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Stanford Report, April 15, 1998

Drama's Amy Freed a Pulitzer finalist: 4/15/98

Drama's Amy Freed a Pulitzer finalist

Amy James Freed, lecturer in acting in the drama department, was nominated as a finalist in the drama category of the 1998 Pulitzer Prizes for her play “Freedomland.”

The award for a distinguished play by an American author went to Paula Vogel for “How I Learned to Drive.” Also nominated as a finalist, with Freed, was Richard Greenberg for “Three Days of Rain.”

Freed’s play was commissioned by South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, through its Collaboration Laboratory, and received its world premiere there in October 1997.

“The play, for me, is about an American family bursting at the seams at this particular moment in time,” Freed said in a telephone interview. “Their distresses are passionate and ideological, rather than Freudian, and it’s kind of anarchic and dark – even though it’s a comedy.”

Freed said she wrote the first draft of the play in about eight months, and completed it within a year.

“It came out of left field, but as I wrote it got deeper and began to open up more and more doors – personal doors and idea doors,” she added. “It’s really a play about the end of a certain age for America, about people struggling to find out what comes next.”

The story of three siblings who return home for a no-holds-barred confrontation, “Freedomland” was hailed by the Orange County Register as providing “the best theater can offer: stimulating ideas expressed by characters we care about and scenes that touch our heads, hearts and funny bones in equal measure.”

The Los Angeles Times noted that “Freed has a striking comic voice that is dark but exhilarating and honest,” and said the playwright’s “comic exaggerations are the engine for a family showdown that is as recognizable as it is fresh.”

Freed “has a big, vibrant vision and a determination to force subtext into the main arena,” the Times reviewer added. “She manages this with voracious humor and gift for antic detail.”

In its review of the premier of “Freedomland,” the San Diego Union Tribune noted that “There’s a lot of talk in ‘Freedomland’ relating to the perils of our technological age and the characters’ itchy search for meaning.”
Freed, the Tribune said, is “a writer able to create something fresh” who has introduced “a distinctive comic voice to Southern California.”

The 39-year-old San Francisco playwright is a former actor who has written four plays since 1991. “Still Warm” was based on the life of journalist Jessica Savitch, “Claustrophilia” examined the relationship between Edgar Allan Poe and his teen bride, “The Ghoul of Amherst” focused on Emily Dickinson, and “The Psychic Life of Savages” looked at the lives of poets Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell.

“Freedomland” will be produced at the Wooly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C. in September, and also is slated for production at New York’s Playwright’s Horizon this year.

Freed, who holds a Master of Fine Arts from the American Conservatory Theater and a bachelor’s degree in acting from Southern Methodist University, has been at Stanford since last spring. She is teaching two courses for the drama department this quarter – “Acting: The Fundamentals” and “Acting: Period and Style.”