|The Freehold Forum E-Newsletter
Dear Freehold Community,
July heralds in warmer weather, beach days AND this month ... some compelling articles about theater training and the challenges and fun of producing and performing theater. Check out our July e-newsletter contributions including:
*Betsy Schwartz describing characters "fighting for a positive outcome" in New Century Theatre's current play Orange Flower Water
*Michelle Flowers' "Journey Into Madness" producing and performing Macbeth
*An article by Jonathan Locke on how the exercises, Robin Lynn Smith and his fellow Meisner students "worked on him" over his 9-month Meisner training at Freehold.
Here's to continued fun in the sun, napping in the shade or whatever summer "musts" are on your wish list.
(206) 323-7499 x14
| Fighting for a Positive Outcome in Orange Flower Water by Betsy Schwartz
Betsy Schwartz in Orange Flower Water
Betsy Schwartz received her
BFA in acting from the University of New Mexico and her MFA from
Southern Methodist University. She has worked professionally in Seattle
for the past 10 years, and is a company
member of New Century Theatre Company.
Orange Flower Water is a tough play, because you cannot, as
an actor, approach it tepidly. These characters are ferocious in their struggle
to either break away and find their happiness, or maintain the life they've
worked so hard to create. The story is brutal, darkly funny at times, and when
I least expect it- touching. To make matters even more interesting, all four actors
(myself, Jen Taylor, Ray Gonzalez, and Hans Altwies) are onstage for the
entirety of the play. Working on it has been a fun but demanding challenge.
When we, NCTC, chose this play, I immediately wondered how I
would be able to embody a character whose life experience is completely
different than my own. My character,
Beth, is a wife and mom from a small town in Minnesota
who got married because, among other reasons, she "didn't know what else to
do." Once a devout Lutheran, she is in
the middle of a crisis of faith, among other profound life issues. She has
fallen madly in love with another man in her small community who is also married
with kids. They have been having an
affair for three years, and finally decide to leave their respective families
to carve out a new life with each other. That journey is the story of the play.
Journey into Madness: Producing and
Performing Macbeth by Michelle Flowers
Mok Moser and Michelle Flowers in Macbeth
Michelle Flowers is a long time Freehold supporter, alum and actress. Michelle has performed in numerous venues throughout Seattle. She is currently recording and performing music.
I'm not a producer. I'm just an actress. I've
been saying this for years. After all, "other people" direct, "other people"
raise funds, and "other people" most definitely produce. But here I was, with
the opportunity to play one of my dream roles and nothing was happening. One
failed attempt after another because no one was stepping up to produce.
It was always "In 6 months. In a year." It wasn't going to happen.
But before I
get started, let me back up for a short history lesson. Sometime between 1603
and 1610 Shakespeare writes a little tragedy called Macbeth for King James I.
Several sections of it are said to be drawn from another little piece called
The Witch (Middleton). Mostly songs and witch bits. Then, during the
Restoration, Sir William D'avennant, who claimed to be Mr. Shakes' illegitimate
son, writes his own version - a revival, if you will - of the Scottish play,
which is performed for approximately a century. Shakespeare's First Folio,
however, becomes the most widely published and performed version throughout the
ages. This you will find on the shelf at every Half-Price Bookstore in town.
|My Meisner Experience by Jonathan Locke|
Photo: (left to right) Jenn Hamblin, Will Hardyman, Jesse Putnam and Jonathan Locke in 2008 Rehearsal and Performance's THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER
Jonathan Locke is a Freehold Board Member and Freehold student who recently completed the three quarter, 9-month long 2008-2009 Meisner Progression at Freehold.
Strangely, Tana's (Marlene Dietrich) concluding line in "Touch of Evil" (Orson Welles, 1958) comes to mind as I write this a couple of fleeting days after finishing up our Meisner final scenes:
"He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?"
For the past nine months I've hopped, skipped and admittedly sometimes dragged myself to Robin's class to work with a truly amazing group of classmates on a very special set of acting exercises. Or more accurately, it was the reverse and the exercises and my classmates and Robin worked on me. As time passed, the best description I can give of what happened is that this work took me deeper. Deeper into my intuition, deeper into my body and deeper into some kind of semi-mystical discovery process (which I suspect is still working on me) that I can at best sum up as "present art". But in the end, Tana probably had it right. What can you really say about Meisner?
Continued . . .
Freehold Auction Update
to all who contributed to and attended Freehold's 2009 Dinner and Auction at Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom. Because of your many contributions the event was a great success for Freehold.
There were so many great memories from that night for us and here are just some of them ... The event was sold out ... we were able to meet our goals for the night ... incredibly powerful singing from Felicia Loud including her unforgettable riff with Matt Smith ... danceable, toe tapping, heart stirring music by Jose Gonzales' duo ... a fun and spirited duel for gardening donations by the Yard King ... delicious paella from Tom Douglas and the chance for long time supporters and new Freehold fans to come together and have a blast!
See you next year for even more fun at our 2010 Auction!
|Freehold Faculty Performances|
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 http://www.seattlepoetryslam.org
received an Artist Trust grant to help her further develop the original solo work, Returning the Bones. In order to be
maximize the story, artistry, and overall potential of the play so
that it would be ready to present at venues worldwide, Gin knew she needed the
help of a director. She's thrilled to announce that she'll be working
with Carol Roscoe, a local professional director and actor whose
work she greatly admires. (Photo at left: Gin in Returning the Bones)
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.
Brynna Jourden will be doing fight choreography for the Seattle Children's
Theatre for two kids shows this summer: A Midsummer Night's Macbeth and Romeo
will be remounting his play How to be Cool
this July and August.
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, http://www.octheater.com/
Timothy Piggee and Matt Wolfe
will be appearing in Catch me if You Can
at the Fifth Avenue Theatre running July 23 - August 14 (for more information: http://www.5thavenue.org/
Amy Thone, Darragh Kennan, Paul Stetler
are involved in the production side of the New Century Theatre's production of Orange Flower Water
running June 24 - July 20th. For more information, http://www.newcenturytheatrecompany.org/
will be performing in the 14/48 Festival taking place at On the Boards for two weekends on July 30th-Aug 7th. For more information, http://www.ontheboards.org/
will be performing Das Barbequ
at ACT in August. For more info, http://www.acttheatre.org/Kimberly White
will be playing Margaret in Richard III for Seattle Shakespeare Company/Wooden O in July. More information, http://www.seattleshakespeare.org/WoodenO
play Next to Normal
is on Broadway!
For more information, http://www.nytix.com/Blog/2009/02/next-to-normal-to-play-broadway.html
goes out to Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt for their Broadway Tony Award Winning play NEXT TO NORMAL which won 3 Tony Awards including Best Score and Best Leading Actress in a Musical!!!
|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 email@example.com with your upcoming shows.
Monica Chilton will be in the ensemble for Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater's
production of Oklahoma! this summer. Performances are Saturdays at 3 p.m.
p.m., and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. For more info, http://www.foresttheater.org
Eileen Dey is hosting Seattle Cold Readers, 3rd Thursdays at the Alibi Room in Pike Place
Market 8-9:30pm. Where the acting and writing talent are
admission. Featuring 4 new scripts submitted by local
writers and performed as cold reads by
professional actors. The audience votes
on the best performance of the
evening. For more info, http://www.seattlecoldreaders.com
Ann Hittenberger just finished performing in Top Girls with Sound Theater at
Stone Soup. She will be teaching 5th-8th graders this summer at Bainbrige Performing Arts Theater School Production of 1000
Arabian Nights and is artistic director for Kitsap Forest Theater Youth Theater
Camp. She will also appear in The Producers at BPA Oct 9-25 directed by Teresa
Thuman. Lee Ann will also be directing Peter Pan at BPA which opens
Carter Rodriguez will be performing in Seattle Shakespeare Company and Wooden O's summer production of Richard III. For more information, http://www.seattleshakespeare.org/woodeno/
Jenny Schmidt will be appearing in Penguins at Annex Theatre running August 8 - August 28. For more information, http://www.annextheatre.org/
Andy Tribolini will be part of Backwards
Ensemble Theatre Company's night entitled Virgin Playwrights - 7/12 6-9pm. For more info, http://www.backwardscompany.org/virginplaywrights.html
Jeff Woodbridge (directing) and Jesse Putnam (playwright) have a play going up entitled The Masters with cast members Kim Fitzharris, Will Hardyman and others at Odd Duck in August. For more information on the play go to, http://themastersplay.com/
Fighting for a Positive Outcome in Orange Flower Water by Betsy Schwartz (continued)
Beth started coming to me in bits and pieces. I tend to think of myself as a very
text-oriented actor- you start with the words, and everything else evolves from
there. This process was a little different for me, in that it was the strange,
imagined minutia of this woman's life that started the ball rolling. I pictured
her as someone who spent a lot of times roaming the corridors of outlet malls.
I knew she had a problem with impulsive spending, and probably hid a lot of her
purchases from her husband, Brad. I knew she liked clothes that were soft and
pretty and feminine, and was secretly addicted to American Idol. When I think of Beth, I think of curves and
circles- not angles. I'm not even sure what that actually means, but it meant
something to me as I approached rehearsals, and it informed how I filled the
parts of her life that were not immediately accessible to me.
After I'd begun to get an idea of how to live in this
character's skin, the next big challenge in rehearsing this role came in
learning how to fearlessly advocate for Beth's point of view-even when I,
Betsy, did not personally agree with the life choices she was making. One of the beautiful and challenging things
about this script is that the
playwright, Craig Wright, has created four characters where no one is clearly
the 'hero' or 'villain', but at points in the play they all get to step into
These characters are in
high conflict with each other for most of the play, and the concern was: how do
we honor the ferocity and intensity of the text without it just becoming a
relentless, one note, yelling match. This
concern comes into play particularly when you have a number of these kinds of
scenes, and they are all about 10 minutes long. Our director, Allison Narver,
was brilliant at pointing out that our characters have to always enter these
scenes hoping and working for a positive outcome, and that whatever we were
fighting for was life or death- it is never just about fighting. This really
helped me navigate some of these more tricky scenes. I know for Beth that, even
at her absolute worst, she is in that place because she is desperately fighting
for her independence and happiness. She
is always and sincerely just trying to do the right thing- even when she is not
sure what that is in a moment. In addition, this "fighting for a positive
outcome" really opened the scenes in ways that have been surprising and subtle and
fun to play. When you get rid of the
expectation that a "fight" means two people doing nothing but trying to hurt
each other, interesting moments happen. Certainly there are moments where that
is what it is about, but it has been fascinating to navigate the other
possibilities. In addition, since I'm
onstage every night, I get to watch my monstrously talented castmates negotiate
these same exciting and choppy waters in their own way. It is very tough, but rewarding work to get to do.
Back to top ...
Journey into Madness: Producing and Performing Macbeth by
Michelle Flowers (continued)
Fast forward to 2005. A friend of mine, P.J. Perry, began
extensively studying the several versions of this dark play, which subsequently
turned into an obsession for a new adapted Macbeth. A stripped-down,
20-minute version was thrown together for a Director's class at Freehold
in 2007. It was my first taste of Lady Macbeth. Now I was obsessed.
Two or three attempts at producing were made and then thrown out between 2007
and 2008. I was still waiting for "other people" to step forward and
produce. You see, I don't do that sort of thing. Other people do.
Finally, in February of 2009 I was fed up. I sat down with another actor,
Mok Moser, and we made a decision. Let's just do it. And let's do
And so began a 5-month project, dreamed up 5 years previous: with a 22-person
cast, an 8-person production team, 5 broadsword/dagger fights, 6 witches, 3
songs with original music and choreography, 28 costumes, all in a 400-seat
theater... Hey, I never said we weren't crazy.
I would love to express how everything ran smoothly, everyone got along all of
the time, and it was an efficient, top-of-the-line creative process. Well
it wasn't. It was absolute chaos with brief moments of calm. It
felt impossible most of the time, and the intense dramatic content lent itself
well to creating a whole sphere of drama everywhere we went. I not only
had the opportunity to go mad onstage, "Out damned spot!" I also went a
bit mad offstage, "What do you mean the swords won't all be here until opening
night?!" Production is a bitch. Don't let anyone tell you
The funny thing is, I would take on another crazy mess in a heartbeat.
I've learned enough that it wouldn't be quite so messy. Then again, maybe
it would. We seem to think life should be clean and easy and
convenient. But what if it's not? What if it's a beautiful and
frightening mess? It's an extraordinary opportunity. To take
on something that seems impossible. To give yourself completely to
it. A project running on dreams and excitement and terror and whatever
you can scrounge from a personal checking account.
But what really made this show work when it should have failed was love.
It ran on love. These were the most tenacious and supportive and
courageous individuals with whom I have worked. In the end our most
important creation was a space of love and community and courageous
creativity. The Stranger can stand on a pedestal and use the term
"community theater" as some sort of slam. Well, I saw the essence and
heart of it - and it's beautiful and authentic and connected.
Audiences were moved. To tears, to gasps, to laughter, even to cheers. I
gave every last ounce of my being to Lady Macbeth. I've never been so
exhausted or felt such a sense of accomplishment. I never worried - how do I
make this famous scene fresh, make it my own? It's a ridiculous
concern. Of course it's my own. It's ME doing it, no one
else. Besides, it's really not about me. It's a powerful story, a
powerful character, powerful words. I just had to get out of the
way. Let it work its magic.
So we chose to play a big game. Sure, we had big breakdowns. In the
end, I think that's what life looks like when it's really working. We
also had big love. And plenty to go around. Ask yourself, "Art thou
afeard to be the same in thine own act and valor as thou art in desire?"
... Did I mention that I'm not a producer?
Photo from Macbeth Production, image above - (left to right) Carolynne Wilcox, Michelle Flowers, Xan Scott. Additional Freehold alums who were in this Macbeth production included: David Friedt, Joy Easley, Kirsten McCory, Carolynne Wilcox and Xan Scott.
Back to top ...
|My Meisner Experience by Jonathan Locke (continued)|
Since I can't meaningfully describe what I've been up to for the past nine months (!), I'll have to settle for giving you a sense of the journey through a few of the specific things I found along the way.
I've discovered through this work that there is a whole sequence of things I need to do to prepare myself to act. I can't show up, warm up for 10 minutes and start doing scene work. It takes me 30 minutes to get ready and it begins with connecting to my own physicality and the present moment. I find it helpful to start seeking this connection very consciously and from the moment I walk in (even through all the daily chatter at the start of a work session). I need to become aware of body sensations and maintain that awareness for an extended period of time; the surface of my body, the weight on my feet, joints, back and neck, my posture and movement through space and especially my breathing. When I'm ready, I need to slowly broaden my scope of awareness fully to my partner through connection work (Meisner repetition exercises mainly, although I've found that discovering my partner as I warm up has a power of its own) and finally to the room, the world of the play and the text. The text is actually key for me too as starting cold does not work well for me. I need to speak the words (ideally in connection with my scene partner) outloud before starting. It helps me to "drop in" fully.
Another whole realm of discovery for me has been around the sensation of touch. As a survivor of childhood abuse, being touched (particularly physically, but sometimes emotionally as well) without being fully warmed up and ready can sometimes pull me straight out of a scene. Although other people label this as going "into my head", it's more like going "out of my body" as I'm rarely thinking anything at such a moment. Over the course of the year, I took a number of small steps forward and finally found something that works well for me on the night our final performance (I've noticed that discoveries often peak as deadlines approach, am I a procrastinator?). I just intuitively started touching everything in sight while listening to music and discovering my scene partner as I warmed up. The results were astonishing in terms of the quality of my presence. I felt less jittery, more energized, and far more grounded and available. I felt ready.
One final discovery: stillness and simplicity have been and continue to be major hurdles for me. I can't help but see connections here to all that I've learned as a software engineer over 30 years. Less really is more. Trying to push code to do something lands you in a spot that's very much like indicating in acting. If you instead do the right preparation and find some real clarity in that, you can have considerable faith that the thing will just run itself. Although I'm quite new to acting, my guess is that developing an actor's faith is something quite similar.
While it's easy to talk like this, it's no substitute for doing. In coding, I know that only hard work, presence of mind and lots of practice take you in the direction of letting go, of just letting things be. I have no doubt this is the winding road in front of me in acting.
As Buddhists sometimes say, "Must be present to win."