Reanimating Gwendolen – A Sneak Peek with Resident Company Member Kelly Pekar

matthewSeptember 12th, 2015UncategorizedNo Comments


“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

Socialite Gwendolen Fairfax shares this essential piece of advice during the second half of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I found it a useful “actor clue” and delicious jumping-off place for the exploration of her character. As I begin approaching the role of Gwendolen for a second time (after recently playing the role this summer at a theater in Missouri) I’m excited to figure out how this incredibly-mannered, impeccably-groomed woman exists in a world where an army of corpses is ready to pound down the door at any given second.  How will she respond to the disruption of her carefully-manicured life? And how does living in a landscape of flesh-eating, undignified undead raise the stakes of marrying one’s chosen love?

Even though I have Eric Davis’ fantastic adaptation at my disposal already, I won’t know these answers for sure until we begin rehearsals, uncover more about the world of this production, and begin the process of play. But I’m feeling ready to sink my teeth in.

After being so well-acquainted with the original text after this summer, I was delighted to read Eric’s exquisite adaptation, which I feel quite certain Mr. Wilde, were he alive today, would regard with absolute glee. The new text supports and complements the original (which is very largely intact), and I am so impressed with the way that Eric captures the voices originally created by Mr. Wilde. The sentence structure for Gwendolen’s “new” lines for instance, make me grin from ear to ear, thinking, “Well of course she would say that, in this circumstance… amazing!”  I’m also excited to see how even the scenes that have only Mr. Wilde’s text in them will be affected by the new set of circumstances that this adaptation presents. And I mean, how much more tension (and hilarity!) creeps its way into a scene when the finger sandwiches might be… well, finger sandwiches?

Prior to working on this play, I must admit that I have had limited experience with zombie culture, so I’ve been doing plenty of reading and movie-watching to prepare. Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesNight of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Day of the Dead have been my recent cold-blooded companions. I’ve created a Polyvore (a really cool collage-building website) of images to help me find visual inspiration for Gwendolen’s physical life, in the context of this adaptation.  Lucky for me, there’s no shortage of zombie research available, and it’s so helpful to keep track of my inspirations as I work on getting the text into my body.

Another piece that struck me about Gwendolen when I first read The Importance of Being Earnest is that she is undoubtedly Lady Bracknell’s daughter. After working with the glorious Donna Donnelly in Harvey last season, I’m so excited to play together again. I look forward to exploring the many ways in which Gwendolen is a product of her cosmopolitan environment and “short-sighted” education. I think it will be a riot to see how these aristocrats (who place a high premium on good manners, protocol, appearances, class, and material posessions) negotiate this landscape of chaos.  Since this is an original adaptation, I’m very much looking forward to experimenting, creating, and diving into Eric’s direction with an eager and open mind, ready for whatever is lurking around the corner.


Resident Company Member Kelly Pekar





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“They’re Coming to Get You, Bracknell! ZOMBIES go WILDE at freeFall!

matthewSeptember 7th, 2015UncategorizedNo Comments

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. (September 5, 2015) – – freeFall Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest With Zombies begins previews on October 2, 2015 and runs through November 1, 2015 officially opening freeFall’s new season. This world premiere production is adapted by freeFall Artistic Director Eric Davis from the play by Oscar Wilde. Davis also directs.

freeFall’s production stars Nick Lerew and Daniel Schwab as John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, respectively. The duo will play the two bachelor friends who lead double lives slaying zombies and courting the attentions of the desirable Gwendolyn Fairfax (Kelly Pekar) and Cecily Cardew (Maya Handa Naff). Lerew and Pekar are members of freeFall’s new resident company.

Also appearing are fellow cast members Donna Donnelly (freeFall’s Harvey), Jennifer Christa Palmer (American Stage’s One Slight Hitch), Larry Alexander (Les Miserables on Broadway) and Matthew McGee (freeFall’s Mame). Donna Donnelly will portray the hilarious and social-climbing Lady Bracknell. Palmer will take on the role of zombie hunter Miss Prism, while Alexander and McGee, Bay area audience favorites; will play Reverend Canon Chasuble and Lane/Merriman.

The design and production team includes Amy Cianci (costumes), James Zervas (lighting), Matt Davis (Steampunk weaponry), Blake Braswell (fight choreographer) and Loryn Pretorious (Wigs and Special FX make-up).

Oscar Wilde’s classic satire on societal conventions is even more biting when played against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. In the tradition of mash-up lit like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, this evening of impeccable manners, mistaken identities, and corpses rising from the dead will send audiences out of the theatre giggling – or checking over their shoulder.

Whether a fan of Oscar Wilde or The Walking Dead, audiences will delight in this sidesplitting riff on decorum and decay.

Tickets can be obtained by contacting the freeFall box office.  There are discounts for seniors, teachers, students and members of the military. Group rates and information can be obtained by contacting Matthew at 727-498-5205 X 7.

For more information and tickets visit or call (727) 498-5205.



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Get to Know Maya Naff!

matthewJuly 22nd, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

by Katie Berger

Hello FreeFall fans!!  I hope that if you haven’t been able to see Mame yet that you have your tickets because they are going fast!  This production has an all-star cast full of veterans and new faces alike.  This week, I have the pleasure of introducing you to my good friend Maya! Maya plays various roles in the show and is fantastic as all of them.  I was able to ask her some questions about this experience — her very first at FreeFall!

1.  How did you find out about freeFall?

I became aware of freeFall through their production of The Burnt Part Boys last season. My partner, Nick Lerew, was playing the part of ”Jake,” and through him I was able to hear about the process of creating that show, and how it seemed to be hitting audiences in a meaningful way. Nick told me how much he was enjoying working at this small, innovative theatre in St. Petersburg, and so we made plans to
attend the 2014/2015 season auditions. While we were down here for the audition, we got a chance to see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
which confirmed for me every good thing Nick had said about this theatre.

2. What’s your favorite part about working here?

I love the transformative nature of the black box space. The most interesting, innovative theatrical decisions often come out of having to problem solve, or having the typical avenues stripped away. The basic limitations of an intimate space force imagination to the forefront, and then possibilities are truly endless. I think the artistic team at freeFall really understands the unique magic of theatre, and they continue to push themselves to explore the boundaries of what can be done artistically. It’s an incredibly inspiring atmosphere to create in, and as an actor, I’ve felt encouraged to challenge my own ideas of what I can do.

3. What is something unique to St. Pete that you love?

I grew up in the Midwest, so my favorite part of living in St. Pete is the access to all kinds of spectacular wildlife! I love taking long walks here and stopping to notice all of the different plants and lizards and birds and insects! I can spend hours and hours at the beach swimming and studying seashells. When it comes to nature, I have an insatiable curiosity. Yesterday I went kayaking in Fort DeSoto, and it was such a magical experience! We came up on a manatee who was having a lovely mid-day float, and it brought me to tears.
4. What is a show you would like to see done on the freeFall stage?

I’m really looking forward to this upcoming season, because so many of the pieces I would love to see on the freeFall stage are in the works! I was at the season announcement party in February, and as Eric presented each show, I got more and more excited…The Importance ofBeing Earnest (with Zombies!), Peter and the Starcatcher, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Light in the Piazza! I don’t think I’ve ever beenmore inspired by a single theatrical season. Other than those shows, I would love to see a freeFall production of a Chekhov play, perhaps Three Sisters or Uncle Vanya. Chekhov’s stories are meant to be seen close up, and the emotional lives of the characters should seep into the skin of the audience. That’s when they are the most alive, and the most dangerous.

5. Can you share a funny moment that has happened onstage during MAME?

In our show, Younger Patrick, the orphaned nephew who comes to live with his Auntie Mame, is played by the absolutely phenomenal Will Garrabrant, who is 8 years old. I get to have a scene with him at the end of the play, which is my favorite part of the whole show, because he REALLY keeps me on my toes. He has an innate understanding of how to be truthful in the moment, and he is also dangerously aware of how adorable he is. He likes to watch my face for how his lines land on me, and if I’m near laughter, push it just a tiny bit further. More often than not, we end the scene in giggles, which is really lovely and such a great way to close a show all about celebrating life and living to the fullest.


Thanks Maya!!  I hope that all of you get a chance to see Maya and the rest of this phenomenal cast in MAME, closing August 9th!

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MAME 101

matthewJune 17th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Happy Wednesday freeFall fans!  Summer is HERE and with it comes rehearsal for our summer show — MAME!  The cast has arrived and music is being learned, all to get ready for the show to open on July 11th!

For those of you not familiar with this great Jerry Herman musical, here is a little MAME 101 to whet your whistle and get you ready to see the show in July!

Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death

- Mame was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.

- It is based on the novel “Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis.

- It is set in New York City.  The action spans the time from the Great Depression to World War 2.

- The musical had it’s original Broadway production at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1966, starring Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur.

- The original production was nominated for 8 and won 3 Tony Awards – Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Angela Lansbury), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Frankie Michaels), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Beatrice Arthur).

- In 1974, Lucille Ball starred in the film adaptation.

- There was a 1983 Broadway revival, also starring Angela Lansbury.

- The show follows Mame Dennis, an eccentric New Yorker who is now expected to take care of her nephew, Patrick.

- Other characters include Mame’s best friend Vera Charles, Mame’s personal secretary Agnes Gooch, and the snooty executor Dwight Babcock.

I am so excited to see what this cast, led by our very own Matthew McGee brings to this hilarious story.  Tickets are selling FAST, so make sure to snatch them up while they are still available.  See you at the theatre!




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The Tempest – Opening Night!

matthewMay 27th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

The Tempest: Esta Isla es Mia is up and running at freeFall Theatre!  I had the pleasure of seeing it TWICE this past weekend – the first preview on Friday night and then again for opening night on Saturday (which was complete with it’s own tempest — a huge storm hit St. Pete right before the show started)!  It is a breathtaking piece and an incredible performance by my dear friend and mentor Eric Davis.  If you didn’t know about his genius before, you will after you see this show, which runs until June 14th.

Although The Tempest is a one man show, there is a whole team of amazing artists who came together to make this production a reality.  From musicians to technicians, no stone was left unturned on this island to make the story magnificent.  Pictured above is Rose Mallare (cello), Eric Davis, Carolina Esparza (choreographer), Paul Stoddard (guitar), Burt Rushing (drums, music director). James Oliver (director), and Nick White (composer).  Other team members include Jorge Acosta (dialect coach), Mike Wood (lighting design), Ryan Finzelber (assistant lighting design), Daniel Lemien (stage manager), Tim Saunders (dramaturg, props), and Matt Davis (set construction).  Bravo to all these beautiful people…you all are an inspiration!


The opening night party was an absolute blast complete with dancing,  authentic Cuban food, and delicious sangria.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the the journey the audience had just taken with Yuri, the Cuban scholar fleeing to the Florida Keys.

“Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands.
Curtsied when you have and kissed
The wild waves whist,
Foot is featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burden bear.”

Don’t miss this amazing production, not only is it unlike anything you have ever seen, it will definitely help you appreciate Shakespeare’s original tale.  You have until June 14th…don’t miss it!

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The Tempest – Discussion Guide

matthewMay 13th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Lo and behold, it is Wednesday yet again.  Eric and Co. are hard at work bringing this remarkable one man production of The Tempest to life.  I last read the original text of The Tempest while I was a young whippersnapper in high school, so I thought now would be a great time to revisit the play.  It has always been one of my favorites, and last week I recommended for all of YOU to read the original text  - not only so you could be prepared to see the show at freeFall, but also so I could work out your brain muscles with some discussion questions!!  Let’s take a break from the old grind on this glorious hump day and talk about SHAKESPEARE!

Discussion questions:

1. Do you view The Tempest as a comedy, tragedy, or romance?  It has been debated for years since it doesn’t fall into any one of the classic categories neatly.  Maybe it’s a little of all of them!  Which aspects of the story fall into which genre?

2. One of the most important themes of the play is the relationship between ruler and subject.  Prospero believes that he has the right to rule the island.  Why does he believe this?  What are the consequences of these beliefs?

3. Another major theme is the role of the artist in society.  This is shown by Prospero’s role as a magician who manipulates other people – which many people see as a metaphor for the artist manipulating society’s thoughts and feelings.  What do you think is the role of the artist in modern society?  Are you an artist?  If so, why do you do the work that you do?

4. In your opinion, what is the significance of the storm at the beginning of the play?

5. What is the nature of the relationship between Prospero and Miranda?  And how does it change over the course of the story?

6. What are your thoughts on the final speech?  Many believe that it is Shakespeare’s goodbye to his craft. Is that how you read it? If not, what does it mean to you?  What emotions are brought up for you as you read it?

I had so much fun rereading The Tempest and coming up with these discussion questions, and I hope you have enjoyed it too.  Please comment on the post or on Facebook if you have any thought provoking answers to the questions I have posed, I would love to hear what you have to say.  Or of course, you can find me when you come see our production of The Tempest and tell me in person!  The show opens May 23rd and you definitely will not want to miss it!  I hope to see you there!!

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The Tempest 101

matthewMay 6th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

As is always the case here at freeFall, as one show ends another begins. Harvey closed this past Sunday after an extremely successful run.  I had the pleasure of seeing it multiple times, as well as House Managing on the last two weekends of the run.  I wasn’t even in the show and I am definitely going to miss this one.  And yet, it’s time to turn our attentions to THE TEMPEST!!

This production of The Tempest is going to be unlike any that has ever been done.  It is a one man show starring Artistic Director Eric Davis and will take us to Cuba, where one man’s journey to U.S. echoes the journey of Shakespeare’s original text.  Before you are dazzled by this one man spectacle, join me and brush up on your Tempest knowledge!


- The Tempest was written by William Shakespeare. It is thought to be his final work, and it theme of individuals giving up their art is often thought to be Shakespeare’s farewell to writing for the stage. It was most likely written in 1610 and was first published in 1623.

- It is set on a remote island in the Mediterranean sea, probably off the coast of Italy.

- The play begins with an epic storm, conjured Prospero (the protagonist) in order to lure his brother Antonio to the island.

- It is one of two Shakespeare plays with a completely original plot.

- The original stage directions call for many special effects, songs, and ornately costumed characters. It also has more stage directions than any other of Shakespeare’s works.

- It is one of Shakespeare’s shortest and most simply constructed plays.

Who’s Who:

-Prospero: The former Duke of Milan, who now lives on a remote island as a great sorcerer.

- Miranda: Prospero’s daughter who was brought to the island at a very young age.  She is kind and compassionate, and has never had interaction with males other than her father and Caliban.  She eventually falls in love with Ferdinand.

- Ariel: Prospero’s spirit helper, who does his bidding after being rescued.  Ariel eventually is granted freedom by Prospero.

- Caliban: An island native and a son of a witch.  He is Prospero’s slave.

- Alonso: King of Naples and father of Ferdinand.

- Antonio: Prospero’s brother, who is now the Duke of Milan.

- Sebastian: Alonso’s brother

- Ferdinand: Son of Alonso, who eventually falls in love with Miranda.

I had a lot of fun dusting off my high school english notes in order to get my Tempest knowledge up to snuff!  I hope you now feel a little more ready to have your mind blown by Eric’s interpretation of it.  Over the next week I invite you to read the original text – we will be having a discussion about it on the blog next Wednesday!  Happy reading!


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Harvey – Extended Experience!

matthewApril 22nd, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Happy Wednesday everyone!  We are about half way through our run of Harvey and it’s going strong.  The delightful story of Elwood P. Dowd, while definitely a comedy, seems to strike a poignant chord with audience members of all ages.  If you haven’t yet seen the show, I encourage you to do so before it’s too late!  If you have seen the show and find yourself wanting more, look no further!  It’s time for the next Extended Experience!!

Extended Reading

If you like the voice and style of the piece, you can always read some of Mary Chase’s other works.  While Harvey was her most successful play, she also wrote Sorority House, Lolita, and many others!

Mary Chase also wrote children’s stories – Loretta Mason Potts, and The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House.

If you want to learn more about the Pooka, here’s an interesting article all about them.

If you think Elwood really was just having intense hallucinations, here is an article detailing the nature of that mystifying condition. This book looks incredibly interesting too (It’s already on my to-read list).

Extended Watching

Of course, if you haven’t already, you should definitely take some time to watch the 1950 film adaptation of Harvey starring Jimmy Stewart.

If you enjoy the style and quick humor of the time period, you should watch one of my personal favoritesThe Philadelphia Story (I may or may not have spent six months of my life playing Dinah Lord in the stage version, but that’s beside the point).

On the subject of giant rabbits, the 2001 film Donnie Darko also deals with a large bunny that only the protagonist can see.


I think we can all learn a little something from Elwood P. Dowd.  Sure, he’s different and sees something that only he can see, but it is his differences that make him so wonderful.  He is living his life exactly the way he intends, and because of that he is happy and wants for nothing.  So what if you have some strange quirk that others might feel is weird or strange?  If it makes you happy, that is all that matters.  I believe the true lesson of this story is to do whatever you need to do to be able to say “I always have a wonderful time just where I am, whomever I’m with.”

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Opening Night!

matthewApril 15th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

By Katie Berger

Opening weekend of Harvey is on the books!  After two successful previews on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, it was time for opening night.  While the performance was going on, we prepped for the opening night party – complete with Harvey themed treats! Jelly bean martinis, carrot cake cupcakes, and chocolate bunnies (from Shokolad Chocolate Factory right here in St. Pete!).

We had a blast celebrating this fantastic and delightful show…and while we are biased, audiences are loving it too!  Broadway World couldn’t seem to get enough:

“This is one Elwood (Larry Alexander) we want to follow anywhere and everywhere.”

“Treat yourself to a gift by rushing over to freeFall to see this American classic done right.”

“Bonnie Agan is exceptional”

“James Rayfield’s direction is exquisite”

Tampa Bay Times had wonderful things to say as well:

Free­fall Theatre’s new production of Harvey, the classic play about an affable man and his giant invisible friend, is comfort food of the best possible kind: warm, familiar, delicious and gently nourishing.


Thank you to everyone who came to the opening night party, and to those who have seen the show!  We hope you enjoyed yourself.  For those of you who have yet to see it, make sure to get your tickets soon.  This hilarious, heartwarming story runs through May 3rd!


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Buzz for Harvey!

matthewApril 8th, 2015Show NewsNo Comments

by Katie Berger

Opening night of Harvey is coming up and everyone is buzzing about it!  Check out some of these links to find out more about the show!  Make sure to get your tickets now.

A Broadway World announcement is always exciting in my book!

Check out this great editorial from our good friend Stephanie Hayes!

Make sure to RSVP on Facebook!

Even the President is excited!!

See you at the theatre!!

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