The Freehold Forum E-Newsletter
     MARCH 2009
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In This Issue
Dickey Nesenger
Sean Gormley
Freehold Faculty Showcase
Freehold Student and Alum Shows
Belltown Art Walk November 12. Interview with Mikhail Eydus.
Dear Freehold Community,
 
We are excited to be coming off of February and a fabulous 2009 Studio Series.  The good stuff just keeps coming ... this month we are featuring in our enewsletter two of our new Freehold faculty additions:  Dickey Nesenger and Troy Mink and much more.

Check out our March Issue and ...

 * Dickey Nesenger highlighting the power of "idea" in playwriting
*Troy Mink describing the wonders the world has to offer if we stop to look and listen
* Sean Gormley taking us on his journey as an actor in New York and what he has learned in the process.

* FREEHOLD'S FACULTY SHOWCASE is Coming Soon!
* Freehold News and Events plus faculty and alum shows

Here is to a great spring which, if you peek, is right around the corner!

Best,

Kate


Kate Gavigan
PR Manager
Freehold Theatre
kate@freeholdtheatre.org
(206) 323-7499 x14

dickeytopPlanting the Seed of Idea: What is Your Play About?
By Dickey Nesenger


Dickey worked in the film industry for seventeen years as a script
supervisor before turning her attention to playwriting. Her first play was
produced in 1984 at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles and since then her
plays have been produced throughout the United States. Recent Dickey productions and workshops include The Looking Glass Theatre and Abingdon Theatre Complex in New York, New Jersey Repertory, Ashland Short Play Festival where she received the Critics Choice Pick, Boston's Out-Of-Bounds Theatre Festival, and Seattle's Live Girls. A recipient of a Seattle Arts Commission Individual Grant for her screenplay Mason's Muse, Dickey also serves as a lecturer on film and Shakespeare studies at Northwest Film Forum and Richard Hugo House.

If we asked Shakespeare what the play Romeo and Juliet was about surely he would not answer, "Well, uh, it's like about two teenagers who kill themselves because their parents won't allow them to date."  Since Shakespeare was not only a man of letters but ideas, he would more likely describe one of literature's most enduring plays as an expression on tragic love, "star-crossed lovers" pitted against a hostile background.
 
Our first mission as creative writers is to tap into what some refer to premise or theme but what I call idea, plain and simple. Tennessee Williams told his agent after much back and forth on the topic of inspiration that there was only one idea that sprang from this man's (Williams's) imagination--"the destructive impact of society on the sensitive, non-conformist individual."  It did not concern Williams that he had but one idea to describe his total body of work because it was one he could repeatedly translate to paper.  In his adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours, David Hare described how he tried to find a way into the multi-storyline when he came upon the idea of "self-killing," and it was this allure that he explored in his screenplay. In John Guare's comically disturbing play Six Degrees of Separation, the playwright explores the roles (masks) people play (wear) to continue living the unexamined life.  Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winning play TopDog/Underdog is described on her own play jacket as "a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity."
 
Continued ...

MinktopA World of Fun by Troy Mink
  
troyTroy Mink has been a professional improviser & teacher since 1993. He studied with such greats as Roberta McGuire, Randy Dixon, Matt Smith, Susie Schneider & Del Close (amongst others). He has taught at a wide variety of settings such as high schools, theaters, conservatories, senior centers, corporate settings & camps. He is known for his wide variety of well developed characters & solo work as well as development of original work through improv with an ensemble (the 'Mike Leigh method'). He is most widely recognized for his creation of the highly acclaimed "Carlotta's Late Night Wing Ding" since 1997 (which has been scouted by HBO & Comedy Central), "Kentucky Ghosts", "Pubertee's Pub" as well as his solo show "The Haint".

When I was a kid I used to be PAINFULLY, PAINFULLY shy!  I found it difficult to interact with anyone... the instances of people attempting to have a conversation with me were usually met with one syllable answers or sounds.  I wasn't mentally ill or even autistic, just very shy.  
 
The world in my own room however, was FILLED with toys (action figures, stuffed animals, & Fisher Price people) who all had personalities, character traits & histories.  In this space, I had no end of interactions with "people"...  These "people" were based on my real observations of the seemingly endless amount of time I spend being silent & observing.  In my world I could take situations I saw in real life & re-inact them or make them fit into my preferred "reality".  The mean 3rd grade teacher at school became the Witch doll from the Wizard of Oz ... I could crash her into things, hang her from her hair & spray her with my mom's plant sprayer. The boy I had a crush on at school was conveniently placed with me in our lovely HUGE Fisher Price barn, which served as my house (my fundamentalist mom wouldn't let me have the F.P. House as that was for girls)...

Congratulations to
STUDIO SERIES 2009 Performers
 
Thank you to everyone who performed at and attended Freehold's 2009 Studio Series - four weekends of a wonderful variety of performances by members of the Freehold community.  (Pictured below Gin Hammond at the Studio Series Closing Party).
 

gin3

 
SeanTopListening In New York by Sean Gormley
 
sean1I took my first acting class in Seattle in 2002 at age thirty-eight. Over the next three years I studied the craft, mostly at Freehold, and gained experience in local theatre and film productions. I relocated to New York in October 2005 to pursue my acting career full time. Needless to say it has been and continues to be an eye opener.
 
During the first couple of years I took a lot of classes and attended all the open call auditions. Equity are required to have an EPA (Equity principal audition) for all union productions. Members can sign up for a time slot. When those slots are filled you go on the alternate list which basically means they will try and fit you in.  After that comes the non-union list, which they often never get to. This was the list I was usually on. I stuck it out however and often managed to get into the room, usually after many hours waiting. I did four auditions in a day a few times which was more than I would do in a year in Seattle!  I soon discovered that an actor's job seems to be mostly about looking for work. As I began networking and meeting other actors I realized that hardly any of us ever seemed to be working. Sure there are plenty of showcases and readings that give one the opportunity to perform and there are endless classes to take but I want to be a professional actor and that means - to use those words frowned upon by many a purist - getting paid to act.  Of course it is fine to do non-paying work occasionally, for the chance to play a challenging role or to gain on-camera experience or the opportunity to work with someone wonderful etc. but there comes a point when you must consider the financial side. Professional or Amateur? Discuss.

Continued ...

 
FREEHOLD FACULTY
 SHOWCASE
Monday, March 23
7:00 p.m. doors open - Bar and Music
8:00 pm - Show begins
$20.00 (in advance)
$25.00 (at door)

The Poncho Forum
Seattle Repertory Theatre
155 Mercer St.
Seattle, WA 98109  
Tickets include one drink ticket and tasty appetizers!
*Cash bar will be available*

Fantastic Freehold Faculty Performances including dazzling dance, bawdy burlesque, short play readings that will make you sit up and lean in, sizzling spoken word, and magnificent monologues
 
Performances by:
Robin Lynn Smith
Daemond Arrindell
Gin Hammond
Sarah Harlett
Elizabeth Heffron
Darragh Kennan
Paul Mullin
Amy Thone
Dan Tierney
Annette Toutonghi
Waxie Moon
AND MORE
Music by Jose Gonzales

Here is your once a year chance to see our amazing faculty do what they do best! Be prepared to kick up your heels
and have BIG FUN!

Tickets:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com
Questions:  (206) 323-7499 or kate@freeholdtheatre.org
Freehold Faculty Performances

Daemond Arrindell. Every Wednesday night at Spitfire Grill in Belltown, The Seattle Poetry Slam hosts a spoken word extravaganza. 8 p.m., $5 cover, 21 & over IC required, go to www.seattlepoetryslam.org

Tim Hyland is performing at the Seattle Children's Theatre in Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire running January 30 - March 7.  For more information, www.sct.org

John Longenbaugh will be directing his short play The Center Cannot Hold" at the next Erotic Shorts Evening at the Little Red Studio, running from March 23rdto April 2nd. It's an analysis after the fact of what should have been the perfect menage e trois, and why it just didn't do it for a man and his two girlfriends. The play was originally written for 14/48 and now has its first full production. For more about the show and to get tickets, go to http://www.littleredstudioseattle.com/  John will also be directing John Lennon's Gargoyle by Bryan Willis at North Seattle Community College.  It's a modern-day reimagining of Candide in which a guy with some of the worst luck in the world comes to terms with just who's responsible for it.  Performing Friday and Saturday Evenings at 7:30 pm, March 6 and 7.

Paul Mullin will be doing a workshop/reading of his new farce with Circle X Theatre in LA on February 9.  For more information go to: www.paulmullin.org

Kate Wisniewski will be performing in Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill at New City Theatre in April.  Stay tuned for specific dates.

Brian Yorkey's play Next to Normal will be making its Broadway Debut!  Congratulations Brian!!  It will come to Broadway's Longacre Theatre, with an official Broadway opening scheduled for April 15.  For more information, http://www.nytix.com/Blog/2009/02/next-to-normal-to-play-broadway.html

Freehold Student and Alum News

Meredith Binder and Robert Walker will be starring in "Remember Me", a short independent film, short in Seattle, January 2009.  Demone Gore and Andy Clawson play supporting roles.  Wise teachings from the Freehold faculty were often quoted on set.  The film is directed by Ian Stone with cinematography by Seattle Film Institute instructor Chris Julian.

Monica Chilton will be performing in a new play at Open Circle Theatre called The Center of the Universe.  For more information, go to:  www.octheater.com

Kirsten McCory will be coproducing and starring in a New Amerikan Theatre production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, a savage biographical play O'Neill wrote about his own theatrical family.  He stipulated in his will that it could not be produced until 20 years after his death.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.  The play runs March 13-28, Fridays & Saturdays at the Upstage Theater @ Stone Soup.  Also starring Amber Cutlip, Haley Wolfe, Kirsten McCory, Telisa Steen, Timmi Harrop, and directed by Paul Fleming.

Louise Penberthy is playing Ouiser in Steel Magnolias with Auburn Regional Theatre, opening March 6th.  More info,  www.experience-art.org

DickeycontinuedPlanting the Seed of Idea:  What is Your Play About? By Dicky Nesenger (continued)

Write down those ideas that excite, irritate and infuriate you to distraction. Allow your plays to grow from that list.  Many writers attack their plays with story first, preferring to discover idea as the play unfolds over time. I suggest starting from the advantage point of idea, your passionate connection to character, story, and audience.  Anyone can learn structure but what separates the mediocre from the inspired play is the seed that sprouts a play into action.  After discovering the why we write, the how takes care of itself.
 
INTERVIEW with Dickey Nesenger
 
Dickey, you have quite an extensive background in playwriting.  What was it that drew you to playwriting in the first place?
 
I was writing a screenplay with my writing partner who happened to also run a theatre company.  On a dare he asked me to write a play about an idea I was tossing around.  I wrote the play and it ended up being produced.  Of course I was writing instinctually, by the seat of my pants, but I fell madly in love with the form, the freedom it gave me as an artist and especially the vitality of language that can be created on the stage as opposed to film which is a visual medium.

What is the process of writing plays like for you?
 
My process begins with idea.  I never start to write unless I have something compelling to say.  The idea or theme--call it what you want--is the cornerstone of every great story.  I don't think we look at "idea" enough in playwriting.  It is not so much the how to write, but why we do it.  Secondly, I spend a lot of time on a process I call laying the pipe, which is all about preparation.  Screenwriters use index cards, plotting each scene and development of character with due diligence.   I use the same process.  It takes me about six months but when I actually sit down to write the play, the first draft takes only a week. 

You have an interesting background having worked as a script supervisor in the film industry for 17 years.  What was that experience like?
 
Working in the film business is not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone in the business will tell you the hardest job on the set belongs to the script supervisor.  They are the first ones to work in the morning and the last to go home at night. Now that I got that off my chest. . . the job served me well in terms of becoming a writer.  I discovered during my years looking at other people's scripts how to write economically and tell a story in as few words as possible.  The economy of language prepared me for being a writer and especially in the field of playwriting.

I understand that you also lecture on Shakespeare studies.  What has been your experience working with Shakespeare's works?  What do you hope to convey to students in your process on teaching on Shakespeare?

Teaching Shakespeare permits me many opportunities and rewards as a teacher, not only the chance to share with others Shakespeare's double vision as playwright and poet but also as a way into understanding history, mythology and more important, human behavior.  I suggest every serious student of playwriting or acting take a class that delves into the works of Shakespeare.  
 
What is it about teaching playwriting that excites you?

Working artists can't help but get a thrill out of teaching their art, to get those around them excited about their profession.  When a student reads his work aloud for the first time and receives a favorable response, the feeling in the room is palpable.  I can give no greater compliment nor does it give me greater pride to tell one of my students I wish I wrote that. 
 
Was there one particular play that you wrote that holds a special place in your heart?
 
My first play holds a special place in my heart but not because it was a particularly well-written play.  It wasn't. But the experience introduced me to an art form that turned out to be-quite frankly-my reason to exist. I owe a debt of gratitude to that director in Los Angeles who saw something special in me, a kind of raw talent that he allowed to come full circle. 

What are your hopes/dreams/aspirations for yourself both as a teacher and a playwright?

My hope for the future is more of the same-to teach and write.  A playwriting friend who also teaches told me she was a playwright who happened to teach.  I guess I wear both hats with equal enthusiasm.  My head is big enough. 
 
Dickey will be teaching Playwriting I at Freehold this Spring.  For more information or to register: www.freeholdtheatre.org or call us at (206) 323-7499.

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MinkcontinuedA World of Fun by Troy Mink (continued)

When other kids would come over (my cousins, the next door neighbor) & wanted to play with me they would crash gentle Mr. Hooper (from Sesame Street) into a Hotwheels car & make my "boyfriend" & me smash into each other in a pretend fight... This, of course, was very upsetting to me as they didn't understand my play world.  I actually did try many times to bring friends over to play but they quickly got bored with my more conversational interactive play ... they preferred to always want an action movie instead of the drama-dies that usually inhabited my world.  
 
As I've gotten older my skills of observation became keener & the action figures & dolls of yesteryear were replaced by first puppets, then ME with a wig & glasses or a funny dialect.  I wasn't & still am never bored if I have to sit & wait where other people are around.  Their mannerisms, interactions with others & expressions have never ceased to amuse & fascinate me.  Even the A_hole boss or hyper friend of a friend became endless sources of entertainment.  The excitement of "trying them on" when I could be alone again has always been so much fun.  I sometimes, if I like the patter or dialect of a person in the near vicinity, will repeat what they said underneath my breath... to imitate their energy right away is so satisfying.  To this day I, quite literally, NEVER stop entertaining myself.  I have often wondered what my upstairs neighbor thinks when I am cleaning my apartment with a high warbly voice or some sinister jerk I ran into at the QFC.  But whether anyone sees me or not has never been the main point of my entertaining myself.  I just love being amused & the simple, VERY CHEAP, hobby of observation has filled many potentially "boring" hours.  
 
So, try this... turn off your TV, radio, iPod, or even cellphone for a day or afternoon & use simply the wonderful activity of observation in a public setting. Just sit, don't judge, & learn.... no class can teach you that.  Have fun! 

Troy is teaching Advanced Improvisation at Freehold this Spring.  For more information about the class or to register:  www.freeholdtheatre.org or call us at (206) 323-7499.

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SeanarticlecontinuedListening in New York by Sean Gormley (continued)

Given that so many actors seemed to be seeking work most of the time I took classes in audition techniques: the monolog audition; cold-reading techniques; the call back; auditioning for different film formats -  primetime, sitcom, feature film, soap, comedy.

Auditioning is not quite the same as performing. I also took classes in goal-setting and planning which were very helpful. I learned that there are things in your control (preparation, planning, technique etc) and things that are not (quality of project, the competition, their mood etc). It is pointless wasting energy on the things that are not. When I finish an audition now I find it easier to let it go and move on.
 
I feel that education in the business side of acting is sadly lacking in many schools. Is it not realistic for people entering this profession to have a few workshops covering aspects such as dealing with agents, self-submitting by mail and online, networking, databases, submission materials and guidelines, contracts, unions, cold reading, and so on?
 
Another trend that has become popular is the paid seminar where you are basically paying to meet with an agent or casting director and show them your stuff for a few minutes. There are several companies running these sessions which have become the topic of much debate. There are many pros and cons and I have experienced both.
 
My auditioning persistence paid off when, having waited for seven hours to get seen at the Irish Repertory Theatre, I got in the door and got called back for a role. Though I didn't get that particular role I made an impression and was eventually offered a small part in late 2007 at the same theatre in a show that ran for ten weeks (Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple"). Most importantly I had finally earned my Equity card.
 Sean2
When the show ended I booked another job in a piece that ran for one month. I was so excited to be actually working as an actor and to be a member of the actor's union. I enjoy the condensed rehearsal period where choices must be made quickly. I find that the best choices, like instincts, are most often the first ones.
I am currently appearing in Friel's "Aristocrats" at the Irish Rep (see photo at right) which runs through the end of March. At seven shows per week we will have done about eighty performances by then. That is where the real discipline comes in. Keeping it fresh every time. Showing up early to the theatre, warming up and preparing properly while staying connected and respectful as part of an ensemble.
 
What have I learned technically? The importance of good vocal and movement training. I have strengthened my voice and I look after it. I have been practicing Yoga for a year now. It is amazing for breath control, discipline of the mind, flexibility of the body, relaxation and concentration. I try to listen with my whole body, to be present in myself so I can be available to others. It is so important to just get there and do it. Nothing trumps real life experience. It's all about the journey.

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