Freedlander Theatre Celebrates 40 Years of Nurturing Young Artists
Stately College of Wooster performance center marks major milestone this fall
WOOSTER, Ohio — Freedlander Theatre, home to aspiring actors, directors, designers, dancers, technicians, playwrights and choreographers since the mid-1970s, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with another noteworthy lineup of performances at The College of Wooster.
The $1.6 million facility, which stands at the corner of Bever and University Streets, was dedicated on March 6, 1975. The principal gift came from the Freedlander Family to honor the life of Herman Freedlander, longtime proprietor of the former Freedlander Department Store in Downtown Wooster who took over the business at the age of 18 after his father died in 1902. The eldest of seven children, Freedlander made it possible for each of his younger siblings to attend college.
The stately structure enabled the then Department of Theatre to move its operations from quaint Scott Theatre across the street in Taylor Hall. It was like “going from a Volkswagen to a Cadillac,” said the venerable Win Logan, professor of speech and theatre, at the dedication ceremony. Logan directed the first stage production at Freedlander (George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan) later that spring.
Since that time, the facility has served as a training ground for students to express their creativity and develop their skills through a wide range of opportunities. Many of those students went on to professional careers in theatre, including Sarah McGraw, a 1985 graduate who became an actor and director, and founded Wexford Acting Studio outside of Pittsburgh.
Others who built careers on their experiences in Freedlander Theatre include Stephen Quandt, a 1986 Wooster graduate and current professional lighting designer in New York City, and classmate Martin McDougall, a London-based actor who appeared in such films as Saving Private Ryan, Batman Begins, FDR, and The Fifth Element.
In addition, Chris Matsos, a 2000 Wooster graduate, parlayed his experience into a position as assistant professor of theatre and director of theatre studies at the University of Findlay; James Beaudry (2001) became executive director of Timber Lake Playhouse; and Kristen Cooperkline (2005) became production manager at Otterbein University.
&Also working in the industry are Andrea Hiebler (2005), director of scouting and submissions at the Lake Play Development Center in New York City; Patrick Midgley (2007), a member of the resident company of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va.; and Stefanie Genda (2008), a freelance costume designer.
Most recently, three members from the Class of 2014 have found opportunities in the profession, including Ben Pfister, who is at Yale School of Drama pursuing an MFA in stage management; Chelsea Gillespie, who is the production assistant for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in New York; and Kent Sprague, who is assistant lighting designer and electrician for Florida Repertory Theatre.
“These are just a few of the students whose Independent Study (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed mentored undergraduate research experience) demonstrated our philosophy of developing the artist/scholar by combining critical and creative thinking in both the traditional classroom and on stage,” said Shirley Huston-Findley, professor of theatre at Wooster. “We are obviously quite proud of their accomplishments.”