Long-shot idea pays off for director, co-writer of Majestic’s “The Siege”

by | Aug 18, 2022 | Arts and Entertainment | 0 comments

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Andrew Freborg wanted to try his hand at directing one of the Majestic Theatre’s Majesticpiece online productions. So he started where many new Majestic directors begin — by paging through the public domain plays that the theater keeps for just such occasions, because plays in the public domain don’t require any licensing fees.

There was a problem, Freborg said: “None of them really spoke to me.”

And that could have been that: no Majesticpiece Theatre production for Freborg. But then he had an odd thought: Freborg knew the Oregon writer Lars D.H. Hedbor, who’s pounded out a series of novels about the Revolutionary War. Playing a long shot, Freborg asked Hedbor if he had ever adapted any of his novels into plays.

Andrew Freborg is the director and co-writer of the “The Siege,” the next production of the Majestic Theatre’s Majesticpiece Theatre. The production streams Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Freborg.)

No, Hedbor responded — and, again, that could have been it for Freborg’s Majesticpiece Theatre plans.

But then, Hedbor added this: “That gives me an idea.” And after a few days of work, he had taken the last portion of his novel “The Siege” and turned it into a stage play.

And that, in a nutshell, is the story of how Freborg and Hedbor teamed up to create “The Siege,” the latest entry in the Majesticpiece Theatre series of online productions. The play streams live on the Majestic’s Facebook Live page at 7:30 p.m. Saturday — and a recording of the production will be available on the theater’s YouTube page a few days after the live presentation.

There’s more to the story, of course: Freborg thought that Hedbor’s draft, about three people riding out the siege of Yorktown near the end of the Revolutionary War, was a little too short. And Freborg wanted to expand the production so that it featured more parts. In part, that was because one of the guiding principles behind Majesticpiece Theatre is to make productions that are accessible to more people.

There was another reason as well: Three characters, Freborg said, Is “not a lot of people and one of the things I was really afraid of was having to tell some of my friends, ‘sorry, but you don’t get a part.'”

So Freborg, working with Hedbor, crafted a modern storyline that’s meant to serve as a counterpoint to the Revolutionary War story. In the modern portion, three descendants of the Revolutionary War characters learn about their family’s history by reading letters written by one of their relatives.

Freborg had a siege of another sort in mind as he wrote the modern part: It was April 2021, and the world still was reeling from the lockdown prompted by the COVID pandemic.

“I’ve never written anything before, so that was kind of a new experience for me but, as I told people, I’m good at building off of and riffing off existing structures and responding to things that are there,” Freborg said, adding that the modern characters “basically serve as audience stand-ins, reacting to what is happening in the original story.”

Lars D.H. Hedbor is the writer of the novel “The Siege,” the basis for the play. (Photo by Arpit Mehta.)

He also worked with Hedbor to adapt the work to the demands of the online medium used by Majesticpiece Theatre.

Freborg also used live Zoom auditions to cast “The Siege,” which allowed him to get a sense of the chemistry between different combinations of actors. “I actually get to interact with people,” during a live Zoom audition, “I get to make choices, I get to play off other people and see how other people play these scenes, which can inform how I would do this scene.” (Actors who were unable to make the Zoom auditions were able to audition in a more traditional way, by recording themselves reading a scene and sending the video to Freborg.)

In the end, Freborg selected a cast that primarily features Majesticpiece Theatre veterans — Brandon Urey, Ariel Hicks, Rose Taylor, Alex Asher, Lisia Smith and Michael Wren. Reid Sanders makes his Majesticpiece debut — and Freborg has arranged what he called a “Stan Lee-level cameo” for Hedbor.

Freborg understands that “one of the reasons Majesticpiece Theatre exists is to allow people who are interested in directing or even acting to dip their toes into it in a very low-risk, low-stress environment. … It allows for people who have physical limitations that may prevent them from doing an actual physical play. It allows for us to draw from actors all over the world.”

If “The Siege” works, Freborg said, he may pursue other directing opportunities at the Majestic. He said he might be interested in pitching a show to the Majestic’s Readers’ Theater Company. He might have a title in mind.

“Honestly, I kind of have long-term plans for ‘The Siege,'” he said. “If the virtual one is a success, I’m going to want to expand it a little bit into a readers’ theatre (production). And then if that one is a success, I might eventually expand it a full main stage production.”

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