Elizabeth Lucas had a vision for the Frederick community of creating a space where high-quality, immersive entertainment and events were able to merge with regional professional artists and those with a passion for the arts.
In 2018, she created Free Range Humans, producing several immersive productions at locations that are not traditional theater venues, such as McClintock Distilling, Union Mills and a downtown Frederick church.
Knowing she needed to be training the artists of the future, she founded Free Range Kids and Free Range Teens in 2020. Both are multi-tiered programs designed to help youth find and share their voices. The organization offers classes, workshops and camps.
Lucas recently hired a new director of early childhood to expand programming, but some of current offerings for the age 7 and younger group include toddler open play and theater explorations. The programs are come as you are; there is no requirement to buy expensive clothing just to participate.
“(We wanted) a low barrier way for people to get started in theater, come in and learn to value their creativity and their voices, get on stage and get comfortable making stories and being in front of people and learn the basics of theater,” she says.
The middle tier, between the ages of 8 to 11, is starting to put their voices into practice, Lucas notes. Classes at this tier aim to help kids develop storytelling skills. Classes in this age group include Dungeons and Dragons and filmmaking. The teen programs focus on skills on stage and off, including stage combat, improv and fashion design. A program they hope to implement this summer is having teens work with the Free Range Humans professional cast on their production.
The programs are located inside the Francis Scott Key Mall, which offers high visibility through regular foot traffic. “We want it to be a really accessible and low barrier place to try things,” she says.
Free Range is also set to open The Field Performing Arts Center in late summer and early fall. The space will be a venue where performances from local theater companies can take place as well as serve as a site for individual artists to teach.
Lucas notes Free Range wants to hear from parents and values their feedback on what they need from a venue and what makes them and their kids want to try the programs. Parents can stay while classes are taking place, feel free to walk the mall or do work in their lounge area.
“We have so many ways for parents to interact with what we are doing,” she says. “That transparency is valued and helpful.”