The concert piano was Freyda’s first artistic achievement... until the age of 12 when her father, popular Philadelphia area bandleader Eddie Shaw, made her his vocalist. With a mouth full of braces, a prom dress and a ponytail, she began singing with his big band, a career that stayed with her until his death in 1986. An early college and high school teaching career followed her B.A. and M.A. from Penn State University… until the Muse sent her to New York to study and practice acting.
In 1978, while sitting backstage on Broadway, she began translating and adapting Molière’s The Learned Ladies, just for the fun of it. The following winter it was produced at Temple University and her playwriting career was launched. That same adaptation was given its New York debut in 1991 at Classic Stage Company, starring Jean Stapleton and produced by Carey Perloff. Upon Ms. Perloff’s transfer to the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco, she produced it again in 1993.
Meanwhile, Freyda continued to pursue acting and writing careers simultaneously, writing backstage, offstage, in stairwells, on subways, waiting at auditions, and on paper placemats in restaurants. The result was Tartuffe: Born Again, a modern adaptation of the famous play about the infamous religious hypocrite. To provide English-speaking audiences with a more accessible milieu, she updated the play to the 1980s and set it in Baton Rouge, with Tartuffe as a televangelist. In 1996 it was produced at Circle in the Square on Broadway, starring Tony award-winning John Glover as Tartuffe.
Two years later Freyda wrote an original play, The Gamester, inspired by a little-known French classic called Le Joueur by Jean-François Regnard, on the subject of compulsive gambling in Paris in 1699. Prior to its premiere, the play was a finalist in 2000 for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Playwriting Award. In 2001, roughly the 300th anniversary of Regnard’s version, Chicago’s Northlight Theatre premiered The Gamester to critical and popular acclaim (see Reviews). The play was then produced in 2003 by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and in 2005 by ACT in San Francisco, again a critical and popular production, and published by Dramatists' Play Service later that year.
Freyda has chosen to work in a very specific medium: the adaptation of classical plays for the modern American stage... or perhaps that medium chose her. Because she is a true theater person and not a scholar, she is able to infuse otherwise archaic classical works into living, breathing and entertaining entities. Such a specific talent is a perfect melding of all her other gifts, for which she has her parents and paternal grandmother to thank. Freyda’s grandmother, a former actress on the Russian and American stage, bequeathed her love for the theater. From the time Freyda could see over the seats, her grandmother would take her to see plays of all kinds. She died with theater tickets in her purse and made Freyda promise she’d go. Her father gave her his musical ability; and from her mother she inherited her love of writing and her wit. They would all be happy to see the talent realized in their offspring.
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