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Gerald Freedman honored
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Gerald Freedman honored

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Gerald Freedman

Gerald Freedman

Dean Emeritus Gerald Freedman of the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame at a ceremony Nov. 15 in New York.

Freedman served as dean of the School of Drama for 21 years until his retirement in 2012. He died in March 2020 at the age of 92.

The 50th anniversary ceremony of the Hall of Fame was hosted by Joel Grey, whom Freedman directed in the 1978 Broadway musical “The Grand Tour.” Also inducted Monday were designer Bob Crowley, actors Victor Garber and Leslie Uggams, actor/playwright Anna Deveare Smith and composer Alan Menken, who was the UNCSA commencement speaker in 2011.

Playwright and screenwriter Alfred Uhry announced Freedman’s induction during the ceremony at Broadway’s famed Gershwin Theatre, where Freedman’s name has been inscribed in the rotunda.

Uhry, also a member of the Hall of Fame, was UNCSA commencement speaker in 1998. Announcing Freedman’s induction, he said, “Gerald did more than move actors around and make pretty stage pictures. He help performers learn to dig into their characters and find motivation for what they were doing and saying. He used his passion, intelligence and extensive knowledge of all areas of stagecraft to inform his work.

“Gerald Freedman was a natural born teacher,” Uhry continued. “He inspired literally hundreds of actors, directors, designers, writers (including me).”

Freedman’s best friend and colleague Robert Beseda said the award would have meant the world to Freedman and receiving it from Uhry would have been especially meaningful. “Gerald and Alfred, and Alfred’s wife, daughters, dog and multiple cats were among Gerald’s closest friends. They were neighbors on the Upper West Side,” Beseda said.

“Gerald and Alfred first collaborated in the 1970s on a developmental workshop production of ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ for which Uhry wrote the lyrics, and later on the Broadway production starring Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone,” he added.

Beseda, who received Freedman’s Hall of Fame medallion, said “The ceremony was wonderful, dazzlingly dreamlike — mingling with show folks at the top of their profession, friends, companions, colleagues, devoted to and passionate about theater, ecstatic that shows are back up, telling stories about the old days, worried about the world today. Our ‘Gerbear’ as his students called him was one of these people, and he was very present last night, highly regarded and greatly missed.”

During his career of six decades, Freedman collaborated with Tony Award-winning choreographer, director and producer Jerome Robbins on the groundbreaking original Broadway productions of “West Side Story” and “Gypsy.” He and Robbins co-directed the 1980 Broadway revival of “West Side Story.”

In addition to “The Robber Bridegroom” and “The Grand Tour,” other Broadway directing credits include 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.

The Theater Hall of Fame was founded in 1970 to honor lifetime achievement in the American theater by preserving its history, honoring present theater professionals and encouraging emerging artists.

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@fdanielWSJ

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