Freehold Theater Lab Studio, Seattle’s premiere independent theater school and lab for working professionals, has announced that they will be leaving their Belltown home of eight years for a new home at Maynard and Weller in the International District, with a planned opening of their expanded facility on September 15, 2016.
Robin Lynn Smith, Freehold’s Artistic Director, believes that the move expresses the group’s guiding principles, both in fostering bold work and being in the mix with Seattle’s ethnic diversity. “We’re a center for the practice of theater where we encourage artistic risk to make truer, deeper, more fully human performance, and to engage more immediately with the extraordinary populations in our region.”
Located just one block from the Wing Luke, 515 Maynard Ave. South is on the corner of Maynard and Weller. The new space is a 7000 square foot basement in a mixed-used residential building that will be transformed into a Black Box Theater, two Studios, offices and a library. Nearly double the size of their current Belltown Space, the new facility will allow Freehold to increase their classes and provide a permanent space for Lab productions, including the Engaged Theatre Program, while providing space for residencies, partner workshops and both rehearsal and performance rentals for the many companies that use Freehold on a regular basis.
To make all of this possible, Freehold is kicking off a Capital Campaign to raise $400,000 from the community. This represents 57% of the funds required for the new facility, with the rest of the money being provided by a generous Building for Culture grant from 4Culture/King County, as well as individual donors including Freehold's Founders and Boards of Directors.
4Culture’s Arts Program Director Charlie Rathbun spoke to what makes Freehold a vital part of Seattle’s theater ecosystem. “Through its methodology, leadership, and community engagement, Freehold grounds the art of theater where it belongs, in the politics, the psyche, and the soul of our time and place.”
The move is being welcomed by community and arts leaders. Kathy Hsieh, Cultural Partnerships & Grants Manager for Seattle Arts and Culture and a well-known advocate for Asian-American artists, says she is “thrilled” about the move not only for Freehold “but for the neighborhood, too.” She points to the ID’s long history as a cultural destination, fostering jazz music in the first half of the 20th century and cultural events at the Nippon Kan, to a contemporary art scene which includes venues like Theatre Off Jackson, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Massive Monkees Studio, Li Hengda Dance Studio, and various jazz and cultural festivals and art galleries. “Having Freehold join the mix will serve to truly establish Chinatown/I.D. as an arts and cultural hub of the City…It’s these anchor cultural tenants and the participants and audience who visit them that will create the long-term viability of the neighborhood as a real International District.”
“The ID needs new uses that can bring in people who are inclined to patronize our existing business and appreciate the cultural richness the ID has to offer,” says Jamie Lee of the Seattle ID Preservation and Development Authority. “Freehold is exactly the kind of new community member that Chinatown/ID is hoping to attract.”
History and Background of Freehold
“Freehold” is an old Saxon word that is both noun and verb, meaning the right to ownership comes from the work you devote to a place ---or, in our case, an artistic practice. It’s central to our idea that practicing artists, students and teachers alike engage in, the ongoing practice and lifelong evolution of their craft.
Since its founding in 1991, Freehold has been a vital part of the Seattle theater community. The Lab has created collaborations with over 300 of Seattle’s best actors, writers, directors, musicians and designers, developed new work and revitalizing classics, brought Master Artists from Russia and Canada, launched the Art Theatre of Puget Sound and the Sandbox Artist’s Collective, and annually served over 400 students in over 70 classes, drawn from over 130 area zip codes. The numerous artists and faculty of Freehold have collectively won 4 Stranger Genius Awards, 11 Gregory Awards (including the 2008 Gregory Falls Sustained Achievement for Robin Lynn Smith), and the Mayor’s Arts Award in 2012.
Notable Lab productions have included The Seagull (1996 SPIT Award Winner), the Shakespeare histories adaptation The Flowers in England’s Face (“wild and specific and full of heart and wizardry and funny and bold,” actor/teacher Amy Thone) and Emboldened by Reginald Andre Jackson, with music by D’Vonne Lewis and Ahamefule Oluo (2015 Seattle Times Footlights Award, “a bittersweet trip worth taking,” The Stranger).
For the past 12 years, Freehold has also run the Engaged Theatre Program, bringing theater to area prisons with professionally mounted productions as well as newly created theater by the inmates, serving over 1,500 incarcerated adults and teens and reaching an additional 1,000 audience members with free public performances.
In both of its Capitol Hill and Belltown venues, Freehold has offered affordable rent and production opportunities to dozens of Seattle companies and artists, including Annex, 14/48, Sandbox Artist’s Collective, Parley, Nordo, BASH, LiveGirls! Theatre, Macha Monkey, Book-It, Degenerate Arts Ensemble, Lucia Neare, Ghostlight Theatricals, Satori Group, and many others.
In addition, Freehold has been an active arts partner with a large variety of local institutions and charities to bring theater into everyday life, including the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, American Lake VA Hospital, Path with Art, Harborview Psych Ward, Southwest Youth and Family Services, Therapeutic Health Services, Echo Glen Children's Center, Central Distinct Forum for Art and Ideas, Compass Housing Alliance, The Mahogany Projects, Seattle University, UW, Cornish College of the Arts and the IF Project.
“We are so looking forward to creating a beautiful new home where artists can not only grow, but deepen their craft,” say Smith. “We have wanted a more permanent home for nearly a decade, and this is the opportunity to bring us to a neighborhood that welcomes us and a venue that inspires us.”
For details on how to contribute to our capital campaign, and its progress, go to: http://www.freeholdtheatre.org/support/new-home.