About Us.

Our Mission

We believe that art comes from a place.   And we believe, unapologetically, that our place is one of the very best.   We exist not only to create our own theater, but to facilitate and promote a vision of the Twin Cities as a major exporter of performing arts.   We do beautiful, brave work here.   This is an artistic community of revelation, innovation and pride.   We have big dreams for Freshwater Theatre Company, and that includes this entire community of artists, individually and collectively.

Founded by the husband and wife team of Ben Layne and Ruth Virkus, with the help of fantastic colleagues and friends, Freshwater Theatre Company has produced 20 shows in our 5 years as a company. Our productions have been lauded by audiences and critics alike, and our production of Freshwater Theatre Goes Back to High School won an Ivey Award for playwriting in 2013.

Our motto is simple: we love good stories, told simply and told well. We believe that theatre can be transformative, revelatory, and educational, but we love it best when it’s a good time, too.  We like to entertain, and we promise a helluva ride. We refuse to apologize or compromise.   It’s time to get serious, Twin Cities.  This isn’t flyover country. We’re a coast, too. In fact, we have more coastline in Minnesota than anywhere else in the United States. The water is just fresher here.

Freshwater Theatre. We’re in it for all of us.

THE COMPANY

Ruth Virkus

 

 

 

 

 

Ruth Virkus
(Co-Artistic Director)

A National Merit Scholarship recipient who graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota Morris with degrees in history and theatre, Ruth Virkus is also a company member with  20% Theatre Company, Twin Cities. Previously, she worked for several years with The Flower Shop Project, a theatre company founded with other graduates of the UMM theatre department.

During her time with FSP, Ruth acted in and co-wrote Drowning in VelvetDawn’s InfernoLadies A.I.D.Auld AcquaintanceAttack of the Atomic Trash Monster’s Bride, and The Fish, The Fruit and the Pet Coffin Maker. Ruth also served as FSP’s head producer for Almost Got it Made and In the Weeds.   Her first solo writing endeavor, Preferred by Discreet Women Everywhere, eventually begat a companion piece entitled 10:00 Bistro Caprice, which was featured in The Fresh Five with 20% Theatre Company in 2010.

Ruth recently produced and curated Freshwater’s Dirty Girls Come Clean: The Return, also directing a couple of the pieces in the fest, which raised over $2000 for Dress for Success Twin Cities, was recently onstage in Walking Shadow Theatre Company‘s production of An Ideal Husband and wrote and produced Freshwater’s 2012 and 2013 Fringe entries Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis and Turn Signals. Ruth’s original script Table 12 was produced by St. Paul College’s theatre department in 2014, followed by our 2014 spring production, the critically acclaimed historical drama Mrs. Charles. During the day, Ruth happily works as a Property Manager for MSP Commercial, a real estate development firm based in Eagan, MN. In what spare time she has, she cooks a lot, makes bread and feeds it to people.  Forcibly, if necessary.

 

Ben Layne

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Layne
(Co-Artistic Director)

Ben began his work in the Twin Cities as an actor, appearing onstage for various companies including Freshwater Theatre, Walking ShadowSwandive TheatreTheatre Pro RataThe Directors StudiosTedious Brief Productions, Starting Gate Productions, Theatre Limina, Theatre Forever and Commedia Beauregard, among others.

Ben has recently shifted his focus to directing, and has directed for Fortune’s Fool Theatre, Freshwater Theatre, Northern Starz Children’s Theatre Box Wine Theatre, Eden Prairie Players, the Minnesota Shorts festival in Mankato, MN and Ariel Leaf’s  hit one woman show Died in a Trailer Park/Woke Up a Mermaid as part of the 2013 Minnesota Fringe.

This fall, Ben will take the helm of the world premiere of Pioneer Suite by local writer/composer Keith Hovis.

 

Rachel Flynn 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Flynn
(Front of House Goddess)

When Rachel Flynn first arrived at the University of Minnesota, Morris she was going to do a double major in Psychology and Communications – that seemed the mature and responsible thing to do. But by the second quarter of her freshman year, she came to her senses and realized that being mature and responsible is not nearly as much fun as playing with the theatre kids, so she promptly changed her major to Theatre Arts – with a Management minor so as to at least keep up appearances of  ”maturity and responsibility.”

After earning her B.A., Rachel served as Public Relations Associate at The Children’s Theatre Company for about 6 years, then as the Marketing Director of the History Theatre until 2014. Rachel also earned her Masters degree in Arts & Cultural Management from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She has worked in various capacities with numerous theater companies including Theatre in the Round, Swandive TheatreLake Harriet Players, La Vie Theatre, STL Productions, and Bloomington Civic Theatre.  Rachel has been seen onstage with Freshwater in Table 12,  Dirty Girls Come Clean – A FestivalGoing Down on the Queen of Minneapolis, Turn Signals The Beacon From Belle Isle and Mrs. Charles.  Rachel also wrote for and performed in Better (or) Worse. Rachel’s favorite roles include The Music Man (Marian), BLISS: Three One-Acts (various roles), Postcards from the Corn Palace (various roles), Tartuffe (Elmire), and Savage in Limbo (Denise Savage).

 

Ariel Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

Ariel Leaf
(Resident Lighting Designer)

A company member of 20% Theatre Company, Footprints Collective and Freshwater Theatre, Ariel Leaf divvies up her theatre time into lighting design, performing, directing, producing and occasionally playwriting.

Recently she has worked with: Evil Temptress Productions, Nimbus TheatreBedlam TheatreCromulent Shakespeare Co.Theatre in the RoundTheatre Unbound, Prufrock Theater and Upright Egg, as well as several successful Fringe shows, including a completely sold-out rendition of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter in the summer of 2009 with Killing Joke ProductionsYarrrh! The Lusty, Busty Pirate Musical, (also remounted at Open Eye Figure Theatre) and last year’s Died in a Trailer Park/Woke up a Mermaid which she wrote and produced. Ariel has also appeared an all-female Ivey award winning production of Julius Caesar with Theatre Unbound, 20% Theatre’s remount of The Naked I: Wide Open, and most recently The Veteran’s Play Project with Footprints Collective, presented by Mixed Blood Theatre. For Freshwater, Ariel has performed in Dirty Girls Come Clean, Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis and  Better or Worse, designed lights for DGCC, Better (or) Worse and The Gifted Program and even wrote for DGCC and Better (or) Worse.  And she even sleeps sometimes, she swears.

 

Scot Moore

 

 

 

 

 

Scot Moore
(Resident Sound Designer)

Over the past 16 years, Scot Moore has worked with numerous theatre companies and in many disciplines, but he’s found a true home with Freshwater. They let him drink beer and do theatre, and that’s been a lifelong ambition according to his online dating profile. The music in The Gifted Program and Freshwater Goes Back to High School is culled straight from the playlist of his soul. On top of being a sound designer, Scot is also an actor, author, and gender rights activist – all of which he combined in his hit 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival show, Men Will Be Boys. Scot followed that up with a turn as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing with Six Elements Theatre.  For more about Scot, and for samples of his writing, please visit: www.scotmoore.com

 

J. Merrill Motz

 

 

 

 

 

J. Merrill Motz
(Member At Large)

J. Merrill Motz, or Jeremy Motz, or just Motz (rhymes with boats) recently earned a graduate degree in Ohio University’s Professional Playwriting Program, after having spent four years in Minneapolis, where he moved after graduating from Central Michigan University with a BFA in acting. While in the Twin Cities, he acted for Chameleon Theatre CircleWorkhouse, took classes at the Playwright’s Center and The Loft, and appeared as Saul in the original production of Table 12 in the 2010 Minnesota Fringe.

At CMU, his plays Ain’t That A Kick in the HeadJust OneNobody Flinched Down By The Arcade, and The Roommate were produced by the Alpha Psi Omega one-act festival, with Ain’t That A Kick in the Head and The Roommate selected to be performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2006 and 2007. The Roommate was commissioned by the University of Wisconsin Fon du Lac to be developed into a full-length production for their 2008 main stage season.  His last full-length script, All Gonna Go, received a reading from Swandive Theatre in Minneapolis in 2010. This Spring, his latest (in-progress) script, Reinforce Sincerity, received a reading at the Seabury Quinn, Jr. Playwright’s Festival in Athens, OH.  Motz was published in the online crime fiction magazine Plots With Guns in March 2010, and hopes to dabble some more in crime fiction if he can ever find the time.

Motz has performed with Freshwater in the original production of Table 12Sky Fleeting (as part of both runs of our Dirty Girls Come Clean festival) and Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis. Motz wrote, produced and performed in Boxcutter Harmonica,  a one man show, during the 2013 Fringe, and recently wrote The Beacon From Belle Isle,  a modern-day fairy tale about Michigan, which opened our 2013-2014 mainstage season.

 

Mame Pelletier

 

 

 

 

 

Mame Pelletier
(Company Member)

Mame Pelletier is an actor/improviser/writer/comedian, graduating from the University of Oregon with the ever-coveted and highly sought-after degree in theatre.

Mame is still somewhat new to the Twin Cities, moving here in 2008, and since arriving has had the privilege of acting for companies such as Theatre Pro Rata, 20% Theatre, Urban Samurai, Theatre in the RoundTheatre UnboundThe Flower Shop ProjectThe Playwrights’ CenterCommedia Beauregard, and Maximum Verbosity.

Mame has also been seen in Freshwater’s productions of Table 12, The Book of Liz, Dirty Girls Come Clean: The Return, Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis and Turn Signals. As always, Mame would like to thank her husband Eric and her son David for all their love and support.

 

 Neil Schneider

 

 

 

 

Neil Schneider
(Managing Producer)

Neil Schneider has lived and worked in the Twin Cities since 2007 and was honored to make his Freshwater debut in the original production of Table 12:  A Play at a Wedding at the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival!  Neil is originally from Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin – Parkside (and, yes, he does love beer and cheese).  After working regionally here and there for a few years, he decided to make Minneapolis his new home.  Neil worked for several years at CLIMB Theatre, serving as the company manager while also coordinating the annual Twin Cities Unified Theatre Auditions.   In addition to Freshwater, Neil has worked with Mu Performing Arts, 20% Theatre, Actors’ Theatre of Minnesota, Commedia Beauregard, Cromulent Shakespeare, ITM Films, Ten Ten Films, and the Minneapolis Jewish Humour Festival.  Other regional credits include the Emcee in Cabaret, Drake in Annie, Peter Thorkelson in I Remember Mama, Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Dale Wilson-Shears in Smile the Musical, Scouja/timHom in Klingon Christmas Carol, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night.  This spring, Neil will appear in Freshwater’s production of Mrs. Charles as the title character.  He would like to thank all his friends and family for their constant support and love!

 

Katie Starks

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Starks
(Night Swim & Chili Cook-Off Coordinator)

Katie Starks has been an avid viewer and participant of twin cities theatre for over 7 years now and has fallen head over heels in love. As a scared 21-year-old girl from Iowa, Katie moved here not knowing a soul (Mary Tyler Moore style – of course) but has made it after all! Katie graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in theatre in 2007, where she was blessed to have worked with the amazing Camille D’Ambrose, including her final production, Macbeth.

Katie has worked with several Twin Cities theatre companies, including  Theatre UnboundUrban SamuraiCommedia BeauregardNimbusThe Flower Shop Project and The Directors Studios. Katie was also seen in The Trunk with Siege Perilous Films at the MN Fringe Festival, took a turn as Cassie in Rumors with Urban Samurai and appeared in Freshwater’s Dirty Girls Come Clean festival. Katie is also an incredibly proud and excited member of 20% Theatre Company, for whom she directed a piece in The Naked I: Wide Open.

 

Michael Sung-Ho

 

 

 

 

 


Michael Sung-Ho

(Company Member)

New to the Twin Cities, Michael Sung-Ho has spent his more recent years working as an actor and full-time model in Los Angeles, CA. After relocating to Minnesota, he’s been warmly received, taking study and shelter at The Brave New Institute and meeting Table 12 director Crystal G. Schneider during the run of M. Butterfly on the Guthrie’sWurtele Thrust Stage in 2010, a working relationship which lead him to audition for Table 12 and thus to Freshwater Theatre Company!

Michael recently worked with Savage Umbrella Theater on The Ravagers, a new work with simultaneous workshops in Seoul, South Korea and Minneapolis, MN (in partnership with Seoul Players), was also seen in Theatre Mu’s production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Ritz Theater and Come Hell and High Water, a production with Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp’s The Moving Company at the Southern Theatre. Michael has recently been seen as Brother Brightbee in Freshwater’s production of The Book of Liz by David and Amy Sedaris, Theatre Mu’s recent production of Into the Woods and Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis and The Gifted Program, also with Freshwater Theatre. Michael’s other professional acting credits include a slew of independent films you’ve never seen before, but should, and several commercial advertisements exercising his Asian-hipster expertise in video game peripherals and cellular phone technology.

 

LaceyHeadshot

 

 

 

 

 

Lacey Zeiler
(Company Member)

Originally from San Francisco, CA, Lacey Zeiler has been performing all over the Cities for the past three years with numerous companies, including Theatre ArloTheatre Unbound20% Theatre Company,Ministry of Cultural WarfareWorkhouse Theatre CompanySavage Umbrella3AM ProductionsNational Theatre for Children, and the occasional singing telegram. Previously, Lacey served as a member ofThe Flower Shop Project, where she was their Director of Outreach. Her first play, In the Weeds, depicting her humorous experiences working in the restaurant industry, was produced by FSP to great acclaim at the Bryant Lake Bowl in October of 2009.

While working with FSP, Lacey was fortunate enough to have been cast in the same show with the handsome John Zeiler, who she recently married. As first time producers, John and Lacey were fortunate enough to squirrel their way into the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival with An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein (and yes, Mr. Silverstein DID in fact write this series of short vignettes). With the help of 6 different directors, an amazing tech rock star, and a goddess of a stage manager, they sold out the entire run, including the much coveted encore performance. In her hypothetical free time, Lacey enjoys painting, yoga, watching Dexter, drinking boxed wine, and listening to guilty pleasure pop music. Lacey was recenty seen in Agatha Christie’s The Hollow at Theatre in the Round this May/June, and Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis with Freshwater this summer. Lacey was last onstage in Does This Look Gay On Me as part of Freshwater Theatre’s  Better (or) Worse, as well as in the touring 515 Project throughout the state of Minnesota.

 

John Zeiler

 

 

 

 

 


John Zeiler

(Company Member)

John T. Zeiler graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a BA, with Majors in Dance and English.  A true workaholic, you will most definitely find him singing, dancing, or acting all over the Twin Cities (on stage or camera) at any given time of the year, even if he hasn’t been cast in anything (please, send money). After stumbling upon the professional acting circuit in 2007, John has had the pleasure of working with Off-Leash AreaYellow Tree Theatre20% Theatre Company, and Actors’ Theater of MN, just to name a few.  John is honored and ridiculously excited to call Freshwater Theatre home and family. John was recently seen in Swandive Theatre’s production of Crumble: Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake, Freshwater’s Desperation Panties, Falsettos with Joey Clark Productions, Where We’re Born with 20% Theatre, To Mars with Tesla with English Scrimshaw Theatrical Novelties and Boogieography in the 2012 Fringe. John directed Scars, a short play about breast cancer, as part of Freshwater’s Better (or) Worse.

For more updates on John’s life check out his MNPlaylist profile page at:http://minnesotaplaylist.com/talent/john-t-zeiler or just drop by the apartment and have a drink with him.  Love you Mooma and Daddoo, with all my heart.