In 2022, Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio is resurrecting programs of old and expanding into new horizons. Between reinstating our Studio Series, which has been intermittent over the last few years, and instituting our inaugural Curated Residency Program, we’re thrilled to be able to provide students and artists with the space and resources to explore their artistry, take risks, and be vulnerable in the creation and collaboration of art. As we continue to assess the best ways to cultivate a space where anyone can tap into the transformative power of art, we are also finding ways as an organization to take risks and be vulnerable on our journey towards equity and get more voices in the room as we broaden our artistic vision.
To continue to inject new ideas into Freehold and reimagine what we can create, we’re expanding our artistic leadership circle to include Daemond Arrindell, a poet, playwright, Freehold faculty member, and associate partner who has spent over 15 years with Freehold. This week, we sat down with Daemond to discuss this new aspect of his partnership with Freehold, his current goals as partner, and how he finds joy in this midst of our current uncertainty.
Freehold Theatre: What does this new artistic partnership mean to you?
Daemond Arrindell: Every experience I’ve had at Freehold has been a series of “I don’t know what I’m doing” to “well, this is what I’m doing” to “I should keep doing this.” It started when I did workshops at the women’s prison with Robin then the next thing I know I’m teaching spoken word then I’m doing the residency at the men’s prison and now I’m an artistic partner. So what does this particular partnership mean to me?
Freehold is very grassroots. The faculty and staff all believe in the mission, but we tend to do our thing and come together once in a blue moon. Way back in 2006, when I first joined, there were faculty performances at Oddfellows and they were incredible. I got up and did a couple poems then went out into the audience and watched Gin Hammond do a series of voices and characters for a one woman show. We don’t really get to see this so much anymore. We’re a distanced community now, still living in a pandemic.
What I want to invest in is the heart of our community: the faculty. I want to focus on our different art forms, how they free and heal, and engage with each other to do those things. Through that, we can help build community and trust while pushing ourselves forward. As we nurture each other, we then have more to give to our students.
FT: What are some ideas you have about bringing the faculty together more often?
DA: Right now we’re dipping our toes into the Freehold faculty coming together for 2 hours to play. Improv, movement, writing – it’s all about getting the artists who happen to be faculty to be artists with each other. To be present and share their brilliance with each other. Hopefully everyone will drink the Kool-Aid, and we’ll be able to build up to gatherings focused on artistic playtime and nurturing their artistic selves in community throughout the year.
FT: Part of the idea behind this new leadership circle is to incorporate more diversity, equity, and inclusion into what we do at Freehold. What are some ways you see that happening in the future?
DA: I’d like to work with Elena Flory-Barnes – our Associate Partner of Community Capacity, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – to have a similar, engaged activities-based time with our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. DEI, and the internal work it requires, is largely hypothetical as we talk about it. Art provides one of the best ways to actually engage in that work by making it personal enough to explore. For us, I’d like to explore more hands-on activities like improv and theatre games with the lens of racial and social justice. I have other ideas but I still need to refine them with Robin and Elena. We’re really experimenting with putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations to help us grow. If we’re comfortable and feel totally safe, we’re not being challenged.
It’s easy to remember the best way to respond to to difficult statements or conversations when you’re facilitating but it’s harder when you’re the student or in the hot seat or in a place full of discomfort. Talking about oppression isn’t straightforward. Humility comes with it and through artistic play we can bypass the logistics of our brains. We have to be aware of the importance of humility and the burdens that we all carry within the world we’re living in right now. How can we nurture this community within all of that while maintaining a lens of awareness when it comes to everything we do?
FT: In the midst of all this, the pandemic and everything else, what have been some sources of joy for you?
DA: Red light dance parties where the car has stopped and the music is bumpin’ and the volume is all the way up. Just a 30 second dance party, doesn’t matter if anyone is watching. I take the moments as they come. Everything else is maddening.