By Rich Pollack
Niki Fridh is a master at multi-tasking.
A theater-arts teacher and a kindergarten assistant at Gulf Stream School, Fridh’s world revolves around the stage.
When she’s not instilling wonder, creativity and confidence in her young charges, Fridh is performing in the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace and rehearsing for her roles in the Take Heed Theater Company’s novel approach to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, debuting at the Old School Square outdoor pavilion later this month.
Oh, and in her spare moments, Fridh is searching for a permanent home in Delray Beach for the Take Heed Theater Company, which she leads along with her husband, Matt Stabile, and good friend David Hyland.
Theater is a 24/7 lifestyle for Fridh, who has been teaching at the Gulf Stream School for five years. “My mom put me in a show when I was 5 and I fell in love with it,” she says. “I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
An actress first and foremost, Fridh began teaching at the school part time while still studying at Florida Atlantic University.
After graduation, she moved into a full-time position.
“The job at Gulf Stream just fell into my lap,” she said. “It’s a great fit and a wonderful school. I can’t imagine teaching anywhere else.”
Her students, including those who perform in the fourth-grade holiday show extravaganza that she produces and directs, know of her other life outside of the classroom, but few have had a chance to see her perform.
That’s changing now, however, thanks to the collaboration the nonprofit Take Heed Theater Company has formed with Old School Square.
“All of my kids at school are ecstatic,” she says. “They’re going to get to see Ms. Fridh performing.”
The free performance (donations are appreciated) will be held outdoors as part of Old School Square’s Shakespeare at the Pavilion program, with the audience seated on blankets or folding chairs and enjoying a picnic dinner.
As to the production, there are only six actors, each taking on a multitude of roles. Fridh, for example, plays the female lead Beatrice, the villainous Don John and the watchman.
Actors need to cleverly switch from role to role and from costume to costume in this production, which is fast-paced, fun and perhaps a little irreverent to the bard while still paying respect to the master playwright.
“Shakespeare doesn’t have to be boring,” Fridh says. “I’ve really learned to love it.”
The production, according to Joe Gillie, Old School Square’s president and CEO, is light enough for younger audiences and impressive enough for audiences of all ages to enjoy, in part because of the unique interpretation.
“This is a great way to study Shakespeare,” he said. “The whole family can come, have a picnic and enjoy a fun show.”
While Take Heed Theater Company has been performing regularly — at the Stage West Theater at Palm Beach Community College, where Hyland is the chairman of the theater department, and also at the Black Box Theater at the G Star School of the Arts, where Stabile is head of the acting program — the nonprofit company is hoping to find a permanent space in Delray Beach.
“We’re looking for a home,” Fridh says.
Fridh says that she and her cohorts at the theater company all enjoy being educators and can look past the long hours and hard work that comes with being teachers and performers simultaneously.
“We do it because it’s our passion,” she says. “It’s a collaborative art, and we all need that creative outlet.”
If You Go
Shakespeare at the Pavilion:
Much Ado About Nothing
Take Heed Theater Company
Old School Square Cultural Arts Center Outdoor Pavilion
Friday, May 18, to Sunday, May 20
Friday, May 25, to Sunday, May 27
Time: 8 p.m.
Preview performance Thursday, May 17, during downtown’s On The Ave celebration
Cost: Free, although donations are appreciated.
Additional info: The performance is family- friendly, and guests are encouraged to bring a blanket, chairs and a picnic dinner. No pets, please; they just don’t appreciate Shakespeare.