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Posts Tagged Jane Froiland

Jane Froiland Knows No Bounds!

For many actors, simply living by your stage chops alone isn’t enough to keep the bills paid. Not in the Twin Cities and definitely not in the other single cities out there. Even in New York, the actors fortunate enough to do it “full time” do most of their work outside of the city, in the regional centers of the country. Despite this, however, actors constantly prove that they are a flexible and hardened group of people; where there’s a will, you can bet they’ll find a way!

Jane Froiland studies hard for the part. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

One mark of a smart artist, like anyone in charge of their own business, is to diversify one’s talent. “Oh, you don’t need an actor this time? That’s fine. How about director? I can offer my services as an experienced stage director! Or manager! Or playwright. Or costumer. Lighting designer? Ok, ok… seriously, can I just sell concessions or help the actors learn their lines?”

This sort of resourcefulness is almost the only viable way *most* actors truly make a “living” in the theatre. Jane Froiland is one such multi-talented artist who is often balancing her performance schedule with her gigs as a stage director. She can currently be seen in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank while gearing up for a run of You Can’t Take it With You at Woodbury High School. Performing in the mornings and directing in the afternoons? Sounds like a full time job to me! Of her days this spring, Froiland states: “… what a dream to be able to be a part of telling such an important story and be able to foster the next generation of artists all in the same day.”

More than that, it “legitimizes” her standing as a director in the eyes of her students. When they are able to work with a creator who “walks the walk” and is able to express her knowledge from a very real and first-hand professional experience. Not only does this create a high bar from those student-performers to meet, but helps Froiland in her own lifelong education as an actor/director. After all, who knows if some of those Woodbury students are in the audience at Park Square watching their esteemed director perform?

You can watch Jane Froiland yourself in The Diary of Anne Frank, playing select dates in April at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here at parksquaretheatre.org!

On the Road to Empathy

George (Michael Paul Levin) and Lennie (E. J. Subkoviak)
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Months ago, I had a troubling conversation with a retired literature teacher. She had taught John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to high school students in Billings, Montana, during the late 1970s. What she remembered most was how difficult it was to draw any sense of empathy, much less sympathy, from her students for the migrant workers in the novel. Her students had considered them “a bunch of losers,” with the main characters, George and Lennie, as “the biggest losers.”

Last week I made it a point to watch Park Square Theatre’s production of Of Mice and Men during a student matinee rather than an evening or weekend show for general audiences. I attended with two school groups–a large non-diverse and a smaller diverse group. With my assigned seat on the right side, I was embedded with the smaller group; and due to the close, intimate space of the Boss Thrust Stage, I had an excellent view of the larger group.

What I witnessed was a fairly rapt student audience for that morning’s performance, with a student on my side even shushing fellow students for whispering during a particularly intense scene. And the whispering students had actually been talking about the play! Theatre-wide, students unconsciously leaned toward the actors, drawn into the key moments: What will happen to Candy’s dog? Curley’s wife? George and Lennie’s dream? Lennie himself? This was theatre at its best, when the connection between audience and actors creates the synergy for a powerful mutual experience.

Jane Froiland in a rehearsal for Of Mice and Men
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

At intermission, many students stayed in their seats to read the cast backgrounds rather than check out the concession counter or take their break in the lobby. I spoke to several to gauge their reactions: No one liked how Curley, the bullying son of the migrant workers’ boss, treated people. Some felt especially bad for the plight of the aging and disabled Candy. Others connected to the concept of dreamers hoping and trying to create better lives. With all that’s been happening in our nation’s social and political climate, it was heartening to witness young audience members relating to the play and its characters.

What I had already discovered through numerous interviews with actors as a blogger is the crucial role that theatre has played in their own personal development as much more empathetic human beings. Actors must perpetually step into someone else’s shoes to understand and become their characters. That’s certainly been true for Vincent Hannam, who plays and dislikes Curley, but had to ponder how Curley became so mean. As Jane Froiland, who plays Curley’s wife, put it in our conversation, “Theatre makes you a better person.” Theatre has the capacity to foster empathy in those on and off stage. Now that’s a powerful medium.

Of Mice and Men is on stage through Saturday, December 16. Tickets and information here.

 

Cynthia Jones-Taylor as Dotty, and Jasmine Hughes as daughter Averie
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Park Square Theatre’s production of DOT is also a strong example of that power. As you watch family and friends in the play struggle to come to terms with matriarch Dotty’s steady decline from Alzheimer’s disease and reassess their own lives over the holiday season, you may recognize yourself or someone you know in those characters. The hilarity–and seriousness–lies in the knowledge that these people are also us in their messy humanness. And before the ending of DOT, we all get to step into Dotty’s shoes (no more said to prevent a spoiler).

In interviewing cast members of DOT, I’d mindfully asked how they’d personally perceived their characters before and during rehearsals. This question often brings interesting insights as to how one views people then readjusts those views as our understanding of them evolves. This happens for actors in the rehearsal room but is also very true to life in how we all relate to each other. Follow the DOT blog posts to find out how the actors responded!

As we navigate the holiday season into a new year, may we keep traveling the road towards empathy to create a more humane and hopeful world for all. Let’s keep journeying together. I look forward to seeing you at Park Square Theatre!

 

Tickets and information on DOT here

Mina Kinukawa: Creating Steinbeck’s World

Set Designer Mina Kinukawa (center)
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was first performed at the Music Box Theatre in New York on November 23, 1937. It was first performed on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage in 1998 as part of its Education Series. This season, Park Square’s Of Mice and Men is on the more intimate Boss Thrust Stage, necessitating a new set design. Set Designer Mina Kinukawa rose to the challenge of putting us into the play’s world: the agricultural Salinas Valley in Northern California. Specific scenes take place at the sandy bank of the Salinas River, the bunkhouse of a ranch, the room of a stable buck and one end of a barn.

Here is Mina to give us insights into her creative process:

 

Model of the bunkhouse

Previously, Of Mice and Men had been performed on the Proscenium Stage, but this season it moved to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage. What was your approach for set design to account for the change? 

From left to rt.: E.J Subkoviak as Lennie, Michael Paul Levine as George and Patrick O’Brien as Candy in Of Mice and Men
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

 

Since this was my first time designing Of Mice and Men for Park Square, I didn’t have to modify the old production. I went in knowing it was a thrust stage in almost a black box room. I really like designing for thrust stages to get close to the audience. And this production, I believe, benefits from having the actors/characters be where the audience can see and feel their emotions closer.

The voms (the corridors that “spew” people into the seating areas) and inner lobby allow for the creation of an environment that surrounds the audience. Will you be taking advantage of that? 

Director Annie Enneking and the actors did a wonderful job using the voms and the lobby space to convey distance. We set locations offstage (for example, where is the river, where is the road, etc.; locations that audience don’t see but the characters live in), and the actors run around and use the voms and lobby to create distance from the scene happening onstage.

Model of the set with tree

A tree is of particular significance on the set. Can you tell me about that? 

When researching location and historical background, I was drawn to the images of sycamores. It’s one of the first scenic elements that’s mentioned in the script, and it seemed to create an oasis in an arid landscape.

Left to right: E. J. Subkoviak as Lennie and Michael Paul Levin as George
(Photo by Petronella J. YtsmaP

At the same time, it’s almost foretelling the end of the journey that we will take with this play. Once I started designing the set, the tree took a strong place in the world that I was creating, and we all seemed to like to have it always “watching” the characters.

Model of the barn

 

 

 

 

 

Can you tell me about your journey to become a set designer?

I can say that it started in my early teen years. I was lucky to have had very good mentors who helped me with skills that I needed. I also learned to analyze plays and make them my own.

Jane Froiland as Curley’s wife and E. J. Subkoviak as Lennie
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Once I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to have some “real” experience before going to grad school and had an opportunity to work in a scene design studio, first as an intern before I was hired on. Then I got a scholarship to go to grad school and got my MFA. I was in Southern California so naturally started to have more chances to work in films and had a blast. It was not an easy environment, but I enjoyed it very much. Very similar to theatre, it’s all about the team of people you work with! Then life took me to Minnesota, and I have started to connect with theatres and meet and work with great theatre artists here.

Tickets and more information here 

Jane Froiland Defines Her Role

 

In last season’s The Realistic Jones on Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage, Jane Froiland had a tricky part as a fear-filled young woman named Pony Jones who could have simply come off as being overly fragile and spacey. Instead, Jane smartly mined Pony’s vulnerabilities to make her into a complex woman who was arguably the wisest character in the play.

The Realistic Joneses (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

From November 9 to December 16, Jane returns to the Boss Stage in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to portray Curley’s wife, a young woman married to the cruel and possessive son of a wealthy ranch owner. Just as with Pony, her character could be in danger of appearing two-dimensional, but you can once again bet that won’t happen under Jane’s watch.

Jane Froiland plays Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

In Of Mice and Men, Curley’s wife is perpetually defined by the men around her. She is without a name, always just called “Curley’s wife” as if he owns her. The men fault her for being a temptress, referring to her as “that bitch,” “a piece of jail bait,” “that goddamn tart” and “a tramp” because of the way she looks and dresses. Jane, however, humanizes her character and recognizes her predicament as indicative of the slut-shaming that’s still prevalent in our society.

“Curley’s wife is young and beautiful so seen as dangerous,” Jane said. “She’s isolated and lonely without anyone to talk to; she’s really just trying to be nice and friendly like she says. But whatever she says is never heard. I heard her, though, and I hope that other women and men hear her.”

Jane Froiland as Curley’s wife and E. J. Subkoviak as Lennie (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Jane is extremely aware that she’s the lone female in Of Mice and Men and particularly mindful of her impact on young people coming to see the student matinees.

“I feel the responsibility as a woman to portray women with great empathy and authenticity,” Jane continued. “If I can tell a story very well and authentically, then the audience members can see themselves in my character and perhaps feel understood.”

Tickets and more information HERE

 

NOTE: Be sure to also catch Jane’s performances in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank on April 19, 22, 26 & 28, 2018.

Dressing Up the Joneses

Photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma

Photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma

What is it like to go on a shopping spree with someone else’s money? Cole Bylander knows. Asked by Director Joel Sass to be the costume designer for The Realistic Joneses, currently on Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage until October 16, Bylander did just that.

Typically, a costume designer does much research, makes sketches, then creates the garments for a production’s cast. But because The Realistic Joneses is set in modern times, Bylander was able to simply acquire ready-made clothing and accessories. He estimates shopping for three to five hours per character, imagining what would naturally be in the personal closets of Bob, Jennifer, John and Pony Jones.

During their fittings, the actors explored their characters through Bylander’s choices, free to accept or reject his picks depending on their own interpretations. The performers also helped to choose what they would wear for each scene. This costuming process allowed ideas to flow in an organic, collaborative way.

Why didn’t Bylander simply raid each actor’s home closets to build appropriate contemporary wardrobes? Not only would that be too much to ask of an actor, but you’d also run the risk of the actors looking too similar to themselves as opposed to the characters that they are creating.  An actor’s personal taste may also not match the character’s esthetics. For instance, Jane Froiland dresses in a less bohemian style than her character Pony Jones. However, a few of the actors’ own items are indeed worn on stage, such as Angela Timberman’s shoes and purse and Eric “Pogi” Sumangli’s pants. Actors are be paid a minimal rental fee for use of their personal possessions.

Any final costuming adjustments were made during the technical rehearsals, which was the first time when Bylander got to see all the play’s elements working together. Is that dress too short? Is that shirt’s color too much like that of the blanket? No major changes were needed for this play.

What happens to the Joneses’ wardrobe after the show? Unworn garments with tags still attached are returned to the stores for refunds, actors purchase some pieces and an assessment is made of what is stored away or donated to charities.

“I take it as a great compliment when an actor wants to keep what I’ve chosen,” said Bylander.

Bylander has shopped before for actors in film, but this was his first time to do such extensive shopping for a theatre production.

“It was a really successful approach for The Realistic Joneses because there are only four characters,” he said. “I can’t imagine doing it with a cast of 20.”

Shop till you drop? No, more like intensely mindful shopping, followed by intensely mindful fittings, all for a rich payoff for an intensely characters-driven show. After all the hard work on The Realistic Joneses, what’s next on Bylander’s To Do List? A much-needed vacation.

Costume Designer Cole Bylander

Costume Designer Cole Bylander

To learn more about the many talents of Cole Bylander, visit his website: www.colebylander.com

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring Jane Froiland

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to Jane Froiland:

froiland-jane-color

ROLE: Pony Jones, wife of John Jones, late 30s-40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

Jane really stood out for me in a production of Clifford Odetts’ Rocket to the Moon a few years back; she played a young, idealistic woman who had little life experience but a great belief in her own capacity to achieve her dreams; it was a really effective (and deceptively difficult) character to play. So is the character of Pony Jones, who on the surface seems to be scattered, fragile and perhaps not the brightest bulb on the block—but is, in fact, deeply intuitive and empathetic.

QUESTION FOR JANE:

Pony claims, “I’m a totally unreliable person who’s filled with terror.” Do you believe that when you play her? Why or why not?

In my interpretation, when Pony says that, it is not because it is the absolute truth, but it’s what she FEARS is true. I think that Pony is more aware of her faults than she lets on. I don’t think she is so extreme as to be completely unreliable and terror-filled, but I do think that there is also an element of that in her which she fights against. I think we all have parts of ourselves that we are embarrassed or even ashamed about; and when you enter into a marriage, those things become nearly impossible to hide. Like, it’s kind of part of the deal that you are completely known to one other person, right? Or am I being idealistic? And yet, in this play, I feel like every character is struggling to really let themselves be known to their spouse. I feel like that line by Pony is her attempt to let herself be known.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rock n Roll Representative Theatre Mixed Blood Theatre: An Octoroon; Children’s Theatre Company: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Gremlin Theatre: Rocket to the Moon; Ten Thousand Things: Doubt; Jungle Theater: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Walking Shadow Theatre Company: Compleat Female Stage Beauty TV/Film Documentary Now!, IFC Network;Theater People (web series) Training B.A., Theatre University of Minnesota Awards/Other 2014 Best Actress in a Drama, Lavender Magazine; 2011 Ivey Award for Outstanding Overall Production for Doubt; 2012 Ivey Award for Outstanding Overall Production for Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Jane Froiland (center) with Pogi Sumangil (left) and JC Cutler (right) in a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

Jane Froiland (center) with Pogi Sumangil (left) and JC Cutler (right) at an early rehearsal.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

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