1) What role do adults play in the running of the company?

From the classroom to the boardroom and the audience to backstage, adult participation is important to the mission and process of The Free Theatre. The 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.

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. Casting within the company for a particular role is done by the Director, Musical Director, and Choreographer of each particular 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 as well. For more information on how you can support The Free Theatre, please visit our “How You Can Help” page.

4) What kind of training are the students getting? 

Peer-to-peer, experiential learning is a growing and successful trend in education, in both artistic and non-artistic spaces. Non-traditional roles and responsibility-sharing environments are quickly becoming the blueprint for successful organizations around the world. 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 boards, Mentors and company members work together to shape and deliver our curriculum and programming. We knew we are taking on a new and bold idea – one where everyone is responsible for the learning AND the teaching – and it has proven to be a successful model.

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. As a peer-to-peer experiential process, important interpersonal skills such as collaboration, reflective listening, patience, goal setting, and tolerance are modeled and applied. Students are encouraged to use advisors and mentors to guide them in selecting shows, casting, rehearsal schedule planning, design, and handling production issues. There is always something new to learn, and a variety of opinions in the mix. Learning how to process all of this is a vital skill in our community and in our world. In addition, we have begun offering summer training programs in specific disciplines to give our students the opportunity for further advancement of skills.

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 Friday night, Saturday matinee and evening, and a Sunday matinee. 

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 participate in off-stage committees. 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 by students and their family members under the supervision of a professional master carpenter and scenic designer, and costumes and props are also designed 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 info@thefreetheatre.org so we can get you answers!