Dec. 1, 2011/For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Marla Carpenter, 336-770-3337, carpem@uncsa.edu




At the End of the 2011-12 Academic Year

WINSTON-SALEM – Legendary theatre and opera director Gerald Freedman, dean of the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts since 1991, has announced that he will step down at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

He called an all-School of Drama meeting on Nov. 18 and told the faculty and students: “I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I want you to be the first to know what I’ve decided to do. At the end of this school year, I will step down as dean and accept the title of dean emeritus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not retiring and will hopefully continue to teach directing, acting and direct productions as well. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Freedman, 84, suffered a major stroke in February 2011. Unable to stand or even swallow early on, his recovery has been remarkable. He stood and addressed his Drama graduates at UNCSA’s May 2011 commencement. And this fall, after months of rehab, he resumed some of his duties at UNCSA, where he is attending meetings and teaching a directing class, assisted by alumna Ashley Gates Jansen. Freedman is expected to continue to improve.

In an email to the campus community, UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri said, “Dean Freedman’s impact on UNCSA is enormous and there are not enough words to convey our deep gratitude to him.”

Mauceri said the campus will be planning a way to honor Freedman’s legacy this year, even as Freedman continues his work in the School of Drama. “Needless to say, we look forward to his continued involvement in the school he has molded with such excellence,” Mauceri said.

Mauceri added that a search committee for a new dean of Drama will be announced soon, and that the search will commence after the beginning of the new calendar year.

In 2009, UNCSA honored Dean Freedman at a gala event that raised more than $300,000 for the Gerald Freedman Endowed Professorship in Drama. Distinguished actors Mandy Patinkin and Olympia Dukakis and alumna Missi Pyle were among those who gave tributes at the gala.

Most recently, Freedman was honored Nov. 14 at the annual Benefit and Cabaret for Sonnet Repertory Theatre, founded by UNCSA alumnae, in New York City. “An Evening of Song and Tribute” celebrated Freedman’s career, with personal tributes from Chancellor Mauceri, Hal Holbrook, Estelle Parsons, Kevin Kline and Austin Pendleton. The cabaret also featured performances by some of Broadway’s greatest talents, including Brian D’Arcy James, Jennifer Ferrin (an alumna), Penny Fuller, Rebecca Naomi Jones (an alumna), Jeremy Jordan, Patti LuPone, Terrence Mann (an alumnus), Bryce Pinkham, Alfred Uhry, Price Waldman and Emily Young. Olympia Dukakis and Chita Rivera performed special video tributes to Freedman. Alumnus Wesley Taylor was the emcee.

As beloved as Gerald Freedman is by his colleagues, he is even more beloved by his students, many of whom see him as a father-figure and friend as well as teacher and mentor. Drama alumnus Neal Bledsoe (class of 2005), who is currently shooting the new NBC/Steven Spielberg series SMASH, said: “I realize now that Gerald's training didn't end when I walked across the stage to collect my diploma. ... Like little time bombs, his training seems to explode into my life when I need it most. His words still work upon me, helping me solve whatever daily riddles that might stand between me and what I want. Beyond approval, beyond fame, beyond laughter, he taught me to want the truth. In four years of playing corrupt mayors; swashbuckling lovers; doomed captains; and assorted spearmen, attendants and lords, he created an artistic standard that for the last six years I have been trying to get back to. …”   School of Drama college senior Jacqueline Robinson said: “He has helped me view acting in the theatre as a craft to be gradually mastered rather than just something I've always done. … With everything that he has been through, his unbelievably keen eye for truth and honest behavior that originates from the text is as sharp as ever. … He's a remarkable man, director, teacher, and artist whose students will continue to love and admire forever.”

During Freedman’s tenure, the School of Drama has become one of the most competitive and highly ranked undergraduate BFA acting conservatories in the nation. He added a directing option to the curriculum, specifically for college juniors and seniors, to work directly with him, including a special summer directing student internship at the prestigious O'Neill Playwrights Conference; the program has produced some of the finest young directors in the theatre today. He introduced Alexander Technique, the International Phonetic Alphabet, and dialect training to the voice and speech curriculum; expanded the combat curriculum, making it the home of the Society of American Fight Directors summer workshops; enriched and strengthened the singing and musical theatre program; reinforced classical values and the teaching of Shakespeare and elevated text; and introduced Meisner acting technique and acting for the camera to the curriculum. He has made diversity in the student body and in productions a priority, resulting in performance of four plays by August Wilson, and many other noted African-American playwrights.

Over the past 20 years he has directed 35 productions at UNCSA, including the all-school musicals Brigadoon and (the 50th anniversary revival of) West Side Story. He was preparing to direct last season’s all-school production of Oklahoma! when he had his stroke, after casting the production and months of work with the principal actors, design team, and musical director, Chancellor Mauceri. Broadway veteran and School of Drama alumnus Terrence Mann stepped in to direct.

An Obie Award-winner, Gerald Freedman holds the distinction of the first American invited to direct at London's Globe Theatre. He is regarded nationally for productions of classic drama, musicals, operas, new plays and television.

Freedman has staged 26 of Shakespeare’s plays, along with dozens of other world classics. He has directed celebrated actors such as Olympia Dukakis, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, Julie Harris, Charles Durning, Sam Waterston, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Jean Stapleton, William Hurt, Carroll O’Connor and Kevin Kline.

 He made theatre history with his off-Broadway premiere of the landmark rock musical Hair, which opened the Public Theatre in 1967.

Freedman served as leading director of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival from 1960-71, the last four years as artistic director. He was co-artistic director of John Houseman’s The Acting Company from 1974-77; artistic director of the American Shakespeare Theatre during 1978-79; and artistic director of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1985-1997. Productions for the Great Lakes Theater Festival include Shakespeare’s King Lear (with Hal Holbrook), which went to the Roundabout Theatre in New York City. 

His Broadway directing credits include The Robber Bridegroom; The Grand Tour with Joel Grey; the revival of West Side Story, co-directed with Jerome Robbins; the premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business; and Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession with Lynn Redgrave and Edward Herrmann.

He directed opera productions for the Opera Society of Washington (Kennedy Center), the San Francisco Opera Company, and New York City Opera. For New York City Opera, he directed revivals of Brigadoon and South Pacific.

Before coming to UNCSA, Freedman taught at Yale and The Juilliard School. A native of Lorain, Ohio, he received both his B.S. and his M.A. (summa cum laude) from Northwestern University. He trained for the stage with Alvina Krause, voice teacher Emmy Joseph and at the Actors Studio. In addition to the Sonnet Repertory Theatre board, Freedman serves on the Kennedy Center New Play Committee and is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. He is a participant in the Oomoto Institute, Kameoka, Japan.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.