1) What role do adults play in the running of the company?
Creative programming is led by students, under the supervision of experienced adults. Our Artists in Residence and Mentors are professionals in their artistic fields with experience in an educational setting, who mentor, facilitate, and guide the educational process. There is always at least one mentor present during the student-led rehearsals. Parents are an important part of our team, as they provide support for students, mentors and staff.
2) How is casting determined?
Entry into the program is at the discretion of the Artists in Residence, the Company Manager, the Production Team and the Creative Team of the current production. All roles in every show are open at the start of auditions. Casting within the company for a particular role is done by the Director, Musical Director, and Choreographer of each show under the guidance of our Artists in Residence. Our goal is to admit as many students as possible while maintaining a quality process and experience. Auditions are held twice a year (usually Aug/Sept and Jan), and advertised on social media. We are continually striving to cast a diverse group of students in representation of the DMV community, and consider this as we select our shows and advertise auditions.
3) How is the company funded?
Like all nonprofit organizations, The Free Theatre relies on both contributed and earned income. To keep our mission of providing a tuition-free experience to all our students, tax deductible contributions are accepted. Earned income from ticket sales and merchandise also contributes to our operational budget each season. We are always seeking out grants and corporate partnerships.
4) What kind of training are the students getting?
Students are encouraged to enroll in our Summer Intensive Training programs if they are interested in applying to leadership positions. Our Summer teaching artists are professional working Directors, Actors, Choreographers, Music Directors and Stage Managers. During the Fall and Spring, our Mentors serve as resources for the Creative and Production teams as they guide the cast and crew members. Peer-to-peer, experiential learning is a growing and successful trend in education, in both artistic and non-artistic spaces. Our belief is that there is nothing an organized and motivated group of young people can’t do in a collaborative and respectful environment! Our Artists in Residence, Advisory Board, Mentors and company members work together to shape and deliver our curriculum and programming.
6) What makes The Free Theatre different from other educational theatre programs?
While we build on the fundamentals that you should find in any quality educational theatre experience, we are entirely unique in our approach. Students are at the helm of the creative and production process, working directly with adult designers and mentors to turn their vision into reality. Within the usual musical theatre rehearsal model, we focus on important interpersonal skills such as collaboration, reflective listening, patience, goal setting, kindness and tolerance. Students also learn about budgets, contracts and finances. Students are encouraged to use Advisors and Mentors to guide them in selecting shows, casting, rehearsal schedule planning, design, and handling production issues. There are always new skills to learn, and a variety of opinions and personalities in the mix. Learning how to process all of this is a vital skill in our community and in our world.
7) What commitment are students being asked to make?
When you join The Free Theatre, you are making a commitment to learn, teach, work as part of a team, and have fun. Students are expected to take their responsibilities seriously, coming to every rehearsal prepared and ready to work and collaborate. We also expect all students to promote kindness and tolerance in our space. Our rehearsals are held every Sunday 11am-4:30pm. Tech week is usually 5-10pm every weeknight for the week leading up to the performance weekend. Show weekends are usually Friday night, Saturday matinee and evening, and a Sunday matinee. These vary by show and venue availability.
8) What happens if a student needs to miss rehearsals?
We understand that kids are under a lot of pressure these days — there’s a lot to balance in life. We know that there may be a few rehearsal conflicts. If a rehearsal must be missed, it is the student’s responsibility to find out what they’ve missed before the next rehearsal. Keep in mind though that theater is a team sport and requires all members to be present to learn and collaborate. If you cannot commit to regular attendance and participation, this might not be the best choice for you. Tech week rehearsals and performances are mandatory.
9) What will a typical rehearsal look like (in non-COVID times)?
Our rehearsal process includes a team-building activity, a technique or skills building section, staging, music rehearsal, and choreography. The last 15-30 minutes is dedicated to the production side of the show — all students are required to participate in off-stage committees such as costumes, props, special events and marketing. A rehearsal may also include a master class or visit from a working artist in the field as part of our educational component.
11) What will performances be like (in non-COVID times)?
Our performances are fully produced and staged productions! We use a mix of professional and student musicians in our pit to provide live music, our sets are built and painted by students and their family members under the supervision of a professional master carpenter and scenic designer, and costumes and props are also designed, procured and managed by students.
12) Is The Free Theatre just for onstage performers?
Definitely not! If you are interested in the technical side of theatre (production management, lighting, sound and set design, costumes, props, hair and make-up, etc.) or the marketing side (public relations, advertising, program design, photography, social media), there is a place for you at The Free Theatre! Students from all over the greater Washington DC metro area interested in leadership positions in Directing, Choreography, Music Direction, Stage Management, Social Media and Marketing and more should apply to join us! Our goal is to make the process and performance as student-oriented as possible, with constantly adapting levels of support from adults and industry professionals. Every job in theatre is important — if you have a special skill or talent, we want to hear from you!
Still have questions? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get you answers!