Juliet Fixel has been cutting her teeth in the world of theater since the age of two, and she doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. With the premier of Freefall Frostbite on Oct. 19-a collaborative effort with her father, the playwright-Fixel has not only found herself in the director's chair, but also taking on the role of producer, choreographer and lead actress-eat your heart out, Daniel-Day Lewis.
Freefall Frostbite is an exploration of our childhood ambitions as they come to fruition as we mature. Set outside a nightclub in New York on New Year's Eve, Steven and his girlfriend Sharon-played by Fixel-are denied access to said club and are set upon by homeless people looking for things to burn for warmth. As their world comes crashing in around them, they begin to realize what they have always wanted may not be as they imagined.
A daughter of Jacksonville and now the adopted child of NYC, just like the timeless Johnny Cash put it, "[She's] been everywhere, man." Fixel runs her own choreography studio, has taught theater at Nease High School and manages the NYC Karaoke League-all while being a self-proclaimed Scrabble master.
The story of her adventure from Northeast Florida to the Big Apple and now to the director's chair, is almost as theatrical as her work. Fixel was kind enough to sit down for a phone interview and talk about her upcoming production. Here are some highlights.
How did you get your start in theater?
I was definitely enrolled in dance classes from the time that I was two and my family is just very theatrical, but the choice to do theater was actually my own. My sister did a little theater, but I remember she told me when I was going into high school, "You can't do theater, you won't be popular." [Laughing] I didn't listen. My mom actually became a theater teacher after I started doing theater in high school. So, I kind of got my whole family into theater. My dad was actually an english major in college and he wrote lots of plays, and then he kind of put them away. My whole life I didn't really know so much about the fact that he used to write plays. And then when I moved to New York, he was like, "Oh, I have these old plays that I should do something with." So, that's kind of how this whole thing started.
Was it difficult making the transition from Jacksonville to New York City?
I lived in Jacksonville my entire life and I went to college in Gainesville. Then I moved to New York, which is just a completely different world. I was here for about two years and then I moved back home for a year and I taught theater at Nease High School. It takes awhile to get used to living in New York. It's a completely different lifestyle. So, I'd say my first two years here were my learning curve, and then when I came back to Florida I was like, "I love it here, but I'm supposed to be in New York." Since I've moved back, I've been able to really focus on my career and now that I'm used to living in New York, you know, like actually make things start to happen.
On the topic of your play, how were you involved in bringing it to the stage?
So, in 2013 we put on this show. My dad wrote it and then I produced it, directed it, did everything with it myself. And since then, I've been getting people together and we've been rereading it and I'll tell my dad, "Hey, I think you should rewrite this part," or, "I think we should reorder this." So, I helped him figure out how to rewrite the whole thing. And then, this past February, I got a group of my friends together and we wrote all the music for it, turning it into a musical. I also got a couple friends to help with the back end stuff...This production I'm actually directing, choreographing, executive producing, and I'm the lead female in it as well [laughing].
Do you find it difficult to stay objective while being in both the director's chair and leading role?
It's VERY difficult. How I have made it easier is that I have two people from the original production, and they're my assistant directors. I film all of our rehearsals and I go home and watch all of our rehearsals back and give notes based on the footage. So, when we're running it, I can still play my part and then I can still look at it from the other side of it...The assistants help focus, especially on the scenes that I'm in.
Is there a central theme or message that you're trying to convey through the production?
Absolutely! The show is about liberation. And it's about this idea of, you know, growing up we always think of "Oh! This is what I want to be when I grow up. This is what I want my life to be." But, sometimes we don't stop to reflect on if that's something we still want as we grow up, or if we've just been trained to want that. And so, the show is about liberating yourself from the things you're supposed to want, and finding what you actually do want.