Jane Froiland can trace her love of performing all the way back to Sharon Papic’s second grade class at Eden Prairie’s Eden Lake Elementary.
“I had a very generous teacher who let me perform skits,” recalled Froiland.
Froiland took advantage of Papic’s generosity and performed as often as possible. Soon, other kids were asking to get involved and Froiland found herself not only writing and acting, but casting and directing as well.
“I realized it was a good way to get positive attention,” she said. “I took that and ran with it.”
That run has brought her all the way to the Guthrie Theatre, where she made her debut this month as Greta Ohlsson in “Murder on the Orient Express.”
“I am incredibly excited,” she said.
Addicted to acting
Working at the Guthrie has long been a bucket list item for Froiland. She still recalls the first time she saw A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. “I remember thinking, ‘This is magical.’”
Despite acting all throughout her formative years, Froiland vowed to “get serious” after graduating from Eden Prairie High School in 2001. She told herself that she wouldn’t declare a theater major at the University of Minnesota, but after making her stage debut in “Angel Street” at Theatre in the Round, Froiland knew just where she belonged.
“I couldn’t give it up,” she said.
Since then, Froiland has made the rounds with shows at the Children’s Theatre, Park Square Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Jungle Theater, Yellow Tree Theater, The Zephyr Theatre, Gremlin Theatre and the Shadow Theatre Company before landing her role in the Guthrie production of “Murder on the Orient Express.”
“I think I’ve worked at every theater in the Twin Cities,” she laughed.
“Minnesota’s a great place to make art.”
Working her way around town, Froiland has picked up a variety of skills along the way. “I considered myself an apprentice,” she said. “I still do.”
With shows of varying budgets, Froiland has done it all, from makeup to costumes and more. “It taught me a lot of resilience,” she said.
That resilience came in handy when the pandemic struck, and theaters went dark.
“I pivoted,” she said.
Froiland leaned on her skill set to get into teaching and coaching. “I’ve been an acting coach for puppeteers, helped politicians with their debate prep, I even taught a Santa Claus how to say ‘Ho, ho, ho!’”
And now, with theaters opening their doors again, Froiland is happy to return to the stage. “I am an actor and I will always be an actor,” she said.
“The other stuff is fulfilling, but in a different way.”
A delicious role
Froiland said she has long wanted to perform an Agatha Christie piece on stage. “Murder on the Orient Express” gives her that opportunity.
The Guthrie production, running through July 2, is based on Ken Ludwig’s adaptation for the stage, which is a streamlined version of the mystery novel. The story follows the aftermath of the murder of an American businessman on the famed Orient Express, where detective Hercule Poirot must determine which of eight suspects aboard the train committed the crime.
“It’s really well adapted,” said Froiland. “There’s a surprising amount of emotional depth, but it’s also really funny with quirky characters. All in all, it’s very delicious.”
To get into the character of Greta Ohlsson and master the challenging Swedish dialect in the process, Froiland dove headfirst into Ohlsson’s back story. “Something I like to do is geek out on history,” she said.
Froiland researched what it would have been like for her character to immigrate to the United States and what job she might have found for herself in the 1930s.
“It’s been such a dream of a process,” she said.
Froiland believes her castmates feel the same way. “We cannot wait to tell you this story,” she said.
Bringing out the best
So far, working at the Guthrie has exceeded Froiland’s every expectation.
“Everyone is lovely and at the top of their game,” she said. “I’ve really been challenged to do my best work.”
Froiland acknowledges that the world of acting is no breeze. “You have to really, really, really want to do it because it is really hard,” she said.
Still, Froiland has no plans to give up her dreams any time soon. “The reason I’m still here is that I really, really want to do it.”
A few quick questions with Jane Froiland:
Q. Favorite show you’ve worked on?
A: Probably this one, because our acting company is so delightful. Another highlight is working for Ten Thousand Things because they tour shows in prisons and shelters, and they are always fabulous audiences!
Q. Favorite role to date?
A. I have several! Cleo in “Rocket to the Moon,” Marie Antoinette in both the show “Marie Antoinette” AND “The Revolutionists,” and Captain Nemo in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Q. Dream show?
A. Can I answer with dream playwrights? Tennessee Williams, Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen. Lynn Nottage … gosh, I have a lot of them!
Q. Dream role?
A. I would like to play Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” again. I played her once, but I was probably a bit too young.
Q. Drama or comedy?
A. Don’t make me choose! I love the joy-making of performing comedy, and I love the catharsis of performing drama.
Q. Stage or screen?
A. Definitely stage. The feel of a live audience makes that kind of work feel electric! Plus, you get to go on your character’s journey every time, whereas with film, it is filmed out of sequence, and there is a lot of “hurry up and wait.”
For more about Jane Froiland, visit janefroiland.net.
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