Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer, take note — there’s a play in town that will help you solve your problems.
No, there are no quick answers to the issues plaguing the Los Angeles schools in Jack Freiberger’s one-man theater piece, They Call Me Mister Fry; rather, the solo work offers an insight into the classroom of a first-year teacher at an inner-city school in Los Angeles.
Freiberger is a Santa Monica resident by way of Indiana, and Mister Fry is based on his own experience teaching fifth grade in a South L.A. school. The play follows the life of a first-year teacher, from the first interview to the gradual merging of personal and professional life. Meant to be taken as a commentary on various issues, from disciplinary problems to No Child Left Behind, the show focuses on two students and the challenges they face.
“The play is a funny and poignant true story, and at the heart of it is how a teacher affects the students, and how the students affect the teacher,” Freiberger says.
Freiberger began teaching in the mid-’90s through the District Intern program, where he got his teaching credentials. After several years of substitute teaching, he began full-time at the turn of the century, and this expereience became the basis of the play.
Originally written in 2001, the play was revamped in 2007 to include his thoughts and experience on the No Child Left Behind Act. But mostly, the play is about Freiberger’s experience balancing the line between teacher and parent, student and friend. After 15 years of teaching, his advice to young teachers is one of caution.
“It’s sort of a learning process of how to put everything in perspective, and learning how to step away but still be involved with the children,” Freiberger says. “I try to help the children, but I can’t save them, I’m not Jesus.”
The play was one of 200 selected out of 2,500 in New York’s International Fringe Festival, and Freiberger says the acclaim has been wonderful.
“One of the nicest things someone said to me was that administrators can see this and get a better idea of what’s going on in the classroom,” he says.
They Call Me Mister Fry” will have one show at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 26th, at the fanaticSalon Theater in Culver City, before its appearance in the New York Fringe Festival. Tickets for the Culver City show are $20, $15 for teachers.
Reservations, (310) 899-2985.