On March 4th, Lather, Rinse, Repeat had the ultimate luck to snag the delightful and talented Kevin R. Free to join the feedback fray for LRR playwright Jeremy Wine’s new play. Despite being knee deep in a production of a new concert version of The Music Man, Kevin took the time to answer a few questions from Jen Browne.
1. Jen Browne: Last week you spoke briefly about working with the New York Neo-Futurists and on your website you credit them as “the people who helped me find my voice.” Can you talk a bit about your time with them and how it’s shaped you as a theater maker?
Kevin R. Free: Being a Neo-Futurist was the most amazing challenge! It’s a grind – from writing all the plays, learning the plays, running the whole organization administratively, and navigating being in an ensemble in which we are all artistic directors. It made me a better theatre-maker. I make my own sound cues now; I know more about how to make or procure my own props; I am generally much better at making a way out of no way when there isn’t budget to do all the things I want. As the only writer of color in the company for a while, I had race and identity on my mind a lot, and I learned how to write about it. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is still the item on my resume that gets the most comments when I audition. I am so grateful to have done the show.
2. JB: Trolling through your website I also found an amazing list of books that you recorded as audio books. Are there types of books that are more fun to record? Is there a book out there new or old that you would love to add your vocal talents to? Do you listen to audio books or are you more of a book in hand type of guy? (If it’s against the law to say you prefer to read a book over listening to it if you record them, don’t answer!)
KF: Thanks for trolling my website! I really love my job, though sometimes it is harder than I expect it to be. I love a good story, so it’s hard to say which kinds of stories are my favorites. I can say that my favorite book I’ve ever recorded was a book called The Mushroom Hunters. It’s a non-fiction book about people who forage for mushrooms. There are restaurants in Seattle mentioned in the book that I cannot wait to visit. There’s an author named Mat Johnson whose books I LOVE, and I want to be his narrator. Really bad. Mat, hit me up. I generally don’t listen to audiobooks, but that’s only because I have a short attention span. My mind wanders easily…
3. JB: You also mentioned your work as the producing artistic director for The Fire This Time Festival can you speak more about the festival, where you’ve been and where you’re going?
KF: The Festival provides a platform for early career playwrights of African and African-American descent for two years. The first year, we produce 10-minute world premiere plays of the playwrights we’ve chosen; the second year, we produce readings of full-length plays written by those playwrights. I was a playwright in Season 3 and 4, and I became the Producing Artistic Director of the Festival in Season 4. At the end of March, we are taking 6 plays to Boston to Hibernian Hall, and we hired a company of four kick-ass actors (Chris Michael Burke, Tracey Conyer Lee, Sara Thigpen, and Chinaza Uche) to play the roles, all directed by Nicole A. Watson! I really love the work we do, and I love cultivating and working with this community of artists, and I am excited about the way the festival is growing!
4. JB: You are an actor, writer, director, and a producer. What challenges, if any do you find wearing all of these hats? Do you think your work in any of these roles is mirrored or reflected in any of the others? Is producer Kevin different from actor Kevin who is different from writer Kevin?
KF: I think Writer Kevin reflects actor Kevin pretty well. I like to make broad choices as an actor until I am reined in by a director, and my plays tend to be a little larger than life. Producer Kevin is much more tired than any of the other Kevins, and doesn’t like the fighting involved with Producing.
5. JB: You seem to be a snappy dresser and I appreciate your use of the bowtie. Do you have a go-to bowtie shop? When it comes to personal style, is there a word that best describes you?
KF: YES. Thank you! I love shopping at Beau Ties Limited. beautiesltd.com. They are the best!
After a great run at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, NJ, The Music Man, featuring an all-African-American cast can also be seen this weekend at NJPAC. Get your tickets here: http://www.njpac.org/events/detail/the-music-man. And for more from Kevin R. Free visit his website kevinrfree.com.