Thursday, June 19, 2014

My New Creative Home by Leslie Moulton Asplund

Taking Freehold's Film Directing class, taught by Robin Lynn Smith and John Jacobsen, was a life-changing experience for me.  For 13 years, starting in my late twenties, I worked as an Assistant Director in television and film.  At age 40 I arrived at a crossroads and decided to become a psychotherapist, a profession I’ve lived with and loved for the past 20 plus years.  So it was a surprise to discover, recently, that I had an unsatisfied hunger, one I’d buried deeply, to return to film making.   I had started out focusing on becoming a director and gradually gave that up in the tangle and exhaustion of film making in Hollywood.  But my hunger for creative expression hadn’t gone away, it was just buried under layers of fear and the stories we tell ourselves about the practicalities of life.

This class brought me to life.  For the first time I wasn’t overcome with worry about how I was doing or whether I was good enough.  I just wanted to learn ... to experience ... to grow.  John and Robin live that approach to their craft and they create a safe place for their students to live it as well. 

There was so much to learn, even though the 8 director-students knew a fair amount about film making already.  I felt both excited and nearly overwhelmed.  But Robin and John adjusted the course to fit our needs as we went along, making sure we got what we needed in order to build a foundation of competence and move progressively forward in developing our craft.

The final project, with its three iterations, was rich with learning.  I privately set goals for each time I shot this final scene, ensuring that I achieved one more skill each time.  I reached as high as I could, but reassured myself by setting what I knew to be a realistic goal for myself so I could feel the satisfaction of having achieved that private intention.  I think this is the first time I’ve found this kind of inner balance in being able to take on something this important to me, without panicking and getting distracted by worrying about what others were thinking of me. It was very freeing and so I was able to work hard AND enjoy the process!

The final screening, in an actual theater, before an audience, was a revelation!  I had no idea I would feel so thrilled, so emotional, so satisfied.  That screening became a beginning, not an ending, of a wonderful journey I’ve only just begun ... with new colleagues, brilliant mentors, and Freehold, my new creative home.

Upcoming Freehold Faculty Work

Geoffrey Alm, Christine Marie Brown, Reginald Andre Jackson, Andrew McGinn, Rhonda J. Soikowski will be performing in Freehold's Engaged Theatre production of "The Flower of England's Face: William Shakespeare's Henry IV.  Directed by Freehold Faculty Member and Artistic Director, Robin Lynn Smith and Adapted by Reginald Andre Jackson. The show is running June 30 at 6:30 pm at Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island), July 12 - 20 at University of Washington's Penthouse Theatre (various times).  Pay What You Can but reserve your tickets ahead of time:

Susanna Burney will be reprising the solo Samual Beckett piece, Rockaby at West of Lenin August 14 - 20, as part of the citywide Beckett Festival.
Amy Thone will be in all-female Julius Caesar (17 WOMEN!!!!--Suzanne Bouchard, Therese Diekhans, Kate Witt, Terri Weagant, Macall Gordon, Nikki Visel, etcetera ...a great group), for Wooden O Shakespeare ...  Opens early July.  More info: 

Marya Sea Kaminski will be playing The Angel in Intiman's productions of Angels in America. More info:

Matt Smith's film "My Last Year with the Nuns" was chosen for SIFF's Best of Fest, and Matt was voted a runner up for Best Actor by festival goers. Matt said, "That's a lot of cousins stepping up". A lot of them were Freehold cousins! Here's a trailer to Matt Smith's new film, "My Last Year with the Nuns":
Matt’s also teaching his Improv Intensive at Freehold this summer in July at Freehold. More info on Matt's class:

The Wonders of Personal Clown by Laura-Beth Straight

George Lewis’ Personal Clown class was the highlight of my summer two years ago.  I’d finished all five improv classes at Unexpected Productions in June and some of the seasoned improvisers had told me about George’s July class. They said very little about it -- it seemed like a secret and rather sacred experience -- but what they did say left me with the impression that the class would greatly improve my physical theater skills. I figured I had nothing to lose and I registered for the class.

As it turned out, Personal Clown led me through an intense learning process that in some ways changed my life.  I’d always found most meaningful those theater projects which offered me an opportunity to reflect upon my own life, transforming me in the process. Within a supportive community, Personal Clown did just that.  This kind of personal transformation would not have been possible without a leader who could build an
atmosphere of unconditional acceptance.  It’s impressive to see how George Lewis creates trust amongst participants and a safe, fun-loving, and authentic environment that allows people to share their vulnerabilities.   In the moments when I was quietly wiping tears away from my eyes as I felt the terror of being so emotionally exposed, I was able to trust my ability to connect with others and share in our common humanity together.  And then it was all play.  It became a game to play with exaggerated but truly felt expressions of sadness or anger and to feel how all parts of my body could express those emotions.  It became a game to accentuate and expand elements that seemed to "go wrong" in a scene. Throwing a temper tantrum with flailing arms and legs on the floor or getting kicked out of the classroom for “misbehaving” was so much more fun than when I was a child.  And the laughter and joy I felt in the discovery of my clown name, “Suzy” was amazing.

It was a very different experience from the Advanced Clown class I took last summer. 
While Personal Clown was more of an individual exploration, Advanced Clown placed more focus on duos and scene work.  Advanced Clown offered a greater exploration of the clowning self already identified through Personal Clown.  We explored the authentic physicality of specific improvisations and learned to trust one’s own creativity and the creativity of a scene partner in the moment.  Who knew following the flow of interaction with music, two suitcases and two umbrellas would offer so many rich and varied storylines or how much joy one could experience with multiple attempts to simply sit in a chair?

I’ve taken many improv and clowning classes in the Seattle community, however, I place tremendous value in my learning experiences with George Lewis.   His classes are a safe space to explore the very depth of what motivates me in my theatrical expression and sharing. Not only do I look forward to being reminded of all of the techniques of eye contact, discovery and stillness in scenes but also recognizing how much I’ve grown and developed in the confidence of my performance process over the course of the past year.  I’m grateful for George’s insight and wisdom and for the joy that George shares with his students. As long as George returns from Argentina to teach in July, I’ll be taking his Advanced Clown class. 


More information on Freehold's Summer Quarter Classes including George Lewis' Clown classes can be found here:

Photo: George Lewis

Our Road Trip to Freehold and Henry IV by Tony Pasqualini

Tony Pasqualini and Sarah Brooke will be performing in Freehold's Engaged Theatre Performance of  Henry IV. Tony was a founding partner of Freehold.  We are delighted to be hosting Sarah and Tony for the summer.

Here's a glimpse into their road trip back to Seattle ...

It's the morning of May 29th, Sarah and I have loaded up the car, said goodbye to the dogs (they know something highly unusual is afoot), and begun our 1200 mile drive from Los Angeles to Seattle. This trip has an interesting resonance with us, because thirty years ago, a few weeks after we were married, we embarked on a similar journey to Seattle -- that time from New York City, and that time with the idea of Seattle becoming our permanent home. Well, a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge since. Robin Lynn Smith and I started a small acting studio above an aquarium dealer on Eastlake Avenue -- that small studio eventually grew into Freehold (where we are headed now). Sarah and I had two kids. Down the road we made another big-time life decision to move to LA. We've established ourselves in the south land now: been on a variety of TV shows, done a lot of theatre. I've become a playwright -- with five plays so far to my name. Sarah has developed two brilliant cabaret shows. Our kids are all grown up, and finding their respective ways in the world, and, well, a bunch of other stuff too numerous to mention.

But this morning we are leaving our home, our dogs, our well-entrenched life and are headed back to beautiful Seattle to participate in Freehold's Engaged Theatre tour (this year, a compilation of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, adapted by Reggie Jackson). I've been up twice in the past several years -- playing King Lear in 2012 and Shylock a few years earlier, but this is Sarah's first extended time back to the Northwest since we left fifteen years ago.

When I get my almost yearly call from Robin Lynn Smith, usually in November, to ask if I'd like to come up next summer to work on her next Shakespeare project, I will (and Robin will attest to this) go through my usual hemming and hawing -- it's a long time to be away from home; there are opportunities in LA I'll have to forgo; various complications, etc, etc. But, alas, I'm an actor. The theatre is my first love. And how does an actor turn down playing Shylock, Lear, Henry IV? Well, generally you don't. And with the added incentive of Sarah being here playing Mistress Quickly and Westmoreland, this years tour proves irresistible.

I'm not much of a long distance driver, so we make a bit of a trip of it. Stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea -- pretty nice, I must admit, though a bit ostentatious. Next is Ashland. We catch the Shakespeare Festival  production of Cocoanuts. The first act is an hour and forty minutes which was plenty for us -- it had been a grueling drive that day. The next night we spend in Portland and get to see our old friend Jayne Taini play Meg in a wonderful production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Sunday we arrive in Seattle, settle into our digs and by 9am the next day we are in Belltown at Freehold getting to work.

Henry IV is to my mind one of Shakespeare's most resonant and accessible plays. The plot follows the history of rebellion against Henry by his former allies Worcester and Northumberland, led by Northumberland's warrior son, Hotspur, culminating in the battle of Shrewsbury, where Hotspur is soundly defeated. But the heart of the play centers around Hal, the Prince of Wales, Henry's son and next in line to the throne. Much to the consternation of his father, Hal has taken to spending his time at the Boar's-head Tavern in Eastcheap, carousing with a drunk and desultory knight, John Falstaff and various other unsavory characters. This tug-of-war for Hal's affections between his 'two fathers' embodies the true dramatic arc of the play. Shakespeare has created a searingly complex relationship between Prince Hal and his father. One that easily stands alongside Arthur Miller's classic father/son struggle in Death of a Salesman. And as both a father and son myself, I can attest to the emotional wounds this play so artfully and truthfully explores -- the great love that's felt but not shown; the deep and often irrational disappointment; the inability to live up to the each others expectations; the need to challenge and control; the sense of failure and loss; the fear that the gulf opened between you will never be bridged. Well, Shakespeare gives you all this. He does it in a few scenes. He does it with some of his most gorgeous and poignant poetry. And he does it with truth and specificity. I get to play these scenes with the amazing Reggie Jackson. An actor can't really ask for much more.

Tony Pasqualini and Sarah Brooke will be seen performing in The Flower of England's Face: William Shakespeare's HENRY IV on June 30th at 6:30 pm at Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island), July 12 - 20 (no performance July 15th) at UW's Penthouse Theatre. Tickets are Pay What You Can.  For more information and to reserve your ticket: