The Freehold Forum Spring Quarter 2010
In This Issue
Dinah Manoff Mortell
Gin Hammond
Le Frenchword Interview
Orion Baker
Faculty News
Faculty Showcase and Benefit
Student News
Spring Class Line-up
Quick Links

Hello Freehold Community,

The blossoms are out which sends a clear signal that spring is here.  The other clear sign it's spring?
Freehold's sensational spring classes are now open for registration! 

We are excited to share with you some great articles and Freehold news including:

*A fascinating interview with new Freehold faculty member and Tony award winner, Dinah Manoff Mortell
*An illuminating article by Gin Hammond on her recent production
*A fun chat with the threesome known as Le Frenchword including John Leith, Sachie Mikawa and Carter Rodriquez who recently performed as part of Freehold's Studio Series 2010
*An introspective article by Orion Baker on his experience volunteering as part of the Engaged Theatre residency program at WCCW
*Plus student and faculty news and a reminder that our Faculty Showcase and Benefit Tickets are now available for purchase (event: April 5th!).

Wishing everyone a fabulous, colorful and creative spring!


Kate Gavigan
PR Manager
Freehold Theatre


Interview with Dinah Manoff Mortell


Dinah Manoff has been acting since the age of seventeen when she auditioned for and was accepted to the Actors Studio in
New York.  She won a 1980 Tony Award and a Theater World Award for her performance in the Broadway production of Neil Simon's "I Ought To Be In Pictures" and has numerous other theater credits.  On television, she was a series regular on "Soap," "Empty Nest" and has starred in numerous TV movies.  She wrote the story for and produced the television movie "Maid for Each Other," and wrote two episodes of Empty Nest, one which featured her mother, the actress, Lee Grant.  Dinah is happily married to Arthur Mortell, and is the proud mom of their three boys, Dashiell, Desi and Oliver. Five years ago the Manoff-Mortells left Los Angeles and moved to Bainbridge Island, where she is currently writing and teaching acting at the Bainbridge Performing Arts.  We are thrilled that Dinah will be teaching an Advanced Scene Study class focusing on the work of Raymond Carver at Freehold this spring quarter.  To see Dinah's complete bio: http://www.freeholdtheatre.org/faculty


You have an extensive background as an actor, performing in LA and New York.  What has it been like to live and work in the northwest, specifically Bainbridge Island?


The working part was not really factor until I started teaching last year.  My husband and I moved here to raise our three boys; twins who are now 8 years old and a 12 year old.  My focus was on getting them out of Los Angeles.  I came up here with the intention of refocusing my life and priorities.  


It's been such a relief to focus on my family and it's been fascinating living here.  We love Bainbridge, the schools are amazing and we are around so many like-minded people.  Honestly I was afraid I'd be the loudest person on the island, but fortunately I haven't found that to be the case.  I've made great friends and found more creativity here than I could have fathomed.  I've found a great community of writers as well.   I would never want to move back to Los Angeles. Plus, I get to have a horse here which I love!

Continued ...
Returning the Bones with Gin Hammond

Gin Hammond is an actor, writer, producer and Freehold faculty member.  Gin's play RETURNING THE BONES is based on the true story of her aunt, an African American doctor, Caroline Beatrice Montier, (aka "Bebe") now 84.  After being invited to finish her medical degree in Europe shortly after WWII, Bebe has to choose between staying in the South (and continuing to risk her life in the fight for Civil Rights), or escaping to Paris to live a life she's always dreamed of.

Gin, can you share with our readers what inspired and motivated you to write and perform Returning the Bones?

(photo at left: Gin Hammond performing Returning the Bones)

When I was growing up I hadn't heard much about my Aunt Carolyn (aka Auntie Bebe).  We didn't grow up near any relatives.  In my 20's, I realized how ridiculous it was that my nuclear family was pretty much all the family that I knew.  I didn't like feeling cut off from my own history.  I was compelled to find out more about where I come from.  I was very nervous about facing rejection, about being the wierdo relative who shows up out of nowhere, but it was worth the risk.  My Aunt Carolyn was very welcoming to me and generous with the family stories, and spending time with her made it easier for me to eventually connect with the rest of my extended family. 

Continued ...
Studio Series 2010

Congratulations to all of Studio Series 2010 participants.  Your hard work and dedication made the 2010 Studio Series a HUGE success. 

We had a chance to sit down with one of the acts that performed this year at the Studio Series: Le Frenchword which includes John Leith, Carter Rodriquez and Sachie Mikawa (pictured below), all Freehold Meisner alums.

Interview with Le Frenchword

The piece you did at the Studio Series called Kawa-Ui while hard to describe included a bunny dance, Sachie being given birth to and Carter and John reminiscing on the "old days".  How did you three come up with this piece?

Carter:  It was a process.  We would throw stuff at the wall, you know ... throw Sachie at the wall ... whatever stuck, we kept.

Sachie: Well there were 4 of us originally.

John: Yes, the fourth Beatle left us.

Carter: Ah yes, the amazing Miss Brynna Jourden and then there was the "old one."

John: Well not old so much as "the great one"

Sachie: He's fitter than all of us.

Carter: Yes, the incredible George Lewis who was a central figure in helping us develop the piece.

John: George would say "ok you all need to come in with something next week."

Sachie: Yes, that's how the bunny dance came to be.  It was a punishment from George where he said "you have to do some stupid move."

John: Brynna had this great question which helped focus us which was "what could we do if we could do whatever we wanted?" 

Sachie: She was also really great in leading us to some movement exercises which really helped a lot as well.

Continued ...

Visiting Purdy by Orion Baker

Orion Baker is a Freehold student who has been participating as a volunteer in Freehold's Engaged Theatre residency program at the Washington Correctional Center for Women.  He and other volunteer artists along with Freehold's Artistic Director Robin Lynn Smith and Freehold faculty member Dickey Nesenger have
been working with the women from Purdy for several months to produce a play based on the women's writing.  The performance will be held for the public in April at the prison and will also be performed for their fellow inmates.


Visiting Purdy/Washington Women's Correctional Center for Women (WCCW) for the first time, having learned a bit about the importance of going into new situations without expectations, I felt adequately unprepared.  Since I have no previous experience with prison, I took care to try to ignore my notions about what it would be like inside.  Nevertheless, I have found myself frequently surprised.


I was surprised to find out that the guards aren't gruff, and that many of them aren't even serious.  I was surprised that some of the walls were painted with elaborate murals.  I was surprised that being in a room full of prisoners feels remarkably similar to being in a room full of any other type of person.  I was surprised that there were cherry blossoms in the central courtyard.  Most of all, I am continually surprised by the diversity and depth of artistic talent possessed by the women in the Engaged Theatre program.       


Continued ...
Faculty News

Dickey Nesenger , John Longenbaugh
and others will be participating in Olio! on Friday March 26th, 7 pm at Ouch my Eye (1022 1st Ave. S.).  The event will be full of music, busking, and improvisation performances, as well as a silent auction of faux props and original play posters.

All proceeds for this event will go towards Bit Part, a play festival and Belltown street fair hosted by Freehold Theatre, in collaboration with KNOCK Magazine, and produced by Ampere Art. The winners of the KNOCK International Play Contest, judged by Dickey Nesenger, Maria Semple, and John Longenbaugh, will be published in issue no.13, "The All Play Issue," to be released during the festival.

Daemond Arrindell produces the very popular weekly Seattle Poetry Slam now on Tuesday nights at 8:00, only $5.00 and at a new location: the ReBar.  For more information: http://www.seattlepoetryslam.org/

ReturningtheBonesGinGin Hammond will be performing her play Returning the Bones (picture at left) at the Solo Performance Festival on March 11, 19, and 20 at 7:30 pm at Theatre Off Jackson.  Excerpts from the play can be seen at youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p1IMpnhd_M and more information on SPF and Gin's show: http://www.theatreoffjackson.org/spf4.html#bones

Cyrus Khambatta
is announcing an artist call for creative site-specific works for a new program Art on the Fly, turning Seattle Streetcar into a huge art ride through South Lake Union and Beyond the Threshold's new Spotlight on Seattle series featuring Seattle-based companies. Thanks to support from the Department of Neighborhoods, artists will be compensated between $200-$1,350 per project (depending on the number of dancers and scope of the project) for Art on the Fly.  Cyrus is heartily encouraging individuals to apply. Go to www.phffft.org/sidf-apply.html and download the application and guidelines to submit a proposal. If you need more info, contact Abigail Wallace at Abigail@PHFFFT.org


Darragh Kennan, Amy Thone, MJ Sieber, Paul Morgan Stetler
(all Freehold faculty members and members of New Century Theatre Company) are producing On the Nature of Dust by Stephanie Timm, May 5 - May 30th (in association with ACT Heating Lab).  Tickets available through ACT Ticket Office: (206) 292-7676 or https://www.acttheatre.org/TicketsPlays/

John Jacobsen
is stll shooting his tv show for PBS, The Artist Toolbox.  John just interviewed Chef Daniel Boulud (one of the few 4 star chefs in the
US) and Isabel and Ruben Toledo (she did Michelle Obama's dress for the inauguration and he is probably the greatest graphic designer in fashion working, does all Nordstrom's ads), and also filmed the legendary jazz pianist, Ramsey Lewis.  Isabelle Allende is next!  John also just got hired to direct and produce a new tv pilot called The Perfect Sweat for The Discovery Channel.  The FilmSchool just had its 2nd Annual Oscar Night Auction which grossed over $160,000.  John is also buying the rights to a Roald Dahl book and writing the script to make that into a movie.  More information on The Artist Toolbox: http://www.mogajacobsen.com/

George Clown

George Lewis
created 2 clown shows in Argentina this past year. One of them is a solo show with a woman named Victoria Almeida. It is a multimedia clown piece called "The last time I threw myself off a precipice", and tells the story of a clown contemplating suicide. It is performed every Friday night at Teatro Picolino in Palermo at 11:30 pm. There was a 4 star review in La Nacion, the "New York Times of Argentina."  George is going back into rehearsal with Nata Voltage (photo above) with a piece entitled "Mal de Mar" (Sea Sick), which is a kind of clown existential journey. They performed it for 2 months, and will do a more extended run opening in June. If you are going to be in Argentina, George offers comps for both shows!

John Longenbaugh's play Perspectives will be performed as part of Stone Soup's Original One Act Play Festival, May 13-16 and May 20-23, Thursday - Sunday, 8:00 pm and 2:00 pm.  Tickets available at (206) 633-1883 and details at: http://www.stonesouptheatre.org/whatsbrewing.html#festival2010


Keira McDonald
is producing the Solo Performance Festival, SPF #4, March 3 - April 5th.  Always a FUN festival!  More information: http://www.theatreoffjackson.org/spf4.html


Troy Mink has a new solo show Evenings With Carlotta going up at Annex Theatre April 30 - May 21, Friday and Saturdays, at 11:00 pm & will be doing a character, improv based piece for the upcoming Faculty Showcase and Benefit.  The link to the Annex/Carlotta show is: http://www.annextheatre.org/pages/season23.html  - scroll down on the page to get to the listing. Photo at left: Troy Mink as Carlotta.

Paul Mullin's play The Sequence has just been published, available at Original Works Publishing, http://www.originalworksonline.com/thesequence.htm
NewsWrights United is gearing up to research and report another Living Newspaper, this one about new media called, The New New News:  A Living Newspaper.  He and his colleagues hope to produce this in August, at the Erickson Off-Broadway collaborating with Strawberry Theatre Workshop.


Marya Sea Kaminski
will be reading from her own work for Hugo House's event Laws of Attraction at Kane Hall on UW Campus on Friday, March 19 at 7:30 pm.  More information: http://www.facebook.com/pages  She is also currently working on Condo Millennium, (photo above) a performance spectacle, which will be at the Northwest Film Forum on May 13 - 15, 2010. 
More information: http://www.nwfilmforum.org/live/page/calendar/988


Matt Smith
will be performing his latest work entitled All My Children at Hugo House about a man, Max Poth, who tracks down the now grown children of long-ago girlfriends--and claims to have fathered them all.  The show runs May 28 - June 12, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm.  For more information, http://www.hugohouse.org/content/matt-smith


Billie Wildrick
will be doing Samson at SPF #4 (Solo Performance Festival) on the 18th and 29th: http://www.theatreoffjackson.org/spf4.html.  She will be then doing On the Town at the 5th Avenue Theatre: http://www.5thavenue.org/show/onthetown0910/and then followed at the 5th Avenue with Candide, info: http://www.5thavenue.org/show/candide0910/


Monday, April 5th
Doors Open at 6:30 pm
Showtime: 7:30 pm

ACT Theatre
Bullitt Cabaret Theatre
700 Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Hosted by Robin Lynn Smith and Annette Toutonghi

Here is your ONCE a year chance to see in one evening several of our spectacular faculty showcase their incredible talents in support of Freehold.  Here's what you have to look forward to:

*Sensational short play readings
that will electrify

*Improv wizardry by the
best of the best and as always

*Transcendent acting by
our fantastic faculty

and MORE (if you can believe it!)

Faculty performances by:

Gin Hammond
Elizabeth Heffron
John Longenbaugh
Paul Mullin
Matt Smith
Amy Thone
and MORE to come!

Music by Jose Gonzales and Lisa Halpern

Scrumptious nibbles and
fabulous door prizes!

$15.00 (advance tickets until March 22nd)
$25.00 (after March 22nd)

Tickets include one drink ticket (beer/wine)
*Full cash bar will be available*

Come show your
Freehold support!!
(we'll be providing several ways to do that!)

We sold out last year so be sure
and get your tickets early!
Student/Alum News

Kim Fitzharris, Jennifer Hamblin, Ryan Sanders all Freehold alums will be performing in the play Recent Tragic Events at Odd Duck Studio, March 11-April 4th. Other Freehold alums include Jeff Woodbridge (director), Jonathan Locke (producer), Elizabeth Deutsch (stage manager), Nathania ten Wolde (photography and print design - photo on right).  More information on tickets, times: http://www.recenttragicevents.net/play/Home.html


Sean Gormley
booked a role on an upcoming HBO show called Treme and reports it was a great experience. They spent the day shooting an exterior scene by one of the levees in the lower ninth ward New Orleans. Sean plays an arrogant British interviewer questioning a learned local (John Goodman) about a conspiracy theory regarding Katrina. The series is due to air on HBO in April. Photo at left, Sean Gormley with John Goodman on the set of Treme.

Susan Bradford
is using her Meisner tools as Meg in Harold Pinter's, The Birthday Party.  Susan has been directing the show since last fall, when her company, Theatre Black Dog, took a twenty minute scene of the play to the EBOR conference at the UW, for a group of 150 analysts. This resulted in an invitation to take the play to a conference this coming fall in Oxford, England. Susan directed, Waiting for Godot at Balagan theatre, two years ago.  Her company has worked together on many productions over the years, including A Lie of the Mind, Dancing at Lughnasa, and True West,to name a few.  The show is running at Isadors Cafe in Snoqualmie on March 12,13,19,20, Info: 425.888.1345 and runs April 2, 3, 9th, and 10th at Freehold's Black Box Theatre. Brown Paper Tickets:1-800-838-3006.


John Leith, Nathania ten Wolde,
and Parker Wolfe (all Freehold alums) and other performing artists will be performing in the Vet Arts Project (photo at left) on March 19 and 20 at 7:00 pm held at Freehold Theatre. The Vet Art Project creates opportunities for veterans to work in collaboration with artists from all disciplines to create new art about war for public performance and viewing.  Hosted by Freehold and facilitated by Caroline Brown. Suggested donation: $10.00. 

Phillip Mitchell has been cast in the upcoming Condo Millenium: A New Performance, created and directed by Marya Sea Kaminski.  For more information: http://www.nwfilmforum.org/live/page/calendar/988

Eleanor Moseley will be performing in Agatha Christie Murder Mysteries as part of Theatre Northwest Group in May in Tacoma.  For more information, http://www.theatrenorthwestgroup.org/

Louise Penberthy has a reading of her play The Platinum Crucible, on Sunday, March 21st, at 7:00 p.m., at 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, 328 15th Ave., on  
Capitol Hill.  The play is a comedy about four cousins who have inherited their aunt's estate and the family secrets.  Each of them wants a mythical platinum crucible that belonged to their grandfather... if it even exists. Louise's play Miss Hannah Comes Back, based on the short play at the Studio Series in February, will be produced by Pierce College in May. Miss Hannah Comes Back is a comic but serious look at the times when the trees don't WANT to be hugged.  Performances are Friday and Saturday, May 14,15, and 21, 22.  Times, ticket prices, etc., will be on the Pierce College Web site, http://www.pierce.ctc.edu/Theatre/.  Louise's short play The Cougar in the Coffee House is in Little Red Studio's Erotic Shorts festival in June.  In The Cougar in the Coffee House, middle-aged, recently divorced Claire gets an astonishing proposition from a young man of her acquaintance.  More information: Little Red Studio's Web site, http://www.littleredstudioseattle.com/


Here are our Sensational Spring Classes:

Step I: Intro to Acting with Sarah Harlett and Stefan Enriquez
Step II: Acting with Text with Sarah Harlett
Step II: Acting with Text with Carol Roscoe
Step III:  Basic Scene Study with CT Doescher

Rehearsal and Performance with Annette Toutonghi
Advanced Scene Study with Dinah Manoff Mortell
Alexander Intensive with Cathy Madden
Improv with Matt Smith
Advanced Improv with Troy Mink
Stage Combat with Geof Alm
Spoken Word and Performance Poetry with Daemond Arrindell
Meisner Progression with Robin Lynn Smith
Shakespeare with Amy Thone
Voice with Gin Hammond
Voice Over with Gin Hammond
Playwriting I with Elizabeth Heffron
Playwriting III with Dickey Nesenger
Crafting the 10 Minute Play with John Longenbaugh

TO REGISTER:  http://www.freeholdtheatre.org/studio
or (206) 323-7499

We look forward to hearing from you!

DinahContinuedInterview with Dinah Manoff Mortell (continued)

You have worked in LA in film and on stage.  What have been the challenges as well as the rewards when you compare the film work with the stage work?


I am much happier as a stage actress than doing television or film.  Stage is really comfortable for me.  I've never had a problem with getting a sense of privacy on stage or being able to experience that feeling of freedom.  In front of the camera, I have to overcome a million obstacles and use every trick in the book to deal with that feeling of self-consciousness that can surface for me.  I know a lot of actors for whom it's the opposite ... they melt into comfort on camera. 


How has it been to make the change from working in LA and New York versus Bainbridge Island?


There was tremendous energy performing in LA and New York, and I rode that for a long time.  In my 40s the energy started to dissipate - the roles were less and also were less interesting.  I feel like I had a great run.  I was a working actress working steadily from age 17 until my 40s.  When that was over, it was so great to not have to think "I've got to get to that audition", do my hair and make-up, study those lines and all of that - I didn't have the motivation to do it anymore.  Also, I said to myself "I had the best of this" and now it's time to move on.


In terms of my work life, my kids are now well on their way as people. I'm starting to branch out a little bit more.  It's been great teaching at Bainbridge Performing Arts.  I've done several adult classes, a teen class and just directed a one-act festival.  The teaching really feeds me creatively.  I'm finding that it is an area where I can be in with both feet and be really present for my students.  I'm very excited about coming over to Freehold and exploring the talent there.  Also I'd like to be more connected with the theater community in Seattle.


As an actor who has performed extensively, is there anything that you have learned over the years that you wished you could have shared with yourself at that age?


To have fun. I didn't have fun for years.  I took myself way too seriously.  I was so hard on myself.  I didn't have fun acting until my late 30s.  What I finally realized is that acting and performing is supposed to be playful.  The most important thing I bring to the students in my classes is playfulness.  My experience is that the minute you start criticizing yourself as an actor you become blocked 


When you look back at your work studying at the Actor's Studio in New York, are there a couple of things you could share that you learned that have been important tools for you as you worked as a professional actor?


My mother, Lee Grant, still moderates at the Actor's Studio and when I'm in New York I often go back and watch the sessions.  The Actor's Studio is a great place to see actors take charge of their own work and process.  They use the sessions to bring in whatever they feel they need to work on.  There is a lot of private-moment work - a lot of work on characters that might be challenging for them or even characters no one would ever cast them in ... so there is a really marvelous jumping off the cliff/not playing it safe feeling to the work.  The opportunity to having been raised as an actor in that atmosphere was incredible.  One of the things that I learned at the Studio is that the most interesting and exciting work is when you don't know what is going to happen next.  This idea is something I try to convey to other actors.  Listen, ... sometimes the sessions are awful, indulgent and boring but luckily you have  great moderators like my mother or Ellen Burtsyn who delineate bullshit from process.  At its best the work is very deep and raw.  The actors are encouraged to work in the moment, to stay out of results.


We're excited that you will be teaching an Advanced Scene Study Class focusing on the works of Raymond Carver.  What draws you particularly to Raymond Carver's work?


I came to Carver late in life.  I remember the first time I read his stories, my jaw dropped open.  I thought "these are so dramatic ... I want to get actors into this work!" I went to the Artistic Director at Bainbridge Performing Arts and said that I wanted to get actors working with Carver's stories.  That's what started me teaching.  I took all of these non-professional actors and we started to work on these scenes. We did lots of sensory work, emotional recall, and improvisation and it was truly revelatory.  After the session was over I watched "Short Cuts", a film by Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt, which is inspired by nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver. It's a masterpiece. Altman had done the same thing, using improv mixed with scripted dialogue to get the heart of the characters and their stories.  I read that when Altman started working with Carver, he felt the only way he could dramatize the stories was through improvisation.


Are there any particular hopes that you have for your students upon completion of your upcoming class with them?


There is so much humor in Carver even in the midst of all that tragedy.  The students will get to really know Carver in the way that might know Chekhov.  My hope is that they'll burrow a little deeper in themselves as actors, stretch just a little bit farther.  Above all else my goal is that everyone has a swell, good time.


When you think about the work you'd like to do in the future artistically, what roles, characters, plays or opportunities would you like to tackle?


My motto, if you will, is to take the next indicated step. For right now the next indicated step is Carver at Freehold Theatre.


Dinah will be teaching Advanced Scene Study at Freehold this Spring Quarter.  For more information on this class or to register, go to: http://www.freeholdtheatre.org/studio/catalog/128

Back to Top ...

GinContinuedReturning the Bones with Gin Hammond (continued)
One inspiration for the script was the stark contrast between the grace and faith my aunt demonstrated while working for change that she didn't even anticipate witnessing in her lifetime, and the stories about all the U.S. citizens who gave up on their country in some form or another during our last administration.  I thought about how incredibly seductive it would have been for my aunt to accept all the invitations she'd gotten to stay in Paris, (living the glamorous life of the Black expats of the time), rather than return to the United States to battle the aggressively ignorant, and lethal, Jim Crow laws.  Spoiler Alert: She was one of the "Unsung Heroes" that Obama invited to his inauguration. (Photo at left of Bebe)

In preparing for the role you had to embody 28 characters, many of whom had a variety of dialects.  I was particularly struck by how seamless a transition you make from character to character. What is your process for preparing for these characters both in terms of dialect and character?
Getting into character actually depends on the character: with historical figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and LBJ, I could study YouTube videos and simply mimic them, doing exercises similar to what I teach in my Dialect and Character Class; e.g. what's the mouth posture, attitude, and musicality?  Family members that I portrayed were a different matter: except for the main character (my aunt), all the relatives I portray had already passed away.  I had to go from stories I'd heard and the way my living relatives would tell the stories.  For example, anytime anyone was quoting my grandfather, they'd use their lowest pitch, speak really quickly, and add a coughing "tick" that I've since incorporated.  With family members as well as people I had little or no information about, I also went through a checklist of sorts that included what chakra they were operating from, what their "sentence of greatest need" was, and what the psychological gestures were that grew out of that.
What were the specific highlights and challenges in preparing for this role and how did you overcome the challenges?

There were so many enthralling stories that it was difficult to know what to keep and what to edit out.  There's one scene I've since had to edit out.  My aunt grew up in a strangely privileged kind of situation in a very small town in Bryan, Texas.  When she first arrived at Howard University as a freshman, there was a talent show survey that went around asking if she had any talents.  She wrote "play accordion, guitar, and saxophone."  They picked her to perform, and she dressed up in her little cowgirl outfit and not only played "Home on the Range" (she mentioned there was no Black music on the radio when she was growing up), but she even yodeled.  The entire school was laughing and at first she thought they were enjoying it but gradually she realized they were laughing at her "as if I was a comic!  And then they had the nerve to shout for an encore!"  This country gal eventually became student body president and was chosen to be one of a handful of medical students chosen to represent the United States in Europe.

Local actor Marcel Davis was like a dramaturgical partner when I first started writing the play.  Some good friends also helped with their feedback at the play's very first (and very long) reading.  Local actor/director Carol Roscoe, and NYC director Victor Lirio were quite instrumental in helping me give the play shape during the two subsequent staged readings.  Jane Jones, Co-Artistic Director of Book-It Repertory Theatre was my final director, and is accustomed to transforming entire novels into play-length performances.  My tremendous respect for her talent made it easy to trust her recommendations and take greater artistic risks with the play.

I get to quote Eleanor Roosevelt in the play, and it's a quote that suits my aunt's philosophy to a "T."  "When you simply follow your heart, what others call bravery becomes a matter of course." 

Gin Hammond  is teaching a Voice class and a Voice Over class at Freehold spring.  For more information on those classes, go to:  http://www.freeholdtheatre.org/studio/classes/3
Gin will be performing Returning the Bones as part of the SPF Festival March 19 and 20 at Theatre Off Jackson. To see a preview of Gin's performance from
Returning the Bones go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p1IMpnhd_M

Back to Top ...

LeFrenchwordContinuedLe Frenchword Interview (continued)

It was definitely an interesting process where somebody would say something, sometimes something stupid ... not me of course ... but someone else and then we would improv on the stupid things we liked.  We worked on this in one form or another for over 2 years, about 8 hours a week.  Yes, it does take that long to produce 20 minutes for a show.

Sachie: We also are all pretty visual people so we wanted to incorporate a lot of different mediums including musical things.

Carter: George helped also with the structure of things by saying "I have this much time to work with you guys ... let's do a show."

John: As we started working together, we started seeing themes and started to build on those.  Themes like "cults", "death", "black holes".  The scene that involved two cell phones came out of something I would play around with at a local coffee shop and the end result of working on it with everyone is very different with where it started.

Carter:  Right, like there is this one place in the piece where we say the word "California" in a little drawn out way, which came out of me making fun of something Arnold Schwarzenegger did and saying "well at least he pronounces the word California right" and then it riffed from there.

You worked on this piece for quite a long time.  Was it mostly improvised or was their a genesis of an idea that evolved?

Sachie: There was a lot of writing, talking, crying, talking about life.

John: It was a lot of fun but hard too.  It was a hot process for us.  More than anything we had this incredibly safe place where we could bring in whatever we wanted and see where they would go.  It definitely felt like giving birth - great but not always easy.

Carter: We all came from the clown world so we all brought that sensibility to trying out things.

Sachie: There was a lot of joy in doing it.  It was often the best part of my week to meet these people and say it was ok to be so whacked.

Carter: As we worked together, some things became clearer.  We realized that the pieces we were putting together were not regular sketch bits or improv but that they were more oblique/absurd things and that that was our "through" line.  We were able to say "that is uniquely ours" ... kind of like being in a band.  There was chemistry that came out of our working together over that long a period of time.  We realized that everything was fair game.  I also realized how important it was to let go of my ideas and see where the group would take it which might be someplace completely different from where I thought it was going.

John: As we showcased pieces of the work to fellow artists, they saw the work as absurd which was curious because I saw it as more intuitive.

Carter: Yeah, but we had all done past clown work so that was maybe our Clown logic, that oblique angle we have.

Sachie: Yeah, our sick sense of humor.

John: George helped so much in pointing out what was the most interesting stuff.  He would just name it "the most interesting stuff is this and not that."  He would talk about being able to "trust his eyes when he sees something that would work."  George could always find the juice. 

Carter: George's "interesting" (say it slowly folks) is different maybe how some people hear the word.  "Interesting" is does it engage me, pull me in, make me feel something.

What was it like for you at the end of working on the piece leading up to the Studio Series?

Carter: Honestly? I was a little nervous people would see it and go "huh?"

John: I think we all felt that way but we were also really clear that this is what we wanted to do and while we made adjustments we didn't make changes to what we were doing.

Sachie: It felt necessary to show up and once we were there to bring all of my "piece of shit" self whatever that looked like.  Plus, because of our connection, when people were going through a tough time we were very gentle with each other.

Carter: Yeah ... showing up in hell days produced some of the most interesting.work.

Have to ask where the title of the name of the piece came from ... "Kawa-Ui?"

Sachie:  Kawa-Ui is a made up word but it comes from Kawaii means "cute" in Japanese and I thought what could be cuter than turning it into "Kawa-Ui?"

I understand that there is more than what you presented at the Studio Series.  Where would you like to go with the piece?

Carter: We will be doing a 7 minute section of it at Balagan on April 17 as part of their Shmorgasboard cabaret. More info: http://www.balagantheatre.org/
We've also applied to Bumbershoot to maybe do it then. 

Sachie: Our big fantasy is to do it on the North American fringe circuit.

John: After George left for other parts, we had to find new ways of working.

Carter: We had to look out the work ourselves and determine what was working and what wasn't but the great one will return soon.

John: We tried Robot George but it didn't work out.

Your group is called "Le Frenchword".  Where did that come from?

John: It was one of 100 names that I came up with. 

Sachie: We also have Frenchword Warehouse that we use sometimes.

Carter: I liked "Let's See You do Better Theatre."

John: Or "Super Creative Friends Club" or "Better Than Your Theatre Company." But Le Frenchword seems to fit us best.

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PurdyContinuedVisiting Purdy by Orion Baker (continued)

(Orion Baker pictured at left)

Many of these women are skilled writers, compelling actors, brilliant poets and hilarious improvisers who have been drawn to theater for many reasons, I imagine.  For some it seems to be a great creative outlet.  For some it may be a vehicle for growth and healing.  For some it seems to be a social hour.  For many I suspect it is as simply that prison is boring and theater is fun. 


This too was a surprise.  I expected theater in a prison to be a serious affair, deeply personal and sometimes angry.  Although those qualities are present, this year's play about a group of people stuck in a town where time has stopped is as much comedy and fantasy as it is heavy drama.


Telling a story with an emphasis on the passage of time seems relevant in a prison.  Time is an integral part of life in Purdy, and not just the overarching importance of the amount of time remaining until getting out.  The inmates' daily activities and meals are also dictated by a strict timetable, comprised of a series of "movements," ten-minute periods during which they are allowed to go from one location in the prison to another.  While their lives on the outside may be on hold, time inside moves decisively forward. 


This was in fact one of the first things that surprised me about this project.  Its usefulness is not relegated to some anticipated future when time resumes and certain skills may become useful.  Rather it seems to recognize that if time is moving then life is happening, and this art, based on being present in the moment, is useful now.     

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