In the Moment: An Interview with the Fredgren Studio Theater

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A place to create is critical to the performing arts and artist. In Northern Virginia available space for emerging performing arts companies can be both difficult to locate and costly. So when a brand new, well-outfitted performance space opens in Northern Virginia that is good news to share.

(L to R) - Linda Sullivan (President/CEO Arts Council of Fairfax), Caroline Frankil Warren (BalletNova Executive Director), Nancie Woods (BalletNova Artistic Director), Kathy Fredgren, Ken Fredgren, and Joe Montayo (Senator Tim Kaine's office).
(L to R) – Linda Sullivan (President/CEO Arts Council of Fairfax), Caroline Frankil Warren (BalletNova Executive Director), Nancie Woods (BalletNova Artistic Director), Kathy Fredgren, Ken Fredgren, and Joe Montayo (Senator Tim Kaine’s office).

The good news comes with the dedication of the Fredgren Studio Theater, designed for black box theater-type performances. The dedication was held on Sunday, September 21, 2014.

The Fredgren Studio Theater is dedicated to Kenneth and Kathy F. Fredgren, Founders of The Center Dance Company which was re-named BalletNova Center for Dance in 2009 following its move to the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County. The Center is a non-profit organization that offers classes in a full range of dance and classes for youth and adults.

“The arts open up doors in our souls” noted Ms. Fredgren. “Arts lift the spirit of people and our world is not perfect. The involvement of our whole being in something like dance frees our minds from the stress of the world.” Ms. Fredgren received the Arts Achievement Award from the Arts Council of Fairfax County in 2013.

The Fredgren Studio Theater performing arts space is located at 3443 Carlin Springs Road, right off Leesburg Pike and Carling Springs Road in Fairfax County, Falls Church, VA. There is plenty of free parking. It is an area with a number of diverse dining opportunities. It is also in an area for a planned street car route may come in the future.

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This DCMTA article is based on in-person interviews and email exchanges. Please note that the article is not only concerned with artistic issues and on ways to book the new venue, but the economic impact of the arts to a local community as well.

David Siegel: What does the new Fredgren Studio Theater bring to performing arts in the area?

 (L to R) - Caroline Frankil Warren (BalletNova Executive Director), Nancie Woods (BalletNova Artistic Director), Kathy Fredgren, and Amara Forsley (first Fredgren Scholarship recipient).
(L to R) – Caroline Frankil Warren (BalletNova Executive Director), Nancie Woods (BalletNova Artistic Director), Kathy Fredgren, and Amara Forsley (first Fredgren Scholarship recipient).

Caroline Frankil Warren, Executive Director, BalletNova Center for the Dance: Currently, there is a serious dearth of performance venues in Northern Virginia. It’s almost impossible to find ones that are affordable, available to the public, and with suitable technical facilities for dance. That is, a large performance area, proper flooring, and good sight lines. Now, dance companies can afford to perform more often, even testing new works on smaller audiences, and hopefully being able to offer more free or low-cost performances to benefit the general public. The Fredgren is also suited to theater and music performances so will be a good community resource for all of the performing arts.

We think of arts and entertainment from their cultural values. How can a performance space like the Fredgren Studio Theater add to economic development in an area such as Bailey’s Crossroads?

I envision that the Fredgren Studio Theater will become an economic driver for the Bailey’s Crossroads revitalizations efforts. People attending performances are always looking for places to go for dinner before the show, or for dessert and drinks afterwards. On Sundays, they’ll be looking to make a day of it with brunch or lunch before or after a performance. There are 94 restaurants within a one mile radius of BalletNova, and we anticipate that they will start to see an uptick of business on the weekends. In fact, according to the Americans for Arts 2013 research study, “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV” residents in Fairfax County spend over $20/per person/event on event-related spending – including meals, souvenirs and gifts, transportation and other related items.

Jennifer Walcott, Board of Directors, BalletNova Center for the Dance Board: It is a great venue to share their artistic vision with their community in an affordable, accessible and intimate way. It comes with built-in exposure to a large and diverse audience that already has a strong interest in supporting the arts in the community. The quality and scale of BalletNova’s programming and presence in Northern Virginia means that anyone performing in the space is likely to draw audience members from the existing community. The theater will offer the Northern Virginia community more accessible and affordable ways to experience the arts.

What is your reaction to the new Fredgren Studio Theater?

Shu-Chen Cuff, Artistic Director of the Gin Dan Company, performing the dance "The Core" at the dedication. Photo courtesy of Shu-Chen Cuff.
Shu-Chen Cuff, Artistic Director of the Gin Dan Company, performing the dance “The Core” at the dedication. Photo courtesy of Shu-Chen Cuff.

Shu-Chen Cuff, Artistic Director of Gin Dance Company: I’m so excited and thrilled that BalletNova Center for Dance will have its own performance space. I’ve been teaching there for a long time and it’s truly amazing to see how much BalletNova has grown and continues to be on the leading edge of the local arts community, now providing a place for artists to have the opportunity to perform, grow and express themselves.

Diane Coburn Bruning, Artistic Director of The Chambers Dance Project. Photo courtesy of Diane Coburn Bruning.
Diane Coburn Bruning, Artistic Director of The Chambers Dance Project. Photo courtesy of Diane Coburn Bruning.

Diane Coburn Bruning, Artistic Director, Chamber Dance Project, dancers & musicians: The new Fredgren Theatre at BalletNova affords an incredible new opportunity to dance company and artists both in Fairfax County and the entire Metro DC area. As Resident Company at BalletNova, the artists of Chamber Dance Project and I are most excited at their huge accomplishment and the possibilities the theatre presents us in previewing new works in open rehearsals and showings. It is a signal of BalletNova’s deep commitment to high level dance education and professional work. The theatre is housed in what I believe is the best dance facility in the area.

End Note: The Fredgren Studio Theater is available for rental on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons as well as during the day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are hourly rates and performance packages, with special discounts for non-profits. For more information including to book a date, contact Karinn Cologne at admin@BalletNova.org. Here are the technical details.

Quick hits regarding the space:

    • Spring wooden floor with non-slip Marley overlay
    • Performing area of 48′ by 38′
    • 140-150 seat audience area
    • Fully equipped professional sound and lighting system

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David Siegel
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on DC Metro Theater Arts, ShowBiz Radio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with the American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.