News - Factory Theatre Managing Director Envisions Lively Future For G.U. Theater

Factory Theatre Managing Director Envisions Lively Future For G.U. Theater

Rachel Heston-Davis Factory Theatre Managing Director Envisions Lively Future For G.U. Theater

For Alex Freeman, G.U.’s new managing director of the Factory Theatre, the stage is all about community.

“[Theater] is one of the few places left in our society where people from very different belief systems—be it political, social, religious, whatever—can still come together and enjoy an evening and engage in a conversation,” he says.

An actor and director who has performed on stages across the country, Freeman particularly appreciates the Factory Theatre’s unique role as a bridge between University and town. “It is a place to gather, to bring the University community together with the Greenville community as a whole to have conversations.”

Freeman envisions a vivacious future for the Factory Theatre that will integrate stage performance more fully into campus life and contribute to the cultural discussion of faith in the arts. 

Center Stage In Student Life

Freeman hopes to restore the theater as a central role in student life at G.U. He hopes Factory Theatre shows will become a frequent pastime for a whole new generation of G.U. students.

When the theater presents an evening of one-act performances this spring, it will offer tickets free of charge to University students in an effort to jump-start student attendance and introduce newcomers to the pleasures of live performance.

Freeman also plans to bring more programming directly to the main campus. This spring, he’ll  bring guest performers Juliette and Stephen Trafton to campus to perform their act Living Letters and offer workshops.

“We’re also exploring options of non-traditional performance venues for our shows,” Freeman says. “Perhaps an immersive theater experience, or a staged reading in the Upper Union.” 

A new venture this spring will inject excitement into the University’s theater scene: a play festival, consisting of 3-5 play readings that explore Christian themes. “These plays will be new plays, some of them never having been heard out loud before we do them,” Freeman explains. The playwrights receive feedback from the audience, director and the actors who read the text.

Finding God Onstage

Freeman hopes to explore the role G.U. can play in the larger conversation about Christian theater. “The scholarship and creation [of Christian theater] tends to be very insular,” he says, “and I’m interested in working to make Greenville a place where we are making Christian theater facing outwards toward the world.”

For Freeman, the overlap between theater and faith is clear. “Every time I enter a rehearsal or performance space, I am Christ’s hands in the world, and I need to be sure that I am showing love to everyone I encounter.”

Playing a character, Freeman says, is an act of great love toward one’s fellow man, because it requires the same kind of radical empathy that enables relationships and transformation in real life.

“In order to work on a role you have to enter that role from a place where that person, that character, feels wholly justified in their previous actions,” he says. Understanding another person’s motives and justifications is paramount to forming real relationships in all walks of life, the kind of relationships that demonstrate love and offer opportunities for growth and change.

For Christians, he says, it’s urgent to learn this skill, especially when encountering people who have been hurt by religion in the past.

He says plays—and not just overtly Christian plays—offer the chance to examine many of life’s deepest questions. “We can, and should, seek God in all corners of the world.” Any text can be examined for its worldview and spark conversation about truth and belief.

“Sometimes that means entering a fictional world and learning empathy for a person or people that I may have struggled to have empathy for in the past. Sometimes that means showing an audience something in the world that needs to be changed, and it is our part of the Great Commission to go help.”

Freeman hopes his students will walk away from Factory Theatre experiences with this perspective. They are, after all, his primary audience now.


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This story was published on March 01, 2019

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