The Freehold Forum E-Newsletter
     MAY 2009
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In This Issue
Robin Lynn Smith
Elizabeth Heffron Update
Art Walk - Sara Porter
Brian Yorkey from Broadway
Neil Ferron
Freehold Faculty Performances
Jake Perrine
Freehold Student and Alum Shows
Dear Freehold Community,Fleurs
We can stop holding our collective spring breat
h ... spring is definitely here.  We know that because Freehold's summer class schedule has now been set which is a Freehold spring ritual! 

See the listing of our great classes in this enewsletter and check out the date for the opening of summer registration.  Here is our fabulous May enewsletter line-up:

* Lab News:  Robin Lynn Smith
* Theatre:  Celebrating Arts Education Month 
* Lab: Neil Ferron
* Studio:  Jake Perrine 
* Freehold Community:  Update on Elizabeth Heffron and a hello from Brian Yorkey whose musical is now on Broadway!
* Freehold Arts Walk Events:  Sara Porter
* Freehold News and Events plus faculty and alum shows
- SNEAK PEAK at Freehold Summer Classes!

Here's to warm days, lighter nights and more time to play!



Kate Gavigan
PR Manager
Freehold Theatre
(206) 323-7499 x14

Robin Lynn SmithRobinLynnSmith
Recipient of 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award by Washington Correctional Center
for Women

We are very proud to announce that Robin Lynn Smith has been awarded the "Volunteer of the Year" award by the Washington Correctional Center for Women for her work with Freehold's Engaged Theatre Program at WCCW.  Robin will be honored at a ceremony in Olympia on May 18th.

Lynne Newark, Recreation Director at WCCW, who nominated Robin gives voice in her nominating letter to what many who have worked with Robin have said that "Part of Robin's professional objective is to work and encourage them to transform what exists and forge the next wave of that into theatre.  It is an empowering experience and we are so fortunate to have Robin show and teach them that the power is within themselves, it just needs some nurturing and encouragement to come forth."

Continued ...

Elizabeth Heffron Update

We wanted to share some information about a much beloved Freehold Faculty Member, Elizabeth Heffron.  Elizabeth was diagnosed with tonsil cancer about a month ago.  She has been undergoing chemotherapy and is working hard to do everything she can to fight the cancer.  She has a lot of support from her family friends and her husband, Matt Smith.  Matt  noted in an email after Elizabeth got diagnosed that:

A new dimension of experience has arrived and it is ominous and frightening.  But a flip side accompanies it.  Our love and appreciation for each other is growing.  Our friendship is solidifying.  Our families are rock solid in their support.  Our
friends are extremely cool.  Our house is clean.  We are on an adventure. 

If you want to follow Elizabeth's progress, sign up to offer your support or just send your best wishes, here's a site for that:

Elizabeth has appreciated receiving all the warm wishes from everyone.

Arts Educationlogo
May is Arts Education Month.  In honor of this, we took a minute and spoke to some of our students and faculty to find out what arts education has meant to them ...

"An acting teacher once told me that the key to developing a fully realized character was not about layering on elements, but in stripping away the things in yourself that differ from the character until all that remains are the characteristics you share.  For some reason, this advice has always stayed with me.  And as I have gotten older, I have found that applying it generally to the acting technique I have learned over the years is indispensable.  The training is always there, but by forgetting about it, not focusing on it, I have found it to be a much more useful tool.  In other words, I would not be the actor I am without the training, but I feel I have become a better actor by stripping the training away, and trusting it like an instinct, rather than an end in itself."
-Bradley Goodwill, Actor and Freehold student
"How do you know when you're getting a good arts education?  When it becomes increasingly clear that your arts education will never end, even if you never again take a "formal" class!  This is because having a strong arts education gives you the tools to perceive (and re-perceive) the world around you, and to uniquely express these perceptions in a way that can impact not only your life, but the lives of those around you."  
-Gin Hammond, Actor, Director and Freehold Faculty Member

ArtwalktopArt Walk at Freehold
Belltown Art Walk - May 8th
2nd Friday of the MonthBirdDancer
6:00 - 8:00 pm @ Freehold

This month featuring the art work of Sara Porter
(image on right, Bird Dancer by Sara Porter)

Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.  Thomas Merton

Sara, why are you an artist?

The visual impact of things has always moved me. I discovered my eye could translate to my hands and render very accurately at an early age and my parents encouraged me to develop this talent. I have found piles of drawings I did as a child and the meticulous detail and flair for composition is impressive. Sometimes I think my best work was done at age 5. Since then I have tapped into my artistic abilities when called upon to create for others... volunteering for 'causes' like the United Farm Workers and Nestle boycott in the 70's, book illustration and art shows in the 80's and 90's. I started oil painting about 17 years ago and discovered the joy of color. Since then I have focused on painting for pleasure, to play with the lusciousness of color and form while describing something beautiful about our world.

Continued ...
Brian Yorkey's Hello from Broadway

"Greetings from the Booth Theatre in New York ...

where NEXT TO NORMAL is in the BrianYorkeymiddle of our third week of performances (sixth week, if you count previews). It's been quite a trip, arriving on Broadway (well, technically on West 45th Street, but Angela Lansbury is in the next theater...). In some ways, it's like doing a show anywhere else, only with more people taking pictures, more people writing about it, and much higher ticket prices. On the other hand, there's something kind of magical about being here. The show's going great, and the audiences have been much more enthusiastic than you have any right to expect at a musical about mental illness. If you're in NYC, come see us -- and speaking of those ticket prices, you can get a "friends-and-family" discount: just go to"

--Brian Yorkey


NEXT TO NORMAL received 11 Tony Nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Brian Yorkey), and Best Original Score (Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey) 

Congratulations Brian!

-From your Freehold community

To read a recent New York Times review of NEXT TO NORMAL, go to:


Volunteer Training
A Reflection By Neil Ferron


Neil Ferron will be moving from Seattle to Dublin, Ireland, this summer to pursue an M Phil at Trinity College as a Mitchell Scholar.  In 2007, he wrote and produced his first play, "Sweet the Breath of Children," which received a 4Culture grant and a Seattle Times Critics Pick.  He would like to thank the other Freehold members for their wisdom, dedication, and patience: Robin, Elizabeth, Bev, Joy, Xan, and Jess.  The show is on the road.



Prison is weird.  I realize this statement lacks a certain gravity, but when you walk around Purdy, you are more likely to see a guard picking his nose with a pencil than a Skinhead vs. Black Panther gang fight.  Every now and again, one of these absurd moments will lead to a bit of truth, and so it was with the Volunteer Training.

The training is held every month for long-term volunteers, and in the moderately dingy training room, you find an odd mix of people-hip and underpaid social workers, Christian ministers with soothing voices, a few suburban housewives.  

Continued ...
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

John Jacobsen's
TheFilmSchool started its fifth year with a very successful auction on Oscar Night at Pravda Studios, raising over $100,000.  John also directed for the third year the Make the Evening Matter show with Steve Tyrell at the Triple Door which raised over $100,000 for colon cancer. John continues to
serve on the board at The ACT Theatre which promises an exciting new season
starting this next month, and John's national cable show, Artists Toolbox,
which interviews artists such as actor Tom Skerritt, director Hal Prince,
architect Tom Kundig, musician Yo-Yo Ma, and writers Reeve Lindberg and
Isabelle Allende, airs starting in June.

Troy Mink
is performing in Open Circle's Carlotta's All New Late Night Live TV Wing Ding, running the third Friday and Saturday nights of each month at 11pm, through the end of July.  For more information,

Billie Wildrick will be performing Sunday in the Park with George runs through May 10. For more information on Sunday in the Park tickets, go to:  Billie will also be in Das Barbequ at ACT in August.

Matt Wolfe
is performing in Good Night Moon playing at the Seattle Children's Theatre running through June 7 (more information: and will be in Catch me if You Can at the Fifth Avenue Theatre running July 23 - August 14 (for more information:

Brian Yorkey's play Next to Normal is on Broadway!  For more information,

summerFreehold Summer Class Schedule

Here is your SNEAK PEAK at Freehold's Summer Class Schedule.  Our summer class registration will open up at the end of May.  Decide now which class(es) are musts for you and be ready to sign up when registration goes live!

Step I:  Intro to Acting with Annette Toutonghiposter sign
Step I:  Intro to Acting with George Lewis
Step II:  Acting with Text with Marya Sea Kaminski
Step III:  Basic Scene Study with Annette Toutonghi
Shakespeare Intensive with Amy Thone
Improv Intensive with Matt Smith
New Play Lab with Paul Mullin
Movement Intensive with George Lewis and Brynna Jourden
Acting for the Camera with John Jacobsen
Rehearsal and Performance with George Lewis
Spoken Word and Performance Poetry with Daemond Arrindell
Voice with Gin Hammond
Intro to Voice Over Workshop with Gin Hammond
Crafting the 10 Minute Play with John Longenbaugh
Creating Cabaret with Marc Kenison
Musical Theatre and Showcase with Matt Wolfe
Basic Light and Sound for Non-Designers with Jake Perrine

Registration will open SOON!

Jake photoWhen Theatre Tries to be a Movie
by Jake Perrine

Throughout history, live performance has been a means for communal sharing and challenging of cultural memes.  In it's earliest incarnations, the telling of stories was a means for recording and recounting that culture's events and ideology.  As society has evolved, so has the role of the performing arts - into entertainment, political commentary, lessons in morality, challenging the status quo, etc.

Continued ...
Freehold News

Upcoming Freehold Auction
Soiree at the Palace
Dinner & Auction

June 15, 2009

at Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom


or contact Kate at
if you want to purchase a table for the event!

Thanks for your support!


Freehold's Mission

Freehold engages artists of all levels in training and experimentation so that they may become more innovative and heartfelt in generating theatre that has a lasting impact on the community we serve.

Freehold Student and Alum News

Here are some upcoming performances/work by some of Freehold's current students and alums.  Want to be included in this list?  Email Kate at with your upcoming shows.

Nancy Guppy is the host of "Art Zone", a dynamic weekly, half-hour local arts show that airs on Seattle Channel 21, as well as streams online:  The Art Zone premieres new episodes every Thursday at 8:00 pm.  They are currently in the process of putting together an email list of people that they'd like to be in touch with.  As part of this list, you'll receive weekly "Art Zone" updates, including a special 'sneak peek' from each new episode, a weekly newsletter of program premieres on Seattle Channel, and an occasional email about special art features or documentaries on the station.  To sign up for the list, send an email to:  seattlechannelorg@Seattle.Gov.

Cherie DeKeyser and Jesse Putnam will be performing in a reader theater production of Ayn Rand's The Night of January 16th at the North Shore Senior Center in Bothell, opening on May 15th. (warning: audience members may be asked to serve on the jury!)  Cherie is supporting Christopher Oliver on a short film call "Grazer" which will be filming in Lynnwood at the end of May 2009.

Jenness Klein will be performing in Guys & Dolls with Seattle Musical Theatre running May 8 through May 24th.  For more information,

Rosalyn Le is going to be in Sound Theatre Company's upcoming production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, which runs April 30th - May 17th at Stone Soup Theatre, Thursdays-Sundays. For more information:

Tim Parr will be performing in Auntie Mame with the Driftwood Players, April 17th - May 20th.  For more information, go to:

Jesse Putnam performing in Four Strange Loves an original play produced by The Seattle Playwrights' Collective. Shows are at Do North Theatre (17517-C 15th Ave NE, Shoreline). Performances June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14.

Jenny Schmidt will be performming Puppet TV at the Historic University Theatre.  Sunday nights at 7pm.  April 26, May 3, & May 10.

Melissa Stenoien can be heard as Imogene Watkins, assistant to Professor Nigel Hammer, in the serial audio-drama called, "The Unspeakable and the Inhuman, episode 7:  Lessons and Secrets".  It's a serial audio-drama/ soap opera inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  For more information: or

RobinContinuedRobin Lynn Smith
Volunteer of the Year - WCCW

In 2003, Robin created the Engaged Theatre Program which includes a theatre residency program for the inmates at WCCW.  Robin, along with other artists including Elizabeth Heffron, works with the inmates who write and then perform a play based on their own writings.  In addition to the residency program, Robin brings a Shakespeare tour every year to Washington state prisons including WCCW, the Monroe Correctional Center for Men, Echo Glen Children's Center and to other underserved populations including Harborview Medical Center as well as the general public.

When asked what has driven her to create this program Robin said, "The program is called Ordinary Heroes, because when we first started working with the women, we were knocked out by the heroic individuals that they are. They are brave enough to face the truth of their lives and strive to change, and they are extraordinarily generous with each other as an ensemble - something that I learn from every time.  They find a way to appreciate the value of their lives - even in the limits of prison - to love their life as it truly is each day - that blows me away."

The benefits of the program are significant both for the inmates and the prison officials.  Lynne Newark noted that all offenders that perform in the production must adhere to the special event behavior criteria.  They can't have any major infractions or they cannot participate.  Lynne notes that "With some offenders the only reason they are behaving is because they want to be in Freehold.  That is quite an accomplishment and it is due to Robin's diligence and passion to get them to want to do what is right."  One woman who participated in the theater residency program wrote Freehold and said: "... everyone opened up about some really deep issues and felt safe to do so.  It was a place I could count on to be myself ... it was like I wasn't here in prison - A piece of freedom through our minds and permission to use them to get there."

"Just imagine making the trek from Seattle sometimes 3-4 times a week to bring a program to offenders and not getting paid to do it.  Not many individuals would even consider it, much less, consider doing it year after year," said Lynne Newark.

Robin shared that she has a lot of hopes for the Engaged Theatre Program saying, "I hope to get consistent, and generous funding so that we can pay the teachers, pay the actors, keep it going inside; and  expand the work into a program for the  women as they  come out of prison as well - a Re Entry component of the Engaged Theatre. I would like to build on the work at Monroe Men's Prison, and create projects at Echo Glen Children's Center."

Robin went onto say that this award "belongs to all the passionate and generous volunteers, supporters and staff, and to the amazing women who have participated  in the program or attended the performances and workshops.  Elizabeth Heffron, Joy Easley, Beverly Thompson, Neil Ferron, Xan Scott, Jessica Robinson, Cathleen O'Malley, Nicole Pearson, George Lewis, Daemond Arrindell, have all been my teachers as well as each brave and truthful woman who has come forward with her story as a gift for the audience. I am honored to stand with them in this recognition."

If you are interested in donating to our Engaged Theatre Program or would like more information, contact us at Freehold at

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ArtwalkcontinuedArt Walk
Interview with Sara Porter

What has informed your work?

I grew up in an artistic family. My grandmother created beautiful New England handcrafted treasures and painted. My mother made beautiful spaces to live in, while my father was often packing us up to go off and live in beautiful places. We traveled and lived in Africa at different times in my childhood and adolescence. The stimulation of visual richness in African cultures and landscapes was irresistible to me and I ate it up in gulps. I kept going back as an adult and have since married a man from Senegal and spend part of every year living there. Images of Africa are a large part of my portfolio. My love for nature also informs much of my work.

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I tend to work in oils on board as it gives me the richness of color and blending I love. I have also painted some with acrylics, watercolor and pastel as well and the old masters oil/egg tempera technique. My work tends to be fairly representational but sometimes stretches into abstract.
You shared once that when you are a painting a person you usually "start with the eyes."  Can you talk about why that is important to you? 

The eyes have been called the window to the soul and I find that when I'm painting a person, if I can capture something alive in the eyes then there is someone there to relate to and I want to keep painting. If I don't feel drawn in by the eyes and can't recreate a presence I loose interest quickly and the painting will never be completed.

What other interests do you have outside of creating art?

Music. I love to sing and play the Kora, a west African harp, and I do djembe drumming and african dance as well. Traveling and being in nature restore my sanity. Great food and sharing it socially with communities I love lights me up.
What continues to inspire you to create art?

Just being in love with what I see and wanting to take the time to get closer through the painting process. I also like to think that my art makes a difference for people and creates more beauty and affinity in the world.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Create from your passion, keep a sense of play and exploration and step away from your work to let it talk back sometimes.
FerronContinuedVolunteer Training
A Reflection by Neil Ferron (continued)

Before the training begins, everyone makes prison small talk:

A:  So what does your group do?

B:  We write and produce a play with the women.

A:  Well that's cute.  It must be fun.

B:  Yep.


A:  My group preaches the word of God.

B:  Oh, that's cool too.

(A and B both smile in an attempt to mask their mutual amusement/judgment of the other.)

After enough of these interactions, I resigned to skimming the handbook when a woman stated her discomfort with the constant use of the term "offender" to label the women.

"Can't we call them something else?" she says.  "Something less judgmental?"

Almost immediately, a woman wearing a spotless white tracksuit stands and starts jabbing her finger towards the rest of the prison.  "Listen.  They made choices.  They broke the law.  They are offenders so we'll call them offenders."

Half the room nods.  The other half fidgets uneasily.

A social worker-type responds: "Maybe there's a better term."

A deceptively cute old lady: "I think there's a benefit to accuracy."

From across the room: "No need to beat around the bush ..."

As the discussion continued, I realized something important was occurring.  Each volunteer group brings a narrative into Purdy, and I was witnessing a well-mannered clash of these narratives.  "You are an addict, and 12 Steps will keep you sober."  Vs.  "You are beautiful, but society failed you."  Vs.  Freehold's "You are an artist, and you are going to produce a play."  (For the record, I mostly kept silent.)  These narratives often hinge on defining the identity of the incarcerated women, and as I saw it, Freehold's was the most empowering.  We had no hidden agenda.  We warm up, do some improv, then free write.  The women are free to share as they please.

For a time I was satisfied with this little epiphany, but as I became more involved in the process, I realized that the Freehold narrative is something much more complicated than simply labeling the women as "artists."  Every week, the women explored their many identities, positive and negative-spending time with each one, playing with them, twisting them into new forms.  Outside of prison, this process is demanding enough, but Purdy is a place where your identity is state-issued and defines your physical reality-the building you sleep in, the kind of clothes you can wear, when you eat-so the idea of playing with and owning many identities can be terrifying for some.  Compound that with the fact that the women live under constant scrutiny from cameras, guards, and the other inmates, and suddenly letting oneself be silly or weak is more than a personal risk, it threatens one's status in the community.

Under this pressure, the Freehold narrative becomes this: "You are a human being trying to make some theatre, and that requires you to approach the most beautiful and disgusting parts of yourself and to try to take strength from it."  An alchemy that seeks to turn shit into gold.

And in this, the women displayed profound courage.  If you poked your head into our rehearsal room any Sunday this winter, you would find our women-addicts, thieves, offenders, whatever label you want to give them-prancing around the room pretending to be unicorns, rowdy with laughter as they gallop and preen themselves.  Come back in thirty minutes and the room is quiet, sober.  The women sit beside each other, sharing their paralyzing fears, their failures, pain that sometimes feels inescapable.  Out of this work came "Circus of the Damned: Facing the Beast Within," a healthy mix of clowns, dancing puppies, fears, manipulations, and the possibility of forgiveness-a play born out of whimsy and vulnerability. 

It was an extreme honor to turn the women's words into a cohesive script.  If I might share one of my favorite moments from the play, an amalgam of several women's writings.  It comes toward the end of the play when a mother finally expresses her love for her runaway daughter: "Lila, I love your big ears, the way your nose wrinkles when you talk, and the way you pick at your fingers when you're nervous.  I love the way you're a little chunky.  And that time you broke the window-you disobeyed me and you hid in the closet-and I loved you.  Because of your strength I am still alive today.  Lila, you are mine and you are perfectly imperfect."

I believe that last phrase is the full fruition of Freehold's Ordinary Heroes narrative.  Our strength-as artists and human beings-is the result of our failures and our achievements.  One cannot be excised from the other.

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JakecontinuedWhen Theatre Tries to be a Movie
by Jake Perrine (continued)

At the same time, the evolution of technology has fundamentally changed the way in which we disseminate and receive these memes: film and video have become the de facto popular standard for the conveyance of linear narratives, and dwindling modern theatre-going audiences seem to have become disenchanted with theatre's basic underlying simplicity.  Perhaps this disillusionment is because so many theatrical narratives attempt to behave like a popular cinematic experience - in the script, in the stage action, even in the aesthetic design - which is a hopeless endeavor that will, by definition, fail.  The linear narrative is where theatre has historically reigned supreme, but for more than half a century now it has been unable to compete with the immersive glitz, polish and epic, non-linear possibilities of cinema.  As a result, theatre's objectives must again evolve with the times and thereby re-establish it's own unique raison d'etre.

In a vast global culture made smaller and more accessible by the internet, we are simultaneously closer to the farthest reaches of the world and more physically isolated than ever before.  While we expand our definition of self through online networks of information and instantaneous worldwide communication, our physical bodies and social skills atrophy and yearn for stimulation.  The same technology that allows us to interact in unprecedented ways with the world at large also hampers our understanding of the world right at the ends of our fingertips.

Re-enter the theatre: The one attribute that theatre cannot be bested at is the undeniable immediacy of a shared communal experience.  A visceral, physical experience that involves everyone present, making the spectator a participant, dissolving the audience / performer boundaries.  Unlike cinema or television, an audience can physically *feel* what an actor on a stage is going through.  There is no barrier, and no distance.  The people present are caught in the line of fire between the actor and his or her God.  And when it works, hearts and minds can be opened, elevated, even changed.

In my opinion, theatre made in this day and age should capitalize on this by exploiting the unique experiences that only theatre can provide, and avoid trying (in vain) to replicate the experiences better conveyed in other popular mediums.  If a theatre-going audience compares their experience to television or movies, we, the theatre artists, have failed in our job.  An experience in the theatre should 
be so unique, so wholly beyond anything an audience can find anywhere else in their lives as to be a revelation incomparable to any other medium.  Finding and creating this unique, much-needed experience is our sole quest.

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