California Community Theatre was lucky enough to get some time 'talking shop' with Executive Director of FreeFall Stage, Deanne M. Eldridge. Find out more about FreeFall Stage in Folsom whose motto is Live theatre of Excellence, Quality, and Integrity.
My vision for this company, from its onset, was to produce thought-provoking theatre; art that raises awareness, teaching without "teaching' so to speak..."
- Deanne M. Eldridge
FreeFall Stage has been operating/performing nomadically at various private and public venues in the Folsom and Greater Sacramento areas for some time. What are the benefits or the 'bright side' of not having a fixed rehearsal/performing location? Has it allowed you, for example, to produce a wider variety of performances due to space flexibility? Or have you been able to get to know a greater entity of people from whom you share or rent space?
Now heading into out 18th year as a company, we are heading into our 5th as nomads. It has opened us up to wider audience; more people know we exist, but it has actually restricted the kinds of shows we can do because we can't build sets the way we did when we had our "own' space.
Besides your theatre productions, this season you are also producing events such as a Play Festival, the Gala Fundraiser and Murder Mystery Dinner, and a Valentine's Dessert Concert. Do you tend to see your play patrons at your events and fundraisers, too?
Not enough... but it depends on the event.
How do you communicate to your theatre-goers that they should also participate (ie: spend their time and money) in your non-theatre performances?
The best way, we have found, is each member of our board, or cast, or others involved in our company personally reach out and invite people, either by phone, text, or IM.
In the Spring of 2014, FreeFall Stage produced (for the first time in the U.S.) Andrew Kooman’s critically acclaimed anti- trafficking drama She Has a Name (see Wikipedia under Performances in the U.S.), which included a 7 run tour from the Summer of 2014 through the Spring of 2016. What inspired you to produce this show, and what impact did it have on your community?
My vision for this company, from its onset, was to produce thought-provoking theatre; art that raises awareness, teaching without "teaching' so to speak, etc. However, we don't do them as often as I would like, as they usually don't "pay the bills". She Has a Name was different. Starting with my youngest daughter about 7 or 8 years ago, we got involved with local anti-trafficking organization. Another year or two after that, my 2nd daughter and a friend (one of my former theatre students) had the idea to write a play to raise awareness, but were both in the throes of college and did not have time. So, I started doing some searching.. and, the rest, they say, is history. The impact was incredible; sold out performances, added performances, and the tour. We had 8-10 local anti-trafficking organizations represented at each performance so people could talk with them and get involved. I have to say, of all the theatre I have done in my life, not just in the life of this company, this has been my (our) proudest work. (And that daughter - Emma - directed the show, and her friend - Caitlyn - performed in it).
Describe your audience - visitors, locals, etc?
1. Regular patrons.
2. Those who are interested in a particular production.
3. Those looking for something to do or take visitors to.
How do you get to know your audience on a personal level?
Engage with them at performances. Before curtain, during intermission, and yes, we have a receiving line after the show so they can meet and talk to the, actors, should they choose to do so.
What kind of support do you have from your community for your community theatre?
Unfortunately very little right now. I have performed in a couple or productions at our local community college, which has given me quite a few connections and they are always supportive in the way of referring actors to us, loaning us things we may need and even use their scene shop.
Have you worked with or been involved with any other California community theatre?
Yes, quite a few others since the inception of our company, and with one while I was in junior college many years ago.
What do you think 'makes' community theatre community theatre?
Involvment, support and connections with people and businesses in our city and surrounding areas. Connecting is key - not just with patrons, but actors, staff and other theatres.
Welcome to FreeFall Stage!
Mission Statement: Providing theatrical training and professional quality, thought provoking, entertaining live theatre for patrons of all ages.
Motto: Live theatre of Excellence, Quality, and Integrity.
FreeFall Stage is a full-time (offering six to ten productions a year) community theatre company producing plays in a variety of genres and subjects for patrons of all ages, as well as providing classes from stage make-up to acting for both the aspiring and experienced thespian. FreeFall Stage is Folsom’s longest running community theatre, now in our 16th year. FreeFall Stage has presented 50 productions, produced nearly 60 plays, and garnered 36 nominations for awards in nearly every theatrical category in Sacramento’s prestigious theatrical awards program.
Beginning in the fall of 2002 on Reading St. in Folsom, FreeFall Stage established a foundation of teaching the craft and history of theatre. Originally called “T.H.E. Actors Workshop” (Talented Home Educated), they began training high school students, which culminated in a production at the end of each semester. Beginning in the summer of 2009, the name was expanded to “and Integral Theatre Company” to include the community theatre aspect of the organization.Then, in the summer of 2012, the organization changed the name to the shorter, catchier, and easier to say “FreeFall Stage.” Under this new name we continued to grow and expand the classes we offered and the plays we produced.
In the Summer of 2015, after 14 years in the same space, the lease was up at Reading St. in Folsom and we said goodbye to our very first “home.” Since that time, we have been operating/performing nomadically at various private and public venues in the Folsom and Greater Sacramento areas.
In the Spring of 2014, we produced (for the first time in the U.S.) Andrew Kooman’s critically acclaimed anti-trafficking drama She Has a Name (see under Performances in the U.S.), which included a 7 run tour from the Summer of 2014 through the Spring of 2016. We were honored to partner with local anti-trafficking organizations such as 3Strands Global/Break Free Run (formerly known as Run For Courage), Courage Worldwide, and Blue Heart International to bring awareness and encourage audience members to take action to end human trafficking in our lifetime. We are dedicated to continue supporting these incredible organizations and using our talents to provoke positive change in our World.
The name FreeFall Stage pays tribute to the brother of our executive director, who was himself a fellow thespian and avid skydiver, who passed away in 2010. In skydiving terms the “free fall” is when the skydiver is simply letting the power of gravity pull them to the earth—there is no parachute. The feeling during this time of “free fall” is described by skydivers as exhilarating, freeing, and terrifying. Before one can free fall, one must carefully plan the jump, such as acquiring the proper equipment (most importantly the parachute) and partnering with the best skilled individuals. Once all the plans are put into place, the skydiver is able to take the jump and experience the freedom and exhilaration of the free fall.
Theatre (and life) is like a free fall. Careful planning and partnerships must be made before a production can be brought to life before an audience. Theatres need sponsors, grants, and fundraising, as well as directors, stage managers, house managers, carpenters, and so on. These partnerships paired with the right equipment (the facility, the props, the stage, and the like) come together to create the magic—the free fall—of theatre.
We are working hard towards raising funds to purchase a new and permanent home for FreeFall Stage to operate and thrive as a full-time and well-rounded theatre company for years to come. We are currently working on grants and building relationships for business sponsorship’s and private/public investors to make our goals and dreams a reality.
Until that time, we will continue to bring Live Theatre of Excellence, Quality, and Integrity to the City of Folsom and the Greater Sacramento areas.