“Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz produced by Peace Mountain Theatre Company and directed by Julie Janson will be playing Dec. 5-15, 2019 at 11510 Falls Road, Potomac, MD. “Other Desert Cities” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and deals with a family in crisis. It watches the family “implode” after one of them commits suicide. The daughter, Brooke, wants to write a memoir that deals with their pain. The family asks her to wait, and all the while the family’s emotions and explanations for the loss are revealed.
“Peace Mountain Theatre Company [PMTC] is a professional company performing in Montgomery County, MD. PMTC has been successfully producing plays for the past 6 years. Founded by Laurie T. Freed [artistic director of PMTC] and theatre professionals, the company’s mission is to produce quality plays, drama or comedy, that touch the heart, enlighten the audience and deal with issues/values that are relevant and pertinent to today’s society. PMTC prides itself on doing “Theatre with a Purpose.” Additionally, PMTC produces educational programs that deal with issues and problems that target youngsters. PMTC brings these programs to schools, churches and organizations in a very unique way. A one act play is presented followed with a panel of experts discussing the issue at hand and ends with an open question and answer period with the audience. To date, our one act plays have dealt with bullying, the opioid crisis and cyber risks to our children.”
At the matinee Dec. 8th, there will be a question and answer time with the cast and director following the performance. The Dec. 15th the matinee will be followed by a panel discussion and open to questions. Sitting on the panel to discuss “The Art of Memoir Writing” will be Sara Taber, writer and teacher of the memoir genre and her student Frank X. White.
I had the chance to interview, Laurie T. Freed, Artistic Director of PMTC.
Bio: Laurie T. Freed, artistic director of Peace Mountain Theatre Company, holds Masters’ degrees in Theatre and Drama Therapy. For over 30 years she has been an actor, director, lecturer and teacher of theatre. Laurie has won several awards as a director and stage performer. Laurie lives in Maryland with her husband, Hal.
- Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a youngster, I participated in high school productions while taking voice lessons. I graduated with a B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota but continued to perform on local stages. After graduation, I moved to the Washington, DC area and began to work first at the National Archives and then at a behavioral science center. But, performing was still in my heart, and I continued to act and sing on stage. It was in Washington where I met my husband, Hal Freed, and eventually had two daughters, Lisa and Suzanne. Our family made a big move to Southern California when both girls were small. It was in California where my theatre career really took off. Again, I found myself on many stages performing in a variety of musical theatre productions. Concurrent with performing I attended California State University in Fullerton to pursue a Master’s degree in Theatre.
Upon graduation, I was immediately hired as the Chair of the Drama Department for the Orange County High School of the Performing Arts. Additionally, I taught theatre history and acting at Fullerton College and Cypress College. I continued to perform and widen my theatre perspective by directing theatre dramas and musical comedies. I received several awards for direction and performance. I went on to get another master’s degree in Drama Therapy in Los Angeles. Upon receiving this degree, I was involved with a variety of special needs populations, using theatre techniques as a way to heal. I was privileged to work with senior citizens, abused and neglected children, terminally ill children, abused women, teens at risk and prison inmates. It was in 2000 that my husband and I returned to Maryland to live. I was hired by Adventure Theatre and Imagination Stage, teaching and directing children and adults. I continued working in the area as a teacher, actor and director. Soon after our move to Maryland, I started thinking about forming a theatre company.
- What made you decide to form Peace Mountain Theatre Company?
The idea of starting a theatre company was always in the back of my mind, however, I was very busy with teaching, acting and directing and never turned this idea into reality. As time passed, the thought of starting my own company became more real in my mind, and as I started vocalizing this idea to friends and family, the idea of a theatre company materialized. I turned to theatre colleagues [actors, designers, directors] and slowly but surely a company was born. The “birth” of this company has come with a serious responsibility which I and my colleagues have happily assumed. Peace Mountain Theatre Company maintains a high level of quality both on and off the stage. We keep our audience members center in our mind, giving them important plays of the theatre that will not only entertain, but also enlighten, inform and present issues important to today’s society – – we refer to this as “Theatre with a Purpose.” Along with our stage productions is our Educational Outreach Programs whereby we present an issue driven, one act play, followed by a panel of experts and q. and a. Aimed at children and adults, these programs have dealt with such important topics as bullying, the opioid crisis and cyber risk to our children.
- Where do you see the PMTC in 5 years? 10 years?
First and foremost, we will continue to produce quality plays for our audiences in the future. We see the expansion of our Outreach Program in five years’ time. Alongside our 3-play season, we would like to add a weekend of reader’s theatre with a non-published play, ideally from a local playwright. Finally, we would like to add a student apprentice component. In ten years’ time, we see these programs continuing but with added plays to our season.
- Why did you choose to do “Other Desert Cities?”
From the time I first read and saw “Other Desert Cities” I knew I wanted to be involved with this play. It is a very contemporary piece. Many of the issues and events highlighted in the play are still current today. The playwright, Jon Robin Baitz, has written a beautifully structured play. His characters are fully realized, showing the best and worst of themselves. It is a totally believable story of a family who openly loves one another, yet do not trust one another. Sadly, the trust is lost because of the political events of the day. This doesn’t seem far removed from how families coexist in today’s political world. Although the issues are serious, the play is filled with humor and warmth. I think everyone can understand this family; perhaps a family very similar to their own.
- How does this play differ and how is it the same from previous plays that the company has produced?
All of PMTCs plays have had a lot to say, be they dramas or comedies. The difference with “Other Desert Cities “is this one is the most contemporary of the plays we have produced thus far. The play was first produced in 2014 so it is still a very young piece of work. It will not be difficult for audiences of all ages to enter the world of “Other Desert Cities.”
For information and tickets for “Other Desert Cities” and future productions contact Peace Mountain Theatre Company’s website.
PMTC will be moving to the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD after this production. Watch for their performances of “Driving Miss Daisy” in May and then “Disgraced” in December 2020. Both of these plays are Pulitzer winners.