“They Call Me Mister Fry”: a Solo Show by Alumnus Jack Freiberger
Former Journalism Student Tells a Powerful Story About Education in the U.S.
In a perfect world, the path leading from college to the bright future would guide each student promptly from the stage at graduation to a job that employs the student’s degree and offers a salary, benefits, and eternal happiness. In a less than perfect world, however, students don’t always end up quite where they expect. Sometimes, these landings are platforms for an amazing career. Jack Freiberger (B.A. Journalism, ’86) graduated with hopes of becoming an actor in Los Angeles, but ended up waiting tables, tending bar, performing at children’s birthday parties, teaching tennis and even acting as Jason Bateman’s double and stand-in for three films before achieving his dream. Now, he is a teacher and actor, touring the United States performing his solo show, They Call Me Mister Fry.
In 1990, Freiberger - now known affectionally by his students as Mr. Fry - began student teaching in Los Angeles to pay the bills while he fought for a career in acting. “I ended up loving teaching so much that I decided to take the plunge and get my teacher’s certification,” he says. “I come from a family of teachers, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make.” From this experience, an award-winning and heart-gripping story was born.
They Call Me Mister Fry is Freiberger’s award-winning autobiographical solo show about his first year of teaching 5th graders at a school in South Los Angeles. The story follows Mister Fry’s journey with two students during a tumultuous year that affects all of their lives. Anthony and Jazmine grow up faster than most children should have to: One student experiences life and death issues while the other deals with abandonment. “Mister Fry has a full character arch,” says Freiberger. “It focuses on the relationships I had with two challenging students and how we affected each other’s lives. It also chronicles my journey through the bowels of big city bureaucracy and reveals how all of these challenges influenced relationships in my personal life.”
During its four year run so far, They Call Me Mister Fry has been performed almost 150 times and received many awards and recognitions. Melinda Malico, director of internal communications for the U.S. Department of Education says, “[Mister Fry] likely helped motivate our staff as they moved forward with their daily work of helping states, school districts, schools and teachers put into action the very laws that are designed to help students – especially those from disadvantaged environments – learn more and succeed in life.” Mister Fry has also captured awards, including Best Male Monologue (2009 Capital Fringe All Arts Review), A Best of the Fest (2010 Hollywood Fringe) and Encore Winner (2011 Boulder Fringe).
Freiberger’s time at Meadows shaped his future career as a teacher and actor. “I use my major every day, whether it be in the classroom or in my ‘showbiz’ career,” he says. Freiberger studied journalism at Meadows, which gave him the skill set to edit the footage used in They Call Me Mister Fry, direct a reality TV pilot, act in various teleplays and write Mister Fry as well as three other screenplays. “In the classroom, I use the skills I gained at SMU to liven up my lessons,” says Freiberger. “I use sound effects and storytelling devices to keep my students involved.”
But the most important facet of Freiberger’s SMU career was the inspiring relationships with his professors. “I had professors who not only made their courses fascinating and inspiring, but took a personal interest in me as well,” he says. “This extra time and personal touch made an everlasting impression on me. I have carried these relationships with me all my life and frequently draw upon them.” Freiberger cites Duane Bogie, Tom Powell, Don Pasquella, Bob Banner and Bill Jones among his most impressive professors.
Freiberger hopes that the future of They Call Me Mister Fry will involve making the solo show into a movie or TV show. “The show is getting a stronger following each year,” he says. The most important thing is that I continue to [perform] the show and touch audiences while creating an awareness of the importance of teachers and what we must go through, as well as the realities of trying to be sure that no child is left behind.”