Sitzprobe, Lights, and Costumes – OH MY!

matthewFebruary 25th, 2015Company News, Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Happy Wednesday, world!!  I’m sure you’re excited that the work week is more than halfway over, but here at freeFall we are excited for a different reason…we open this weekend!!  This week has been all about introducing technical aspects of the production and adding layers to the storytelling.  This includes costumes, lights, sound cues, props, and of course THE BAND!!

This past weekend we had our first rehearsal with the band, which is known as sitzprobe - a time where the band and cast begin to integrate, sound levels are checked, and we start to truly hear just how awesome this show is going to be.  There’s nothing like sitzprobe for me.  I always come to those rehearsals buzzing out of my skin (equal parts excitement and over-caffeination), and it never disappoints.  The music starts to come to life and we as actors always seem to find a new source of energy and adrenaline.

Another layer that was added is LIGHTS!  This is my fourth show being lit by the incomparable Mike Wood (so what he’s also one of my best friends, I’m not bragging on his behalf or anything) and I always say that he some how makes the lighting design a character in and of itself. I absolutely love watching the space transform and become a canvas for the beautiful hues and patterns.  Sure, you’ll be able to see us onstage, but also be prepared to be completely dazzled by the bright lights of the city, not to mention a sensible disco ball.

Last but not least, Scott Daniel has been hard at work finishing up our costumes.  As always, he is absolutely nailing it (and let us not forget that he is also in the show AND the dance captain.  Pretty sure he doesn’t sleep).  After some fittings and photos, I am so excited for everything we will be wearing on stage.

This show is going to be an experience you will definitely not want to miss.  Get your tickets now, before it’s too late!

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Bright Lights Big City – Rehearsal Week One!

matthewFebruary 18th, 2015Company News, Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Happy Wednesday, world!  After a much needed day off, we at freeFall are ready to dive back in for our second week of rehearsal.  I will never get over how quickly these shows come together…I feel like we just started, and yet so much has happened.

We have become intimate with the script and score, spending three days perfecting the harmonies and learning some tricky lyrics.

We had our first official table read, where we were joined by our creative team so that we could all hear the story from start to finish.

We had an awesome photoshoot in Downtown St. Pete…

…but you might notice someone is missing.

We have also been hard at work learning the blocking and choreography in order to bring this story to life!  Our wonderful choreographer, Megan Morgan (who also choreographed Spring Awakening) is challenging us with some awesome 80′s dance moves you definitely won’t want to miss.  The girls have also gotten a lesson in runway walking.  I felt like I was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model while we were all stomping it out.  Lights have been hung, costumes are being sewn, and the theatre is slowly transforming into an exclusive New York City club…and guess what?  You’re all invited.  The show runs February 28th – March 22nd. Get your tickets now.  You absolutely want to see what happens in the big city.


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First Day of School in the City!

matthewFebruary 11th, 2015Company News, Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

We’re dancing in the middle of the universe in 1984…

With every ending comes a beginning, and thus with the closing of “The Buffalo Kings” it is already time to start getting ready for the next production: “Bright Lights Big City”!  This week saw the first day of school for those of us telling the story of Jaime, a fact checker at a magazine in Manhattan who loses himself in the excitement and pandemonium of New York City in the 1980′s.

Here at freeFall, the first few days are a whirlwind of music.  I am extremely fortunate to be experiencing my FOURTH “first day of school” at this theatre, so luckily I no longer experience the first day jitters.  Mostly I just get ridiculously excited and over-caffeinated.  Which is fun for everyone.  Not to toot our own horns, but this cast is already rocking my world.

I’m so excited for this process, and even more excited to take all you wonderful readers along for the ride! If you’re chomping at the bit for this show like I am, you’re in luck.  First of all, this musical is based off of an incredible novel.  Looking for something to read in the coming weeks?  Look no further!  If that’s not your idea of a fun Friday night, pop some popcorn and watch the movie!  Who doesn’t love some sensible Michael J. Fox?

See you next week for updates, pictures, and more!  Now excuse me, I have some vocal parts to drill.

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Natalie Symons – Writing, Working, and Wonder

matthewFebruary 4th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

It seems like opening night was only yesterday, and yet it is already time to say goodbye to the wonderfully dysfunctional King family.  As the cast and crew enjoys this final week of performances in Buffalo, I took some time to ask playwright Natalie Symons some questions about her experience creating this beautiful piece.

1. When did you begin work on “The Buffalo Kings”?

I started writing the first draft n the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve written dozens of drafts, and I’m still drafting – there were a lot of rewrites during the 2 week rehearsal process and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing edits based on what I’ve learned during the run of the show.

2. Was there ever a time you had to step away from the piece?

I’ve taken time away from it after I’ve heard readings and then done subsequent rewrites based on the feedback from the audience, director and actors. So essentially in between drafts I step back and get some perspective on the piece. It helps because then the story feels fresh, almost as if someone else wrote it.

3. What’s your favorite part about watching your own work.  What is your least favorite?

My favorite part is watching the actors bring these characters to life. I love witnessing them breathe truth into it – both in rehearsal and during the run. I’m fascinated by it and for that reason I look forward to writing another play. The collaborative nature of working on a brand new play is so enriching for me both artistically and personally. At the same time I’ve lost many nights of sleep worrying about putting the pieces together and wanting to ensure that the story is honest and compelling, not only for the audience but for Eric and these seven actors who have put so much heart into this piece. Lillian Hellman said there is no greater public humiliation than that of a failed play. There were a lot of nights when I thought to myself this is going to be embarrassing.

4. Who are your biggest inspirations?

The writers that I admire the most have a gift for straddling the line between pathos and comedy. Woody Allen has heavily influenced me. Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne who wrote Sideways, Nebraska, Election and About Schmidt are big inspirations to me. Adam Elliot the Australian claymation writer/director – I’m in awe of his genius. I think Amy Herzog is one of the best female playwrights writing today. Larry David is one of my favorite comedy writers. Whenever I’ve had a bad day I watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and all is well.

5. How do you deal with writer’s block?

I don’t write unless I have the entire story outlined in my head. I take long drives or walks with my dog Andy and construct the story and then I sit down to write it. Of course it always changes but I find that if I know the story that I want to tell it just flows. That doesn’t mean it’s good. The first drafts are usually pretty bad but at least the story is there. My best writing happens in the 4th and 5th drafts.

6. Are you working on anything right now?

I recently finished the 4th draft of a novel – a literary mystery about a young girl in a steel town in the 1980’s. So I’m taking one or two more passes at it before I look for representation and pursue publication. After that I’ve got an idea for another play – this one is a lighter comedy – or at least that’s the idea. It will probably be a dark and sinister comedy by the time I’m done with it.

Thanks, Natalie!!  It has been an honor seeing the Kings on stage in their world premiere!

If you haven’t yet seen “The Buffalo Kings”, this weekend is your final chance!!  Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets are going fast!


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The Buffalo Kings – Extended Experience

matthewJanuary 28th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger


“The Buffalo Kings” is two weekends in and going strong.  It seems as though there is some aspect of the story which any individual can somehow relate to – dysfunctional families, mental illness, holiday stress, and caring for our own caregivers are just a few of the many facets of this story which audiences each night have connected to.

If you have seen the show and find yourself wanting more, look no further!  I have compiled a list of resources for The Buffalo Kings Extended Experience:

Extended Reading

If you find yourself fascinated by the struggles faced by Olive as a mother battling her own mental illnesses, you might enjoy the book “Where’d you go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple, which tells the tale of a mother battling her own demons and what her daughter must do in the face of those adversities.

If you were touched and unsettled by brutal hate crime inflicted upon Nick, you should definitely take time to read “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman, which chronicles the true story of Matthew Shepard.  It tackles issues of homophobia, violence, and discrimination in a painfully real way.

Extended Watching

While observing the King family, especially the relationship between Harold and Nick, I couldn’t help but think of the charming film, “Little Miss Sunshine”, and how the older generations sometimes bring us the lessons we most in the most unlikely ways.

“August Osage County” : the dysfunctional family to rule them all.  If you don’t have a chance to see this Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, you can now watch the movie!

Extended Listening

One of my favorite parts of this particular production is the lovely, resonant guitar music which plays between scenes and during poignant parts of the story.  Eric captured the essence of the family through this music, which is all original pieces composed specifically for the show by various artists.  It brought to mind the hauntingly beautiful melodies of Tarkio and The Decemberists.

For you more Musical Theatre inclined folks, “Next to Normal” takes the family pulled apart and pushed together to a whole other level, while packing a huge emotional punch.  Also a Pulitzer Prize winner, this show begs to be listened to.  Go ahead and try out the cast album if you haven’t already!

If you haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing this world premiere production yet, make sure to get your tickets soon…they are going fast!  You have until February 8th to join the King family for a holiday you definitely won’t forget.

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Opening Night – Premieres, Pride, and Penguins.

matthewJanuary 21st, 2015Company News, Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Saturday was an extremely exciting night for us all here at FreeFall Theatre.  It was opening night of “The Buffalo Kings”!  After two preview performances, this world premiere by our dear friend Natalie Symons is officially out into the world for all to see and enjoy.

The audience was enthralled by the actors, set, lighting, and of course the wonderful and relateable story.  Many people left the theatre in tears, some were clutching their sides from laughter, but everyone felt something while watching this dysfunctional family celebrate their version of Christmas.  I, for one, was smiling like a loon and wiping away tears simultaneously.   There was only one thing to do after watching the world premiere of this new, exciting show.  Party!!

The cast, crew, and audience celebrated together at a party complete with music by Erica DeCeglie, Buffalo Wings for the Buffalo Kings, and homemade penguin treats…to really appreciate these little guys, you’re going to have to go see the show.

Olive King’s Olive Penguins

What you’ll need: Black olives (large and small), cream cheese, carrots, roasted red peppers, toothpicks.

Prep: Cut and fill large olives with cream cheese, cut roasted red peppers into strips, cut carrots into coins, cut small triangles out of carrot coins.

To assemble: Place large olive on top of carrot feet and secure with a toothpick.  Wrap red pepper strip around toothpick, followed by small black olive for the head.  Insert small carrot triangle for the beak.  Easy and adorable!


We certainly hope to see you at the theatre because “The Buffalo Kings” is a show you won’t want to miss!  It runs until February 8th, so get your tickets now!

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Field Guide to Tech Week!

matthewJanuary 14th, 2015Company News, Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Opening night is upon us here at freeFall theatre, and that can only mean one thing – TECH WEEK!! The Buffalo Kings  opens this Saturday, so currently it is an interesting time around the theatre, and a time that is hard to understand unless you are in the thick of it.  It is a time that can either be exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating all at once.  The race to the finish line (which is really just the beginning of the journey) is what we in the theatre live for.  To help shed some light on the most intense week of rehearsal, we have put together a dictionary that can be easily referenced when speaking with those crazy theatre types.

TECHNICAL WEEK (tech week, tech, production week, hell week, etc.)

  1. The week before the opening performance of a production, in which the technical and artistic aspects of the show are all present for the rehearsal process.

  2. The week before the opening performance of a production, in which actors, technicians, etc. are constantly rehearsing, have no time, can be found at the theatre, and require copious amounts of caffeine.

Used in a sentence: “I can’t, it’s tech week.”


  1. The process in which the Lighting Designer places the lighting instruments on the grid above the stage in order to create the design he/she has envisioned for the production.  This takes place before the actors enter the tech week process.

Used in a sentence: “We can start using lights tomorrow evening, because Mike Wood already finished the hang and focus.”


  1. A rehearsal within tech week in which the Stage Manager goes through all of the sound and light cues within a show, skipping the dialogue in between.  Once the cue has passed and is set, the Stage Manager or Director will yell “HOLD,” and the actors will move on to the next moment.

  2. For Actors: One of the most frustrating and monotonous rehearsals in the process.

Used in a sentence: “I need to stretch. We’re only half way through cue to cue and I’ve been standing in my spotlight for 25 minutes.”


  1. What the Director or Stage Manager yells during rehearsal in order to signal the actors and technicians to stop what they are doing.  During this time adjustments are made.

Used in a sentence: “Did Daniel just yell HOLD, or am I delirious?”


  1. The days during tech week in which the actors and technicians are called for 10 hours out of the 12 hour day.

  2. A day before a very good sleep.

Used in a sentence: “It’s a ten out of twelve today so I’ll probably just take a nap in the green room…can you pick me up some Starbucks?”


  1. A rehearsal where the actors go through the entire play, but the Director and Stage Manager has the ability to call “hold” and fix things when necessary.

Used in a sentence: “Too bad that was only a stumble through, I did some of my best stage crying tonight!”

You might be wondering why we put ourselves through Tech Week if it’s such a whirlwind and can often be stressful and lead to lack of sleep.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret…we love it.  It is the time of the process where everything comes together, the magic happens, and there is hope!  And before you know it, it’s opening night.  I hope to see you there!!


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Katie Berger talks INTO THE WOODS and playing Little Red!

matthewSeptember 26th, 2014UncategorizedNo Comments

I have always been drawn to the stories of wise old children. Peter Pan and his lost boys. Changelings in the bodies of tots for hundreds of years at a time, the little people who haunted the forests of Ireland. My mind is constantly brimming over with stories about them. I tell myself a different tale each night, to carry me into dream land. My fascination with these stories stem from the fact that I am, in a way, one of them. I…look young.

WHAT? You, Katie Berger, look YOUNG?! I know, I know you may be shocked to know that I do in fact get mistaken for sometimes 10 years my junior. Recently, when I went out for my 24th birthday, I got carded at every possible point (security, bartender, waitress, guy sitting next to me) and all I could do was hand them my license and say “I mean I promise it’s real soooo….”

The funniest thing is that people expect me to be super offended when they inform me that I look child-like (as if they are the first to offer me this earth shattering information). And true, I could do without people asking me where my parents are and why I’m not at school, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it allows me to bring characters such as Little Red and Frances Boggs to life! I like to think that I am an undercover anthropologist of the adolescent and teenage psyche, and that every time I get asked if I would prefer the kids menu, I’m really just doing character work. Here are the 3 most important things I’ve learned in my research:

1. Playing these roles isn’t easier than their adult counterparts. Kids and teens go through really difficult things, which I’m sure all of you remember well from your own coming of age. I believe puberty is one of the great human connections that brings us together as a species, because every one of us has gone through the trying time that is adolescence. Everyone knows what it is like to be a teenager/young adult struggling to find yourself in the midst of all the craziness. Everyone looks back on their teens/early twenties and thinks to themselves “wow, why did I make such a big deal out of that?!” But THAT’S THE THING…It is a big deal.

2. People are constantly searching for some part of their childhood to relate to, and when given the chance, being reminded of the innocence and pure joy of youth can completely turn a person’s day (or life) around.

3. Children are often the wisest of us all, and we can learn a lot from them.

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More great press for freeFall’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

matthewSeptember 12th, 2014UncategorizedNo Comments

ST. PETERSBURG — A tie-dye bus driven by the son of late author Ken Kesey is zizagging the nation in homage to the famed sojourn half a century ago when Kesey and his Merry Pranksters helped launch the hippie era.

Tampa Bay is not on their itinerary.

“We didn’t see a need,” Zane Kesey said during a phone interview, over the roar of the bus and the gleeful chatter of its passengers. “But maybe there was.”

In fact, it’s hard to a imagine a place more focused on Kesey and his works than the freeFall Theatre Company in St. Petersburg, where a stage version of his most popular novel — “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest,” about a brash loner who inspires fellow asylum patients to rebel — has sold out every show in a six-week run that ends Sunday.

Jim Sorensen, freeFall Theatre’s managing director, said the five-year-old theater has sold almost triple the 1,500 tickets normal for a play’s full run.

It was recently honored with nine Theatre Tampa Bay nominations, including best ensemble and outstanding production.

“It has been unprecedented success,” said Leigh Simon, who portrays asylum patient Scanlon and produced a documentary that gives audiences a backstage look at freeFall Theatre’s production. The video is at

“I think that success has a lot to do with the brilliance of the play,” Simon said.

It is an immersive production, placing the audience at the center of the action.

All seating is styled after hospital furniture and the entire theater is decorated as a mental institution. Actors move throughout it, treating every inch as their set.

“My father would have enjoyed that,” Zane Kesey said. “He liked the shows that got the audience involved. He loved getting rid of those barriers that separate the audience and the performers.”

Sorensen of freeFall also attributed the success of his company’s “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” to the continuing popularity of the story 50 years after the book was published.

“People still relate to it,” Sorensen said. “It asks the question, ‘Who is crazy? The inmate or the asylum?’”

The patients central to the story are not insane, Sorenson said. They are labeled so because they act and behave in ways considered unconventional by the majority.

“People still see ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ as a metaphor for rallying against the establishment that wants everyone to be the same,” he said. “It is a powerful message for any generation and one that Ken Kesey remains the spokesman for.”

“The combine lives,” quipped Ken Babbs, who was Ken Kesey’s close friend and a Merry Prankster – the group that formed around the author in Oregon and California for its epic 1964 bus trip. The combine is how the machine-like nature of the asylum system is described in the book.

“It assumes many identities and needs bodies to work its ills.”

Babbs was on the bus trip that turned Kesey from respected author to folk hero.

The trek, chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” began at Kesey’s ranch in La Honda, California, and ended at the World’s Fair in New York City. The trip was staged in part to promote the author’s second novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion.”

Fueled by LSD and other drugs, the Merry Pranksters boarded a wildly painted bus named “Furthur” and introduced Americans to the carefree and colorful lifestyle that would mark the decade.

It was a journey made possible by the success of “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“Kesey said his greatest work was the bus because it wasn’t art written on a page or shown in a movie but was art out amongst the people,” Babbs said.

“We were riding a wave,” he added. “We didn’t create the wave, and lots of others were riding it, too, and the wave is still going on.”

The memorial journey led by Zane Kesey takes place aboard “Further 2.0,” a bus his father purchased in the 1980s and decorated like the original. The journey started in July, runs through this month or longer, and has covered more than 7,000 miles — taking in music, historic and literary festivals in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and any event or city that embodies the spirit of the original trip.

Zane Kesey’s sojourn is drug free, its purpose to remind and teach America of the importance of his father’s trek.

“There are two types of people — those who already know about the bus and those who see it and want their photo taken with it and in the process learn the history,” Zane Kesey said. “When you get those two types of people together, they always have a lot to talk about.”

Those riding the new bus are seeing first hand, as Sorenson observed, that the story of “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” continues to resonate.

“High school teachers who grew up on it have chosen it as mandatory reading for their students,” Zane Kesey said. “You would be surprised how many high schools require it.”

The movie version starring Jack Nicholson won all five major Academy Awards in 1975 — best picture, actor in lead role, actress in lead role, director and screenplay.

In its initial run of 82 performances on Broadway, November 1963 to January 1964, the play starred Kirk Douglass and Gene Wilder. It inspired theatrical productions nationwide.

“Some of my father’s favorite performances took place at high schools,” Zane Kesey said. “He didn’t care whether star actors were in it. He cared about the passion of the performance.”

That passion, said filmmaker Simon, is evident in the freeFall Theatre performances.

“The actors love playing these meaty and sexy roles. There is an edge to the characters staying in an asylum as they transform from being part of the system to individuals.”

(813) 259-7604

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freeFall premieres documentary on the making of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

matthewAugust 28th, 2014UncategorizedNo Comments

ST. PETERSBURG – (August 28, 2014) Check out a 15 minute documentary on freeFall’s smash hit ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST!
Award-winning filmmaker Leigh Simons gives audiences a backstage pass to the theatrical event of the summer. Take an inside look at how freeFall Artistic Director Eric Davis and his team created this exciting, immersive staging of an American classic. CUCKOO’S NEST has been extended through September 14. Tickets are available by calling 727-498-5205 or by visiting

freeFall’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST was recently honored with 9 Theatre Tampa Bay nominations including Best Ensemble and Outstanding Production of a Play.

Theatre Tampa Bay is an independent alliance created to raise the profile of our region’s professional theatre community. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is also freeFall’s highest selling play (non-musical).

Writer, Director and Producer Leigh Simons has produced a wide variety of television and motion picture programming over the past 27 years. The past decade his expertise has been widely recognized for his accomplishments in the area of sports documentary programming having produced over 30 boxing sports documentaries for HBO Sports, SHOWTIME Sports and FOX sports networks while working with some of the biggest names in boxing. Simons has recently begun work with freeFall Theatre producing behind-the-scenes documentaries of several productions helping to expose new audiences to the freeFall experience. Simons had unprecedented access as he auditioned and was cast in freeFall’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

Interviews with Eric Davis and Leigh Simons can be scheduled by calling Matthew McGee at 727-498-5205 X 7.

Link included below. Please SHARE online with your readers!!!

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