was expected for each class, what the assignments were, and when were they due. Next we auditioned actors for the directors to work with. Working from the initial treatments provided by the directors for their five minute films, we matched actors to the characters.

I have to say watching Robin and John work was mesmerizing. If you've worked with Robin you know she won't let you get a single inauthentic word out of your mouth before stopping you to ask "what's going on here?" And if you've worked with John you know his moment to moment acting and story structure work lead to clear and affecting story telling.

Once the directors started shooting their films I became part Assistant Director, part rental manager (The Film School had lent us cameras and equipment that could be checked out), part actor manager, part casting agent, and part line producer. I've had a lot of experience on set over the last five years, acting, directing and producing, and was able to help some of the more inexperienced directors get connected and organized. One point I kept emphasizing to the directors was that team building was as important as any other skill they would learn. It was fun - but a lot of hours. And it all paid off when the directors showed their films at The Stuart Stern theater at the SIFF center.

So would I do it again? Wouldn't miss it for the world (my standard disclaimer: unless I get a call from Spielberg...). Robin and John and I have already started plotting the next installment for January 2014.

Freehold's Film Directing class with Robin Lynn Smith and John Jacobsen will be offered in our Winter Quarter 2014.  We are currently offering a Directing and Acting for the Camera class with John Jacobsen which is a great prerequisite for individuals considering taking the Film Directing winter class.

Interview with Playwriting Students Sue McNally and Caitlin Coey

Sue McNally and Caitlin Coey are returning Freehold Playwriting students.  We took a few minutes with them to chat about their recent Playwriting experience at Freehold and what they are looking forward to in their next Playwriting class.

What drew you to sign up for Freehold's Playwriting classes in the first place?

Sue: I’d been in a slump with my writing and saw that Freehold was offering Playwriting with Rebecca Tourino.  I’d had a fabulous experience with Freehold in the late 1990’s and I thought playwriting could be a fun adventure.  

Caitlin: I've written poetry from an early age and have some acting training.  I drifted away from acting and continued to write, but so many roads led back to theatre it was impossible to shake.  This seemed like a lovely and fulfilling way to combine both passions.  

What has surprised, excited and/or challenged you in the process of taking the Playwriting class?

Sue: I entered the class with a heavy feeling that I should be bringing an idea for a play to the first class.  But I decided to wait to see what Rebecca had in store for us.  She had a bag full of tricks – exercises that fleshed out to scenes and assignments to explore people that created characters.  It was truly like magic.  She led us into the world of our imagination and suddenly things started taking shape that surprised us all.  I have now, after part 2, nearly completed a play that I never intended to write but that just gushed out of me.  Amazing.

Caitlin: I thought that because I've always been a poet it would be foolhardy for me to try something longer, but the prompts Rebecca gave allowed us to take it one step at a time.  We started out observing people in a coffee shop and before I knew it, I had my first act sketched out! Something I realized within the first class--there isn't "one" way to write a play. It's fabulously encouraging.  

You've taken the class once and you're returning to take another Freehold Playwriting class.  What are you looking forward to as you return to take another Playwriting class here?

Sue: I am going to start the game anew.  I will follow Rebecca’s prompts and see what other plays are hiding inside of me.  It’s going to be great fun.  I could take this class over and over again forever.

Caitlin: I love having a creative space to go to every week--a lot of the joy of my writing is knowing that I get to share it with my classmates.  It keeps my imagination working and keeps me grounded in those my moments when the task seems so daunting.  

Has there been one piece of playwriting wisdom that has stood out for you?

Sue: Early in Playwriting I, Rebecca challenged us to take two or three of our characters and write a confrontation scene that was so intense that our classmates would accuse us of melodrama.  That was so liberating for me.  I think I have a tendency as a writer to hold back.  This wisdom gave me license to go for it.  And that scene became the inciting incident for my play.

Caitlin: I tend to hold back in life and in writing, but Rebecca encouraged us to write full-tilt because "you can always pull it back." I keep that in mind every time I sit down to write. 

Sue McNally works as a writer/producer/director in TV and has produced dozens of travel shows for PBS.  She’s been writing fiction on the side for years and created many of her own narrative short films.  She took a slew of Freehold acting classes and would love to combine her love of film and acting with a newfound passion for playwriting.

Caitlin Coey will graduate from Antioch University Seattle (AUS) in December with a B.A in Arts and Literature.  Recently she was the assistant editor on AUS's (late) literary mag Knock. Outside of playwriting and AUS, she is a nanny, baker, performer, and freelance writer. A former student at Cornish College of the Arts, she has a strong interest in theatre for social justice and recently traveled to Rhode Island to see The Jenin Freedom Theatre's production of The Island.

Rebecca Tourino will be teaching Playwriting I at Freehold this Fall Quarter.  For more information on this class go, here.

Freehold Sisu Scholarship Awarded to Klementina Mellin

Freehold is delighted to announce that Klementina Mellin (pictured left) is the recipient of the 2013 Sisu Scholarship. The scholarship is a merit based ward that provides a full tuition waiver for our advanced training series the Meisner Progression to one student per year who demonstrates the passion, the potential, and the drive to move theater forward and to make a lasting contribution to the community that we serve.

It is funded by generous donors in the name of two of Freehold's most beloved and respected teachers, Jessica Goldstein and Althea Hukari, who both passed away from cancer in 2012. Jessica and Althea devoted their lives to the pursuit of the truth through acting, writing, directing and teaching theater. We honor this devotion with a scholarship that promotes their vision and goals.

Our Scholarship panelists for 2013 included: Faculty members Dan Tierney and Robin Lynn Smith, Board Member Scott Maddock, former Staff member Daniel Morris, and Alumni Chelsea Binta. We will announce auditions for next year’s scholarship in the spring of 2014.

Almost Magical by Archana Srikanta

I had my eye on this one for awhile and I did my homework well ahead of time. Even before Freehold’s Rehearsal and Performance class opened for registration this summer, I had rummaged through the internet picking fragments of information from blog posts by previous students, previous class schedules, previous performance invitations, anything to piece together a mental picture of what it might be like. Potential instructors included. It didn’t take a genius to guess who it was going to be. And when I heard that Darragh Kennan was performing in NCTC’s The Trial, I had to see it. And I did. I’ll save my opinion for a little bit later.

Registration for the class opened and I came very close to running away from it all. As someone who has only been dabbling in theater, I was daunted by the prospect of taking a play from page to stage in just 6 weeks. Lines, characters, blocking, props, costume, music, lights all included. It seemed especially impossible beside a full time day job that often demands more than the typical 40 hour work week. Not to mention, I was somewhat intimidated by Darragh after witnessing his powerful portrayal of the protagonist in The Trial. He and his company of actors seemed way too stellar for tiny little me. But I pulled the trigger anyway.

On the first day, I brought my uncertain self into class and was introduced to a room full of mostly strangers (thank God for the few familiar faces), who I’m sure were all feeling equally uncomfortable. We spent most of that evening trying to break the ice and running through a first read of the play that was to be in 6 weeks. Almost, Maine. I spent a lot of time with these strangers over the next few weeks building quirky characters within a mythical town named Almost in the remote outlands of northern Maine. 10 hours a week to be precise. The strangers went from being strangers to co-actors to friends to family. A family whose warmth quickly melted away my fears. A family that made 6 hour long rehearsal sessions seem not just effortless, but thoroughly enjoyable. A family that epitomized teamwork and cooperation in a way I have seldom experienced before. 

As for Darragh, he radiated discipline and dedication. His humility showed me that there’s nothing glamorous or far-fetched about theater and acting. It takes hard work and a willingness to achieve, no different from my non-glamorous day job as a software engineer.

And before I knew it, nine beautiful little vignettes had blossomed out of the process. The feeling of fulfillment and togetherness I felt with the ensemble the night of the performances is hard to put down in words. It’s secondary that the performances themselves were almost magical (no pun intended) and received great feedback from family and friends.

In retrospect, the magic realism depicted in the play seems oddly befitting of the short-lived yet strongly inspiring experience I had through this process. I only hope I gave back to this family a tenth of what I received from it.

Photo from Almost, Maine
Pictured: Steve Lien and Archana Srikanta
Photo by Scott Maddock

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"So You Want to be Zorro" by Geof Alm

This is a reprise of an article Geof Alm wrote for Freehold's e-newsletter. Great to revisit it!


"So you want to be Zorro!"

Actually I did, and I think I still do!

I think I came by my love of stage fighting very legitimately. I have pictures of me standing by the Christmas tree in my Zorro costume, complete with hat, cape, and sword with a piece of chalk on the end. (My mom loved that!) In fact, much of my childhood consisted of role-playing, in one way or another. Although I grew up in what is now Shoreline, we were fortunate to have eighty acres of woods behind my house. Those woods were perfect for playing army, superheroes, sword fighting-with the dreaded ferns as our enemies, so what I am doing now seems like a natural progression.

My formal training began when I attended the Drama Studio London In the late 70's. Stage Combat was a required part of the curriculum, and I was very excited. The day my teacher walked in, a dashing man with a red goatee and moustache, I was hooked! For the people who know me, at least I have the whiskers part! OK, maybe a little greyer. His name was John Waller, and he was an armourer, falconer, bowman, and choreographer of the Black Knight fight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." A gracious man who was very supportive of his students.

My main memory of that experience was failing my fight test. We both touched each other with our blades at the same time, and that was a disqualification. I was crushed, I was going home in a week, and I had worked so hard. John was able to scramble and arrange another test, so we trooped in, and who was behind the table, one William Hobbs, choreographer of The Three Musketeers (Michael York version), and the preeminent fight director of that time. I knew who he was, and now I was really nervous. We went through with no flubs this time, and afterward were told that he couldn't pass any of us, we looked too tense and dangerous, and not in a stage combat way. He put us through some drills and ended up passing me and another guy. It was a hard, but great lesson. You must have a solid basis for your technique to be successful. I heard this great musician say that it's 80 per cent technique, and 20 per cent art, and I believe this to be true. Something that looks effortless very rarely is.

My association with The Society Of American Fight Directors began when I returned home, and began to seek work as an actor. When people found out that I had some stage fighting experience, they would ask me to choreograph, and I knew I wasn't qualified to do that. I needed more training, and soon met David Boushey who was teaching some weekend workshops. David had founded the SAFD and was the top fight director in the US. He had such a love for what he was doing, which was infectious. He recommended that I participate in the National Stage Combat workshop being held that year in Memphis. I saved my pennies and went, and had a fabulous time. I couldn't believe that there was a bunch of people that did this kind of thing, and were so generous with their time and knowledge. The workshop was three weeks, and at the end I had earned my basic actor-combatant status.

The next year they were offering the first teacher training workshop, which I applied for and was accepted, and became a Certified Teacher. This was 1987. Consequently I received my status as a Certified Fight Director, and soon after that, I was awarded the rank of Fight Master.

Stage fighting, for me, has been my way into physical theatre. It has taught me to act with my whole body, given me a focus career wise, and connected me to so many good people. I am grateful to the teachers who mentored me, and continue to do so, the students whom I have had the pleasure to teach, and an art form that continues to nourish and excite me.

I strive to be a student, teacher, and as they say in Martial arts - a white belt - one who embraces the wonder of "I don't know" And as for Zorro . . . Maybe I'm closer to Anthony Hopkins than Antonio Banderas, but it's all good!

Geof Alm teaches Stage Combat at Freehold. Geof is a certified fight director and teacher for the Society of American Fight Directors. he has worked at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, INTIMAN Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, ACT, Seattle Opera, Seattle Shakespeare Company, The Group Theatre and many more. Geof teaches nationally and in the Northwest including at the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program.

For more information on Geof's upcoming fall Stage Combat class at Freehold starting October 12th:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exceptional Beginning Acting Classes in Seattle at Freehold Theatre

Freehold has been offering acting classes in Seattle since the summer of 1991. We offer introductory courses for the absolute beginner as well as master classes for working professionals. All Freehold faculty are working professional actors, playwrights and directors whose credentials include recognized work on and off Broadway, in major motion pictures, on television, and in regional and international theatre venues.

Step I: Intro to Acting with Sarah Harlett and Meg McLynn

At Freehold, we believe that acting is a process that can be learned and practiced by anyone at any age. In the Intro class, you develop fundamental acting tools: playing an action, living truthfully in imaginary circumstances, and working with a partner. No matter your experience, you learn acting in an exciting and safe environment. This is the first class in our three-step acting progression, introducing you to a vocabulary and approach that will be the basis of Step II: Acting with Text and Step III: Basic Scene Study.

Section I: Sarah Harlett, Instructor
October 3 - November 21
Thursdays, 6:00 pm- 10:00 pm
$390 Discounted
$470 Full Price
Tuition based on household income

Section II: Meg McLynn, Instructor
October 12 - November 30
Saturdays, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
$390 Discounted Price
$470 Full Price

To register for either of these classes or for any of our other great classes, go to:

Sarah Harlett has been an active member of the Seattle Theater community for many years. Locally, Sarah has been seen at Seattle Children's Theater, Intiman, New City Theater, Seattle Shakespeare Company, The Empty Space and On the Boards. Local credits include: All's Well That Ends Well, Night of the Living Dead, 100 Dresses, Bunnicula, The Winter's Tale, Far Away and Valley of the Dolls and Othello (as part of Freehold's Engaged Theatre production). Internationally, she performed at the Centre de Danse in Paris, France with the Megan Murphy Company, staying to create a new performance piece with European artists. Sarah is a founding member of the Compound Collective, an acclaimed performance group in Seattle that focused on original works.

Meg McLynn is an actor and singer who has travelled to all 50 states and performed in many of them. New York credits include Classic Stage Company, HERE Arts Center, The Ohio, The Mint, Theatre for a New City, Saltbox Theatre Workshop and others. Locally, Meg has been seen at Book-It, ArtsWest, On the Boards, Centerstage, New City Theatre, Tacoma Actor's Guild, Consolidated Works, Theater Schmeater, Theatre Off Jackson and The Bathhouse. Meg studied voice and speech for 7 years under Kristin Linklater, and she also studied at Columbia University with Anne Bogart and members of SITI Company, Andrei Serban, Niky and Ulla Wolzc, and Larry Singer.

If you are looking for exceptional classes in a supportive atmosphere, Freehold is the place.

Explore the You You Don’t Know

Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio
2222 2nd Avenue, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 323-7499

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Freehold Faculty Upcoming Work


Elizabeth Heffron's play Bonita will be at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in October and will be directed by Freehold Faculty member Paul Budraitis.

Gin Hammond is currently the dialect coach for the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's play Sugar Daddies (directed by Sir Alan Ayckbourn himself), and which features Freehold alum, Elinor Gunn in the role of Chloe! In September, Gin will be appearing in Episode 6 of the hilarious webisode, So Much For Talent, premiering IM/MIGRANT a short solo play by Yussef el Guindi in October, performing in Ed:Downloaded at Washington Ensemble Theater (WET) in February 2014, and reprising the role of Bebe in Returning the Bones at Key City Public Theater in October 2014. 

Marya Sea Kaminski will be doing a Writing on Location workshop in Barcelona, Spain from October 28th through November 2nd.  


Darragh Kennan will be acting in New Century Theatre Company’s production of The Walworth Farce, October 3-27.  

Meg McLynn has several projects coming up: Fifth of July with Theatre22 at West of Lenin, Oct 4--26 .  I Could Go On Singing: The Judy GarlandSongbook with Purple Phoenix Productions at Centerstage, Nov. 3.   and Beyond the Score: The Tristan Effect with Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, Nov 10.

Annette Toutonghi will be in the Sandbox Radio Show: Howl on October 21st.