Alum spotlight: Jenny McConnell Frederick (BFA ’97)

collage of photos

Jenny McConnell Frederick, BFA in Performance, 1997

Co-Artistic Director, Rorschach Theatre

It’s interesting that Jenny co-founded the Rorschach Theatre with Randy Baker, who was a theatre alum from The University of Richmond. They didn’t meet until after she graduated and landed an internship with DC’s Source Theatre Company. They became friends and co-founded their theatre in 1999.

Rorschach Theatre Co-Founders, Jordana Adelman, Jason Gotts, Jenny Frederick and Randy Baker (University of Richmond, 1996) 

After that summer, she interned at Wooly Mammoth, where she worked for ten years as resident assistant stage manager in addition to working in development and special events. “It was like a masters program in theatre administration, capital campaigns and the evolution of an organization as it scaled up.” Obviously, these skills would prove helpful as she established her own company.

Jenny with fellow VCU Alums Adam Bair (BFA ’98) and Ashley (Ertel) Taylor (BFA ’98) in Fall 1994 

Jenny also served as AD of DC’s Source Festival for over a decade, overseeing the selection, development, and production of more than 200 works for the stage. Jenny’s work at Rorschach ran concurrently with these other positions.

As for the genesis of Rorschach, Jenny explains, “A friend wanted to do The Hairy Ape and other shows that we weren’t we seeing in DC theatre. We like shows with very visceral performances and strong emotional heart.”

God of Vengeance at Rorschach Theatre, Directed by Jenny Frederick 2001 

After strong attendance they realized, “Wow! We have something that people want to see! Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about their production of The Illusion that Jenny directed for Rorschach in 2001.

“It’s not hard to find talent among the more than 80 theater companies in Washington. But brilliance — that rare confluence of perfect design, direction and performance — that’s something else again. Rorschach Theatre achieves it… proof that limited resources do not stymie great talents, any more than big budgets can squeeze works of genius from mediocre minds.”

Scarlet Letter at Rorschach Theatre, Directed by Jenny Frederick 2005 

Jenny explains the theatre’s name, “It’s an excellent metaphor for theatre. What you see on stage depends on who you are. It’s more about you.” She became full time AD for Rorschach in 2018. “I’m a mom, which is a full time too, but it’s been an amazing transformation to put full time focus on it.”

This Storm is What We Call Progress at Rorschach Theatre, Directed by Jenny Frederick 2008 

During COVID, they pivoted to an unusual approach by creating Distance Frequencies. Audience members were sent a special package once a month for seven months, which included artifacts and instructions to a location in DC. “When you arrived, the location told a different chapter in a story that covered 100 years of DC history with fictional characters.” It ended with live outdoor performance in July.

Distance Frequencies, at Rorschach Theatre, 2021 
Distance Frequencies, at Rorschach Theatre, 2021 

It was the highest grossing project ever for Rorschach with almost 500 people getting involved.  “By immersing people in the city, they’re having a theatrical experience. Kind of an analog augmented reality.”

Jenny with alum and friend Ashley Taylor (BFA ’98) and their sons. Jenny’s arm is around Killian, Ashley’s kid. The blonde, Thane, is Jenny’s son.

Header image ( clockwise from left): Ashley Taylor (BFA ’98) & Jenny Frederick, 1997; Jenny, Matt & Thane Frederick 2019; Thane & Jenny Frederick, Source Festival Opening Night 2012; Jenny Frederick & Randy Baker, Co-Artistic Directors, 2021 

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the September 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.