“You can’t do it to become famous—that’s just delusional,” says Ari Frenkel ’08 of his passion, acting. “You do it because you choose to do it and it’s what makes you happy.”
It was this passion that led Frenkel, together with five fellow Montclair State theatre alumni, to form their own professional theatre troupe, the StrangeDog Theatre Company. Together, they have staged three full productions, have another three on the way, and have created a short film and several online comedy sketches. “As far as I know, we’re the first ones to do something like this,” says the North Brunswick native, “but I hope it will inspire others to do the same.”
Frenkel’s connection with theatre began at an early age. His brother was a member of a local community theatre and Frenkel remembers watching rehearsals and helping out by doing odd jobs. When he was old enough, he joined the company, began performing, and hasn’t stopped since.
During his years at Montclair State, he was part of a theatre production every semester and capped his college career by winning the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 2008 National Festival.
Now living in New York City, Frenkel is still with StrangeDog Theatre and has done a television commercial, and a few short films and workshops. He also recently landed the role of Nathan Detroit in a professional production of “Guys and Dolls” in a theatre in Wisconsin. “I’m going to continue acting as much as I can,” he says. “It’s the best way to keep growing as an artist.”
He admits that jobs are hard to come by these days but is undeterred in his commitment to his art. He is currently writing a film, plans to continue studying acting privately, and possibly one day, earn an MFA. “I also plan on heading to Los Angeles in a few years,” he adds. “Gotta give it a shot, right?”
The future of StrangeDog Theatre, according to Frenkel, is bright. The company members are all equally committed and talented, and they are continuing to produce works in all mediums—theatre, film, and for the Internet. But in the end, it is their passion that keeps them going. “We’ve gotten this far together,” laughs Frenkel. “Giving up would just be stupid!”