by Carole Verona
As an actor, Alan Brincks has many responsibilities. After auditioning and landing a role, he studies the script, memorizes lines and spends long hours at numerous rehearsals.
But one thing this Brooklyn, New York, resident doesn’t have to worry about is a place to stay while playing the Clerk and Lodger 3 in the current production of “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka at Mt. Airy’s Quintessence Theatre. That’s because local residents Jim Sicks and Katie Day have graciously opened their home to Alan and his wife, Faith Fossett, also an actor and a singer/songwriter, whenever they perform at Quintessence.
Alan became involved with Quintessence when he auditioned for the company’s production of “Mourning Becomes Electra” in New York City last spring. “I discovered an amazing group of people making excellent theatre here in Philadelphia,” he said. “Since then, I have been fortunate enough to have been cast in the company’s productions of ‘As You Like It,’ ‘Richard II’ and now ‘The Metamorphosis.’” Most recently, Faith appeared as the Queen of Hearts in Quintessence’s recent production of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
With a B.A. in theatre arts and a B.A. in English literature, both from Nebraska Wesleyan University, Alan had the opportunity to study abroad and take classes at Shakespeare’s Globe in London through a program offered by Washington University of Saint Louis. He has also studied at The Pearl Theatre Conservatory in New York City.
“Jim and Katie have become family,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a better place to stay. I have stayed in artist lodging with other regional theatre companies, which has been fine, but there is something very comforting about staying with someone in their own home, especially when you are away from your own family.
“Having a place to stay during the rehearsals and the run of a show certainly makes it easier to focus on the production. While I still need to pay rent on my Brooklyn apartment, not having to pay for my own lodging here in Philadelphia enables me to focus my time and energy to give audiences my best performance.”
Host Jim Sicks became acquainted with Quintessence through his son, Will, who is currently on the board of directors. Will and Alexander Burns, the founder and artistic director of Quintessence, were classmates at Germantown Friends (class of 1999). They stayed in touch over the years and saw each other fairly regularly, especially when they both lived in New York City.
“When Alex came back to Philadelphia and started up Quintessence at the Sedgwick in the fall of 2010, Katie and I tried to get to all of the productions and were able to make a few modest contributions,” Sicks said. “We also got to reacquaint ourselves with Alex. In the spring of the 2011-12 season, Alex, who knew we were empty nesters and lived a few blocks from the theater, asked if we could house Robert Jason Jackson, who was coming in from Cincinnati to play Creon in ‘Antigone.’
“We enjoyed the experience so much that we let Alex know we would be glad to do it on a regular basis. During the 2012-13 season, we hosted Ross Hurwitz, who played Desdemona in the all-male production of ‘Othello.’ During the 2013-14 season, we met Alan Brincks and his wife, Faith Fossett.
“The four actors who have stayed with us have very different personalities and are at very different stages in their careers. Each has been a delight to host! We’ve learned a great deal about their struggle to be able to stay in the business. Their determination is pretty remarkable, not to mention the thick skin they need to live with the audition/rejection cycle.”
Katie and Jim, who have been married for 10 years, live in a faculty house on the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia campus where Katie, 64, a sociologist and Presbyterian minister, has taught courses for 30 years about the interrelationship of church and society. Jim, 67, who retired two years ago, was a corporate lawyer for 32 years and then spent six years as the executive director of a small nonprofit that provided financial services to people with disabilities.
While staying in the neighborhood, Alan and Faith, who are both under 30, have frequented the many coffeehouses, bars, restaurants and shops in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy.
“We have explored the streets and trails of the area, marveled at the beauty of your architecture and have been overwhelmed by the kindness of your residents,” said Alan. “When you multiply our positive experience of Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill by the many other actors, designers, musicians, choreographers, and theatre artists who come to work on a production, as well as the hundreds of audience members that come to see the shows, you begin to see the positive economic role a theatre like Quintessence has on a community.”
Finding host families is important because many of the actors in Quintessence productions are from out of town. During 2014, Quintessence had 17 artists who required a total of 140 weeks of local housing. Chestnut Hill resident Wes Somerville, managing director, said, “Without local hosts, we would have to rent short-term furnished apartments, which are usually priced for corporate use. If we could find furnished apartments for $1,000 per month, we would have had to budget over $35,000 for artist housing. We would simply not be able to bring so many talented people to Mt Airy/Chestnut Hill without the generous support of our host families.”
Bowman Properties also made a significant contribution to help the theatre keep costs down. Owner Richard Snowden donated the former O’Doodle’s space to Quintessence to use for rehearsals for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
“I became aware of Quintessence through Joan Coale, one of their board members,” said Snowden. “I thought they added something really positive to the mix of the neighborhood. When I met with them last summer, they said they needed rehearsal space because they were building a set in the theatre for an upcoming production. Their need coincided with what we were able to do with that particular property.”
“The Metamorphosis” opened at Quintessence Theatre at the Sedgwick, 7137 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy on Feb. 7 and runs to March 1. Quintessence is also holding a recitation related to this production: Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” on Monday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m. For information and tickets, go to QuintessenceTheatre.org or call 215-987-4450.