WINSTON-SALEM – After more than two decades as dean of the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), Gerald Freedman leaves behind both a legacy and a landmark. At a gala celebrity event on Nov. 15, the school announced that its largest theatre on campus will be named in his honor.
The Proscenium Thrust, a 350-seat theatre located in the Performance Place on the UNCSA campus, is now The Gerald Freedman Theatre, it was announced Thursday at a “passing of the torch” dinner honoring both Freedman and the new dean, Carl Forsman. Freedman, now dean emeritus, stepped down from his post on June 30, 2012. Forsman became dean on July 1.
UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri made the announcement at the dinner that included prize-winning author and founder of the School, John Ehle, and his wife, the actress Rosemary Harris, a frequent guest artist in the drama school, as well as UNCSA alumni Dane DeHaan, Anna Wood, and Preston Lane.
“We knew we wanted to celebrate Gerald in a permanent way, more permanent even than the many students he has sent out into the world to perform,” Chancellor Mauceri said. “We wanted some part of this campus that had his name on it. As of tonight we have a theatre named for our dear and beloved Gerry.”
Freedman said he was touched to have the theatre bear his name. “The reputation of the School of Drama and the quality of the talent we produce yearly is what I am most proud of in my 60 plus years in the theatre,” he said. “I live in the work of my students.”
Three of his former students spoke in Freedman’s honor. Lane, who received his B.F.A. from the School of Drama in 1992, was a member of the first class to graduate under Freedman’s leadership. “Every day, every moment I have spent with you has been extraordinary. Thank you for making me a director,” said Lane, who is artistic director and co-founder of Triad Stage in Greensboro.
Recently-married DeHaan and Wood both graduated from UNCSA’s high school drama program in 2004 and received B.F.A. degrees in 2008. They listed what they had learned from Freedman.
“Work hard and always find joy,” said DeHaan, who has appeared in CHRONICLE and LAWLESS and on television in HBO’s In Treatment. “It’s called a ‘play’ for a reason.”
Wood, who appeared in CHRONICLE and NICE GUY JOHNNY and on television in AMC’s Mad Men, said Freedman taught her the importance of always being on time. “And early is on time,” she said. “He also taught us to be fearless and unapologetic about who we are as artists and as human beings,” she added.
DeHaan recalled his first meeting with Freedman, in the theatre that now bears his name: “He told us to fail, fail hard, and do not apologize for failure because that is how you learn.”
Freedman and the alumni agreed that UNCSA has found a capable new dean of drama. “I had never met Carl Forsman before last April,” Freedman said. “It was like a meeting of old friends. We immediately started talking about things we love: our mutual respect for good writers and great acting, the importance of actors having a process, tools learned through hard work, respect for craft, respect for a living art form thousands of years old. We had fun. Time passed quickly. I knew he was the one.”
DeHaan said of the transition: “Gerald Freedman is known for having the smallest feet in show business, but they are big shoes to fill.”
Following the dinner, guests attended the junior class production of Detective Story, Forsman’s directorial debut at UNCSA. “I will do no more than my best,” Forsman said, telling the guests he hoped the play would measure up to standards they had come to expect from UNCSA. “It is a great thing that has been entrusted to me.”
Mauceri, who has announced that he will leave UNCSA in June to return to his roots as a conductor and a writer, credited Freedman for bringing him to UNCSA. The Chancellor told a story about running into Freedman backstage at a Broadway show seven years ago, and catching up on the 20-some years since they had last seen each other.
“He told me about this wonderful school, and how they were going to do a 50th anniversary production of West Side Story,” Mauceri said, adding that he told his longtime friend and colleague, “Gosh, I’d do anything to be conducting that show with you, Gerry!”
Freedman expressed gratitude to colleagues, many friends of the School of Drama, and to his mentors, including Jerome Robbins, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Joe Papp, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Whitehead, Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, Kurt Herbert Adler, Judy Holiday, and Mildred Dunnock. “Not many of these legendary figures have theatres named after them, sad to say. Now, I do!”
UNCSA will undertake a special fund-raising effort for the School of Drama in honor of the naming of the Gerald Freedman Theatre.
Gerald Freedman became Dean of the School of Drama in 1991. He is an Obie Award winner and the first American director invited to direct at the Globe Theatre in London. He is regarded nationally for productions of classic drama, musicals, operas, new plays and television. 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.
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. His Broadway direction includes 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. 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. 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 the School of the Arts, 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. He 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.
Carl Forsman was appointed Dean of Drama at UNCSA in May. He was the founding Artistic Director of Keen Company in New York City, a not-for-profit theatre dedicated to “sincerity” – a home for plays which are optimistic and champion the best in humanity. In 12 years, Keen Company produced 28 plays off- and off-off Broadway. Keen Company was awarded a Special Drama Desk Award in 2005 “for moving and enlightening audiences with plays that build upon our theatrical heritage.” The company was nominated for eight additional Drama Desk Awards, and for a special Obie Award.
Forsman was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director for Keen’s production of The Voice of the Turtle. His production of Michael Murphy’s Sin (A Cardinal Deposed) was honored with an Obie Award for Outstanding Production. He directed plays at Keen Company by Thornton Wilder, Tina Howe, Somerset Maugham, SN Behrman, Conor McPherson, PG Wodehouse, and many others. As a free-lance director, he has worked at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New World Stages, Primary Stages, Asolo Rep, the Court Theatre of L.A., The Garter Lane Theatre of Ireland, Long Wharf Theatre, and FringeNYC. Forsman has directed some of America’s foremost actors, including Kathleen Chalfant, Rebecca Luker, Jonathan Hogan, Lisa Emery, DB Woodside, Jack Gilpin, Jan Maxwell and Thomas Jay Ryan. Three actors under his direction have been nominated for Drama Desk Awards: John Cullum for The Conscientious Objector; Sarah Nina Hayon for rearviewmirror; and Brian D’Arcy James for The Good Thief (which also won an Obie Award for performance). From 2006-09, Forsman served as artistic director of the Dorset Theatre Festival, a summer professional theatre in southern Vermont. From 1998-2000, he was the literary manager for the Blue Light Theatre Company in New York.
Forsman is a member of the National Advisory Board for the Drama League Director’s Project, the Advisory Board for the Red Bull Theatre Company in New York, and is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a B.A. in theater and economics, and from the University of Minnesota with an M.F.A. in directing. He has taught and/or directed at Middlebury College, the American Festival for the Arts in Houston, Southern Methodist University/Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, Florida State’s ASOLO Actor Training Program, Primary Stages Einhorn School for Theater in New York, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
A native of Boone, Preston Lane has an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. He has directed more than 20 productions at Triad Stage, ranging from the theatre’s 2002 grand opening production of Suddenly Last Summer to The Turn of the Screw, A Streetcar Named Desire, and David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries. Other productions include A Tuff Shuffle for the National Black Theatre Festival; Overruled, off-Broadway; Love! Valour! Compassion! for Stage One; and the world premieres of If Only and Get It While You Canfor Summer Cabaret.
Lane was formerly artistic associate at the Dallas Theater Center, where his productions included the U.S. premiere of Inexpressible Island (Dallas Observer’s Best of Dallas Awards for Best Director and Best Production) and The Night of the Iguana (Dallas Morning News’ 2002 Top Ten Theatre List). As a playwright, he is the recipient of a grant from the Fox Foundation to develop Wondrous Love. Other adaptations include Hedda Gabler, Dracula, Mirandolina, Julie’s Dance and Brother Wolf for Triad Stage; A Christmas Carol for Dallas Theater Center and Sonoma County Rep; and Three Weeks After Marriage and Helen! for Summer Cabaret.
He has taught at the UNCSA, N.C. A&T State University, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Southern Methodist University and the Professional Actors Workshop at the Dallas Theater Center. He is an alumnus of the Drama League of New York’s Director’s Project.
Dane DeHaan appears in the acclaimed LINCOLN and in the gritty moonshiner film LAWLESS. Also this year, he starred in CHRONICLE. Additional feature film credits include AMIGO and JACK AND DIANE. He appeared in the television movie THE FRONT with Andie McDowell and Daniel Sunjata.
DeHaan received rave reviews and an Obie Award (Off-Broadwayʼs highest honor) for his portayal of Evan Shelmerdine, a lonely high school student, in Annie Bakerʼs The Aliens at the Rattlestick Playwrightʼs Theatre. He appeared on stage in Sixty Miles to Silver Lake at Soho Rep, a performance that was called “masterly” by The New Yorker and “superb” by the New York Post. In End Days at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Charles Isherwood of The New York Times singled him out as “the productionʼs standout performance.”
DeHaan also has appeared in HBOʼs In Treatment and True Blood. He is from Allentown, Pa.
Anna Wood appeared in CHRONICLE, NICE GUY JOHNNY and the upcoming television movie TROOPER. On television, she has appeared on Mad Men, NCIS: Los Angeles, House of Lies, Brothers and Sisters, Cold Case and Royal Pains. At UNCSA, she played Maria in the 50th anniversary production of West Side Story, directed by Gerald Freedman with John Mauceri as musical director and conductor. She is from Mount Airy.