FreeFall Stage Performance Delivers Laughs, Awareness

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG)  |  By Jacqueline Fox
  Share this pic with friends!

FreeFall’s “Charley’s Aunt” takes place at EPIC Bible College & Graduate School located at 4330 Auburn Blvd, Carmichael from March 1-11 at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Sunday Matinees are at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.freefallstage.com or call 916-207-5606. Photo courtesy of FreeFall Stage

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – What do a classic, British comedic farce about mistaken identity, an old aunt from Brazil and human trafficking all have to do with one another?

Well, everything, if you are among the cast and crew members of FreeFall Stage, which is preparing for, among other productions and events, an 11-day run of Brandon Thomas’s “Charley’s Aunt” at the EPIC Bible College in Carmichael beginning March 1.

To begin with, the play: “Charley’s Aunt,” kicks off the FreeFall’s 2018 season.  The play was originally performed in three acts and reportedly broke historic performance records (1,466) for plays of all genres upon its debut run at London’s Theatre Royal in February of 1892. It promises to deliver everything you ever needed or wanted in a comedic play: love, laughs and lies, fake accents and impostors--all delivered with good intentions.  No one gets hurt.

The play is one of six full-time productions on the FreeFall agenda for the season.  FreeFall got its start in Folsom in 2002 as T.H.E. (Talented Home Educated) Actors Workshop.  Initially, it began by offering theatrical training to high school students.  By 2012, productions were added and the name was changed and public performances were added to the mix.

Today, FreeFall Stage is Folsom’s longest-running community theatre.  It is thriving even without a permanent home.  The lease on its original space at the Sutter Street Theatre was up in 2015, so the company has been producing nomadically at various locations around the Sacramento County area since. 

FreeFall, says House and Stage Manager, Emma Eldridge, daughter of FreeFall Stage Founder, Dee Dee Eldridge, would like to find another home in Folsom, but is keeping its options open.

“We are in search of a permanent space right now and ultimately our own performance center in Folsom,” said Eldridge, who will play Miss Amy Spettigue in “Charley’s Aunt.”  This is where we originally set down roots and we’d like to stay in Folsom if possible.”

The company, says Eldridge, typically produces what she calls “family friendly” plays.  But it also has been quietly building a name for itself for diving into darker social justice issues, specifically human trafficking, which it did with an 18-show run in Folsom in 2014 of Andrew Kooman’s play, “She Has a Name.”  There is also a film version.  Both explore the dark underworld of human sex trafficking in Thailand.

“We are known for being family friendly, yet at the same time we like doing shows that have a message,” said Eldridge.  “We were the first to produce and perform that play and then we toured it around Sacramento and Northern California until 2016.”

In October, FreeFall will once again take a dive into the issue of human sex trafficking.  FreeFall company staff have been meeting with and interviewing actual human trafficking victims, getting their stories down and preparing to produce those stories in a series of monologues. 

“We will be producing original stories from survivors, men and women, and the intent is to raise awareness of this issue and keep the stories alive so that no one forgets how serious this is,” said Eldridge. “It is an important subject and we are excited to be working on this next project.  It is very different from our typical productions because it will be a collection of monologues, so it is very special.”

FreeFall, which is a non-profit running on donations, ticket sales and other forms of support, has partnered with some of the area’s leading anti-trafficking entities, including 3Strands Global, Blue Heart International and Courage Worldwide. 

The company currently has about six board members and seven on staff, with various numbers of actors, depending on the performance. Currently, there are 10 actors preparing for the March 1 run of “Charley’s Aunt,” which Eldridge says has been in the works for some time.

“We love this play,” said Eldridge.  “It’s not a well-known play, but it is action-packed and very funny.  Those of us who are in it are still laughing after rehearsals. We looked at doing it last year but it didn’t work out.  We try to offer a good balance of themes and we haven’t done a farce in a while.  I think it’s a good way to start out our season.”

FreeFall’s annual gala is also coming up.  Set for April 21, the “April in Paris” themed event will benefit the company’s productions, rental fees for spaces until it finds another permanent home, as well as classes for students, which are still offered.