Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why Take Improv Intensive this Summer?

Freehold Faculty Member Matt Smith will be teaching our Improv Intensive again this Summer.  Read Matt's thoughts about the benefits of the Improv Intensive below.


I did the Improv Intensive for 12 summers straight and it added to the quality of my life, to work that closely with 150 people from all walks of life. I am still in touch with most of them, and often hear how taking the intensive was pivotal for them, and what they are now doing.

One thing that makes it gel is the always looming two performances at the end. Why two? Because I don't want anyone having a great, high energy show, or a seeming disaster, and walking out thinking that's the way it is!

After week two, largely because of the upcoming shows, attendance in class is perfect. People stay after and practice. It becomes about taking care of each other. And improv has a system for that.

Here's information on Matt's Improv Intensive class at Freehold:

Location: Black Box at Freehold Theatre
Performances Friday, August 1 and Saturday, August 2 at 7:00pm
$575 Discounted Price
$695 Full Price

All levels of experience welcome. This intensive will cover basic principles of improv, which will reach into your bones! We start from scratch, ending with two (2) performances! Why 2? To double your sample size. Otherwise you might have a great show and leave with the delusion that it's always like that!

It's challenging, fun, and transformative in obvious and subtle ways. Lots of incredible people have been through this training! Graduates use their improv training as teachers, nurses, film & TV actors, parents, congressmen, doctors, spouses, executives, negotiators, real estate agents, trial attorneys, pastors, movie producers, therapists, and waiters.

To register: 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Intro to Acting Experience by David Caldwell

My interest in performing is rooted in musical theater. And although I’ve sung my entire life, I haven’t played an official role since age 12 in a community production of The Music Man.  I finally decided 2014 was my year to audition for local theater. But my stomach would churn every time I read “please come prepared with a 1-2 minute monologue…” I knew I needed help with my acting so I asked a few performer friends for advice and they all pointed me to Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio.

If, like me, you have never taken an acting class, you are in for a fascinating challenge. I was nervous that first day in our Step I: Intro to Acting class, as our teacher, Andrew McGinn, guided us through some warm-up exercises. Andrew is a rather imposing, hirsute redhead with a deep, raspy voice, but these exercises seemed really silly. The nine of us laughed anxiously at ourselves and one another trying to get acclimated to this bizarre parallel universe where neither shoes nor ego were welcome. During that class, Andrew dropped his first of many gems when he said, “It’s ok to be nervous. Acting is really, really hard. If it weren’t, everyone would do it and no one would care about theater anymore.”

For the next few months we worked, slowly and deliberately, to wrap our brains around what acting really is – essentially, reacting authentically in artificial circumstances. Borrowing techniques from teachers like Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner, we spent many hours learning how to “get grounded” and “drop in” to a scene. This became the primary focus of our class: learning how to identify the true nature of a character (or in many cases, ourselves) and maintain that nature throughout a series of imaginary circumstances. It sounds simple to me. But it is deceptively difficult to clear your mind, place yourself in an imaginary setting, and accomplish your character’s goal by reacting to what is actually happening on that stage, not what is expected or assumed. Not surprisingly, this process involved many conversations about sociology, psychology and even Buddhist philosophy. It is still my favorite part of the acting process.

As we moved through the exercises I came to appreciate the difficulty of being truly present in a scene with another person. What is really incredible, though, is learning how this process, which demands patience, concentration and awareness, is directly applicable to real-life personal interactions beyond the stage. If nothing more, this class has made me a better listener.

I have only scratched the surface on my work as an actor. But what I learned in this class has given me the confidence to move forward and keep practicing. In fact, I was recently cast in the first musical I auditioned for. In just a few weeks I get to try my techniques as a slightly sadistic hospital chaplain. I can hardly wait.


To check out our upcoming Intro to Acting classes and other Freehold classes, go to:

Moving Safely on Stage by Marie Verschueren

Over the last 3 years I have taken numerous classes at Freehold and walked away from each one grateful for what I have learned.  The Rehearsal and Performance class of 2013 taught by Darragh Kennan was no exception.  The class is set up to take the student through the whole process of rehearsing and then performing a play.  It was such a great experience and I felt I was given all the tools I needed to be able to get up on stage and do my best.  One of the great things about the class was the director’s willingness to bring experts into class if we needed special training in our scene.  One of the people that Darragh asked for assistance was Gordon Carpenter, the fight coordinator at Freehold Theatre.  Gordon worked with myself and my scene partner to help us get over a bit of a hurdle we were experiencing.

I was lucky enough to be cast as Marvalyn in the stage play Almost Maine, written by John Cariani.  It had been some time since I had performed on stage and I was excited and wanted to do a good job for Darragh, our director.  Our scene was titled “This Hurts”, and included myself and my scene partner as well as an ironing board and we were to hit each other with it.  I was nervous, especially after the first time we rehearsed and I hurt my hand.  From that point on, once the ironing board started swinging I was distracted and thinking about the hit and how I could avoid being hurt.  I had the same issue when I had to swing at my scene partner because I didn’t want to hurt him.  It was difficult to get it right, it was either too hard or too soft and looked fake.  I was distracted by the ironing board and it interfered with my being able to relax into the character.

So… Darragh called Gordon Carpenter.  After working with him for 30 minutes, we were swinging away and no one was getting hurt.  Gordon was able to give us both some structure and safety tools that enabled us to not have to think about the physicality of what we were doing and be more at ease. One of the biggest challenges we had was to make it look real and Gordon offered a simple fix.  I was to have my back to the audience and my hand up so when my scene partner swung the board at me, I hit with my hand in front of my body, so the audience heard the "hit" but didn't see that it was just my hand we was hitting. I think it was a tremendous boost to both of our performances and I would love to work with Gordon again.

Freehold is an amazing training ground for actors and I will continue to be a student and supporter of their efforts.


Darragh Kennan will be teaching Rehearsal and Performance again this Summer Quarter 2014 at Freehold.  For more information on our class: Rehearsal and Performance.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Power to Heal by Kristin Alexander

Freehold Board Member and Freehold Alum, Kristin Alexander shares her recent experience as an audience member at Freehold's Engaged Theatre residency at the Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Near the end of their performance at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, a cast of 18 inmates-turned-actors stripped off prison-issued grey garb to reveal custom-printed orange T-shirts. Then they sang. The change to a bright color not only created visual impact – it was symbolic of their personal transformation.

“This is how we heal,” said more than one participant of Freehold’s Engaged Theatre Residency program after the conclusion of their show April 7.

Freehold has been offering the residency at WCCW for 11 years. The program has repeatedly proven that even amidst surveillance monitors and razor wire, it’s possible to escape through art.

Participants meet weekly over five months and explore acting, spoken word, improvisation, movement and playwriting. This year’s program was led by teaching artists RobinLynn Smith, Rebecca Tourino, Caroline Brown, Taryn Collis, Joy Easley, Sarah Porkalob, and Jessica Robinson.

Titled “True Frame of Mind: Bee-Coming Whole … Sweet,” the show included a cacophony of narrated vignettes about drug addiction, racism, family strife and coming out as transgendered, among other issues. Despite the heavy topics, there was a sense of hope and personal discovery in the stories, which were culled from the offenders’ journals.

Humor, too, was woven into the play. Two women dressed as bumble bees opened the show by rapping. Another portrayed Chaz Bono. And the whole cast busted a dance routine from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

The women performed twice, once for an audience of other inmates and a second evening for family members and guests involved with Freehold. Witnessing a performance inside a prison can be eye-opening for outsiders, who may have preconceived ideas about inmates and life behind bars.

After the show, participants answered audience members’ questions and shared testimonials of how theatre has helped them move beyond problems they experienced before and during their time in prison. One woman who struggles with suicidal thoughts said looking forward to her Freehold experiences gave her the will to continue living.

It’s often said that theatre is a reflection of life. But Freehold and the women of WCCW are demonstrating that theatre can be life-changing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Interview with Freehold ETI Alums: Riley Neldam and Lori Evans

Freehold's Ensemble Training Intensive (ETI) is a program of Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio. ETI will return in the Fall of 2014 offering the only independent 10-month certificate program for dedicated adult actors in the Pacific Northwest. The Ensemble Training Intensive was created for the serious student who is ready to commit to the next level artistically and professionally. The curriculum focuses on developing the skills necessary to meet the technical demands of classical text and extraordinary contemporary material. Freehold will be running ETI again this Fall 2014 and applications are now available auditions: June 4, 2014). We had a chance recently to visit with two Freehold ETI alums, Riley Neldam and Lori Evans, from our 2010-2011 program.

What drew you to Freehold's ETI program in the first place? 

Riley: Initially, I had only heard bits and pieces of what ETI was and what it could offer an actor that was looking to make a more serious commitment to the professional theatre world but it was enough to have me intrigued.  I did a little more research and what really drew me in were the organizations and people that were connected with the program, such as Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Century Theatre Company (with founding company members making up much of our faculty) and many other seasoned veterans of the Seattle stage and local Film community.  Ultimately, I knew I was at a turning point in my life in which I needed to find the discipline to take ownership of my craft and career and it seemed to me that surrounding myself with some of the best working artists and teachers of our city was the way to go and I think that is what I found. 

Lori: I had just graduated from UW with a BA in Drama, but being a liberal arts major did not provide enough practical acting work. I was looking to immerse myself in everything to do with acting, giving myself as many tools to be the best actor I could be, without spending three years in grad school.  Another draw to the program was committing to a group of people for better or for worse and growing together. It is a challenge to be completely honest with yourself and other people and I wanted an atmosphere where I was encouraged to express all of me freely.

What excited and challenged you in the first few months of doing the work in ETI?

Riley: I connected to the physical work that we did in the program: working with Freehold Founding Member George Lewis became something I continually looked forward to.  It was an ongoing challenge to remove the emphasis I constantly put on "getting it right" and just enjoying the process.  That became my Mantra "Process, Process, Process."

Lori: The Linklater voice work with Kim White was transforming, learning a whole new way of releasing tension in my body to allow breath to inspire impulses. But it was tricky to embrace at first as the language is very specific, and my brain rebelled against the form, but once I jumped in and embraced the unknown it all became clear!  Creating a solo piece with Marya Sea Kaminski was unbelievably inspiring. Having the encouragement to create and perform my own work has been tremendously empowering because of the vulnerability of being solely responsible for every aspect of the performance. She worked with such compassion and care which created a safe space for us to dig deep into our own stories and devise performance art that allowed for a talented group of people to shine.

As the program progressed, what insights surfaced as you got deeper into the work?  

Riley: Luckily, I was one of the younger (if not youngest) members of the ensemble and because of this it was not difficult for me to set actor ego aside to seek advice from the other members of the ensemble in regards to the work. Although every member of the group had a greatly different background and set of experiences they were drawing from, they all had something unique to contribute to my understanding of craft and process. There were many days in which I felt I learned as much, if not more, just from watching other members of the ensemble having breakthrough after breakthrough in class, particularly during the Linklater work with Kimberly White.

Lori: The physical movement work with George Lewis was surprisingly insightful. I had heard scary stories about his teaching and was not looking forward to being denigrated in front of my classmates, but I found embracing failure, and uprooting my need to “get it right” a foundation for unlocking acting freedom and having fun!  

Looking back over the 10 month program, were there particular moments that stood out for you?  

Riley: During our classical work with Amy Thone, I got the chance to play Richard III in a showcase performance towards the end of the year.  I realized then how much I prefer playing bad guys.

Lori: I immediately flashed back on my final Shakespeare scene from Richard 3 with Riley playing Richard to my Elizabeth. Working with an actor that was as motivated as myself to discover and try new things was exciting. Amy Thone taught me that Shakespeare’s brilliance is revealed when we allow the verse to sing its music and to embrace the form rather than fight it, and Kevin McKeon’s direction was sensitive and allowing.  Another moment I remember was in movement class when George waved his hand in front of my eyes saying “stay present” as we were holding some IMPOSSIBLY difficult pose and speaking complicated Ulysses text at the same time. This simple wave in front of my face jolted me back into the room and was a revelation of the difference between staying available and present in the moment and the opposite of being off in my own inner thought world. 

How has your participation in ETI impacted the work you are doing currently? 

Riley: This might sound extreme but it is the greatest endorsement I can give: before I went through ETI I was a young actor taking classes at a local community college, the DAY I finished ETI I was contracted to the first professional theatre show of my life and it didn't stop there.

Lori: ETI sponsored members of the theatre community to come and give master classes. We had Dennis Krausnick from Shakespeare & Company come lead us in a class one morning and I was intrigued by his incorporating voice, movement and Shakespeare’s text from the Renaissance worldview. So after ETI graduation I traveled to Massachusetts to continue more training with Shakespeare & Company and I now work in their renowned education department with Kevin G. Coleman and direct Shakespeare plays in schools with kids from 3-18 years old. I get the joy of watching students celebrate each other while saying the most beautiful words in the English language. I draw on all the great instruction from ETI constantly in my work. I still do Linklater voice, movement work, empower myself with thoughts of devising new solo work, use Amy Thone’s brilliant mantra “think the thoughts and speak the words” and her imagery and rhetoric work, I think of Hans Altwies as I teach kids stage combat with imaginary swords, hear Robin’s voice saying “what are you getting from him?” I remember the yoga bliss of Joel when I get stressed, and think of John Jacobsen asking me what choices I’m making each moment as I prepare for auditions. These and so many others are wonderful voices to have in my head. I feel very fortunate to have had their caring influences. The instructors were invested in my life and wanted to see me succeed.

If someone were to ask you why they should sign up to be part of ETI, what would you say? 

Riley: You get what you give so you have to show up for the work, and by that I mean both being brave enough to be present with the process and physically getting your ass out of bed in the morning, the latter becomes a bigger and bigger challenge as time goes on but if you fight through the slumps and plateaus, personal growth can be exponential in this program but it will certainly test your resolve. 

Lori: I have enjoyed wonderful working relationships within the Seattle community from contacts I made at Freehold. Seattle is a small town when distilled down to the arts and Freehold has access to so many of the major influences in the theatre community and they shared their richness freely with me. 

But it’s not for the faint of heart. The program is best for those that really want to focus solely on their craft for 10 months. You have to get up early and go to class and stay up late to study when you are exhausted. This is a group that you are committing your best to for the next 10 months and that expectation is desired for the program to be life-changing. You show up when you don’t want to, when you’ve NOT done your homework, when you are sick or injured because if you don’t, you let the whole ensemble down. You get out what you put in. Leaping off the cliff with hands in the air is needed to fully embrace what the program has to offer. 

Freehold is offering its Ensemble Training Intensive program beginning in September 2014 and running through June 2015.  Auditions will be held June 4, 2014.  For more information about Freehold's upcoming ETI program or to apply:

Upcoming Freehold Faculty Work

Christine Marie Brown will be in the next installment of Sandbox Radio Greatest Hits GALA at West of Lenin on Monday, April 21st at 8pm. Tickets:

Gin Hammond is recording the audiobook "The Pearl That Broke It's Shell" with Cedar House audio. Ana Maria Campoy, Melissa Topscher and I are continuing to develop "Gifts of War" which got its start at Studio Series. 

John Jacobsen has been hired to write a feature film - comedy and also an adaptation of Lord of the Flies for film, but with girls not boys.  Fun!

Darragh Kennan will be directing Tails of Wasps for NCTC at ACT from April 3 – 27, tickets at  Darragh will be acting in Bethany at ACT running April 11 – May 4th.  More information:

Andy McGinn directed the short film Only Connect and being submitted to film festivals around the country. He is also directing Fuente Ovejuna at Cornish, which opens April 24th and will be playing the role of Falstaff in Freehold's Engaged Theatre's production of Henry IV this summer. 

 Meg McLynn will be in  A New Brain with STAGEright Theatre, May 2-17 at the Cornish Black Box in Seattle Center. More info: 

Rhonda J. Soikowski will be in LoreDona's Vintage Spectacular on Wednesday, March 19th, 7:30pm on Capitol Hill at The Unicorn's Narwhal Performance Space - Cabaret performances from Freehold Faculty Rhonda J Soikowski (Rhon the Clown), and Sarah Harlett (The Record Player).  Also - Live Music from BAKELITE 78, Cherry Manhattan Burlesque, Terri Weagant with a special ode to internet sensation Tammy, LoreDona's Pin-Up Dancers, and more!  More information: