It’s been a while since we’ve done an artist profile here at the World of Champagne, so Miss Jaye was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Jared Fladeland to talk about his upcoming performance in The Last of the Boys, produced by Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, and his own independent theatrical venture, Conduit Theatre.
Janessa: So tell me a little more about you – where you’re from, your background, and how you first got interested in the arts.
Jared: I was born and raised in the Grand Forks area. Growing up I was always into the arts. I was heavily involved in band in high school, and drama. I’ve been writing since my sister first taught me how to read. I was in rock bands all throughout high school. But when college came around, I figured I was going to study mathematics, because I do have an odd love of numbers. However, my senior year, I went to a drama retreat at the University of North Dakota, and was offered a scholarship if I declared theatre as my major. I thought I might try theatre for a semester and see how I liked it. Less than a month into college, I knew theatre was my path. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, I also was accepted to study for a year at Dell’arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA. The program is very physically and emotionally demanding, but this is where I learned clowning, melodrama, and commedia dell’arte, an Italian form of comedy that uses stock characters and physical humor. From there, I moved to Los Angeles and worked with many artists, but my primary homes were The Grand Guignolers and American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory (ARTEL). Then, after that, I moved to Portland for a very brief stint, where I was fortunate enough to work with the Box of Clowns, as well as Imago Theatre. After all that, I came back to Grand Forks, all the more richer for the experience!
Janessa: Tell me about some of the roles you’ve played. Any particular favorites?
Jared: I must say that I had a hoot playing Queen Anne for Debbie McMahon’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel The Man Who Laughs with the Grand Guignolers. I also enjoyed playing Joe Mauldin in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Frost Fire Theatre. I was able to combine acting with my love of music by playing the upright bass for the show.
Janessa: You’re playing the lead in the GGFCT production of The Boys Next Door, a show that deals with adults with developmental disabilities. Tell us a little bit about your role in the show and what we can expect to see.
Jared: In the show I play Jack, the caretaker for four men with disabilities. In the show, the audience watches the day to day issues that come up for these men, and the toll they take on my character. Jack is genuinely concerned about all of these individuals, but we find him getting burnt out. The cast is doing an amazing job filling these characters with life. Some nights I don’t have to do much acting because of their antics.
Janessa: The show is funny but also has some very poignant moments. What do you think the biggest challenge is for mounting a show that deals with these issues?
Jared: From day one our concern was to portray these characters with respect. It could be so easy to slip into a mocking caricature of these individuals. The other big challenge is creating chaos on stage. There are a few key moments on stage where the situation escalates into anarchy. I get to be like the dutch boy with his finger plugging the dam in those scenes.
Janessa: Tell us about so of the technical roles you’ve played offstage in your theatrical career.
Jared: I’ve worked as a stage hand, ran light and sound boards, I’ve done a little bit of stage management. As long as it doesn’t involve a hammer, or nails, or sewing, I’ve probably done it.
Janessa: You recently started your own theatrical production company, Conduit Theatre. Tell me more about the inspiration for that project.
Jared: From the training and work I’ve done in my professional life, I’ve developed a very strong vision of a type of theatre where the work moves THROUGH the actor, rather than work being manipulated BY the actor. We act like conduits between the life of the story and the audience. Our motto is, “May we be conduits to the heart, always!”
Janessa: What do you hope to accomplish through Conduit Theatre?
Jared: Create, Curate, and Collaborate on producing resonant, spiritual theatrical events. We Create by devising original work. We Curate by bringing artists together for the community. We Collaborate with artists and organizations on projects that may be of service to the community. These three facets will come together to offer Grand Forks a unique brand of entertainment.
Janessa: You’ve got your first Conduit event coming up on March 20: The Word Parlor, which is billed as a celebration of spoken word. Tell us a little bit about what audience members will get to see at this event.
Jared: First and foremost, the audience will enter an atmosphere of vulnerability and possibility. The artists are performing an eclectic mix of pieces. The vehicle for these is the space itself, physically and emotionally; that here we can be present in this moment with one another.
Janessa: Do you plan to turn this into a regular thing?
Jared: Yes! We already have another Word Parlor planned next month, April 20th. And it will feature a Los Angeles poet, Brian Sonia-Wallace. You can like our Facebook page to keep updated on that information. We also are brainstorming another regular events in the area as we speak!
Janessa: Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve encountered in putting together your first event.
Jared: Mostly right now, it is always about word of mouth. Many local leaders have been very supportive of the idea, offering suggestions, but ultimately it comes down to trying to reach as many people as possible about the event and the company with very humble means. On the flipside of that coin though, creating an experience for the audience is the most important focus.
Janessa: If anyone has looked through your Facebook profile pictures, they know you have some experience with clowning; I’m not talking about balloon animals and kid’s birthday parties, but clowning as a theatrical art. Tell us more about how clowning fits into the larger theatrical landscape.
Jared: Clowning is a very misunderstood art form. At its best, the clown gives us hope. A clown is buoyant. The clown holds a mirror to himself, and in the face of great frailty and failure, the clown always bounces back. It interests me as an art form because clowns don’t live by the same set of physics. There is a realm of greater poetic potential. My favorite clowns allow me to laugh and cry almost simultaneously.
Janessa: Although the end “product” may look very different, I actually think that drag performance and clowning have a lot in common – they both take a seed or an idea as inspiration, and then push outwards, making it more extreme and more…how should I say this? More of an artiface, maybe, than you find in other types of theatrical performance. Do you see any connections between these types of performance?
Jared: Both art forms require great vulnerability. Creating any persona, for me, requires finding the parts about myself that I tend to hide from the public. Then, as you said, I exaggerate that quality to comical proportions. Also, like clowns, a drag queen can never truly die.
Janessa: Have you ever tried drag performance? Do you think YOU might be America’s next drag superstar??
Jared: I’ve tried being female clowns. And like I said earlier, I played Queen Anne in a very drag-like way. If I had a strong drag queen character idea, I would seriously consider opening a library to do some serious reading.
Janessa: Oh the shade of it all! On a more serious note, do you think that clowning can be used to comment on gender roles, especially for men and masculinity?
Jared: I think from an academic perspective, it is a total possibility. I think with good clowning, these commentaries can be made, but not because the clown is trying to comment on them. Just by the nature of being themselves, human truths are revealed.
Janessa: So what else is coming up for Conduit Theatre? Any upcoming events our projects you’re at work on?
Jared: More Word Parlors! I have several projects cooking at the moment. I am working on bringing some amazing shows to Grand Forks that have toured the continent. I’m creating a solo clown show to premiere this fall.
Janessa: With all of the effort you’re putting into Conduit, it’s clear you are very invested in bringing new theatrical experiences to the public sphere. Why do you think it’s important for a community to have a strong arts “scene?” What does a community gain through the arts that it can’t get elsewhere?
Jared: The arts provide genuine human connection. I was in a coffee shop in Portland once, and an open mic night started. The third act was a duo, one played guitar, and they both sang. They weren’t particularly amazing technically as performers, but something about their performance generated a huge buzz throughout the entire coffee shop. Suddenly strangers had a common focus and experience. The arts has that power, to bring people together and connect with one another so that we can move towards a common purpose.
Janessa: Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me. I really appreciate it and I’m excited to see what comes out of all the work you’re doing with Conduit Theatre.
Jared: Thank you Miss Janessa!
Check out Conduit Theatre’s inaugural event The Word Parlor at the Empire Theatre backstage space, March 20 at 7:30 pm. For more information on Conduit Theatre, please visit their Facebook Page. And check out Jared and other great community theatre players in The Boys Next Door at the Firehall Theatre, April 9-12, 16-19, & 23-25.
Tags: Boys Next Door, Conduit Theater, Conduit Theatre, Empire Theater, Empire Theatre, Great Grand Forks Community Theatre, Greater Graand Forks Community Theater, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Jared Fladeland, Miss Jaye, Poetry, Poetry Jam, Poetry Slam, SPoken Word, Word Parlor, World of Champagne