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Neil Freeman

$24,525.00 (raised so far)

About Neil Freeman

Neil Freeman was a faculty member and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Theatre & Film at UBC from 1991 to 2006. We were deeply saddened by his passing on October 23, 2015.

Neil taught, coached and directed students ranging from youth groups to high-school teachers, and from university-level students to professional theatre companies and individual actors. He was renowned for his unique approach to the unlocking of Shakespearean text for young actors. Students always left his classes with a new respect for Shakespeare and a plethora of new insights in how to unlock the mysteries of The Bard. His research into the First Folio and his writing on the use of these texts for the actor has changed the way Shakespeare is approached by thousands of actors around the world.

Neil won many awards throughout his outstanding career, including the John Gielgud Scholarship; USA National Endowment of the Arts Major Artists’ Fellowship; the Joseph G. Green Fellowship from York University, and a minor Scholarship from SSHRC. He worked with the Will Geer Theatre, British American Drama Academy, the National Theatre School, the Centre for Actors Study, the National Voice Intensive and the Stratford Festival. He had a huge impact on everyone he met, and is missed by all who knew him.

The impact of your support

In Neil’s memory, the Neil Freeman Memorial Scholarship is being established at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Theatre & Film.

Your gift to the scholarship will pay tribute to Neil’s life and career, by encouraging and supporting an undergraduate or graduate student in theatre who shows exceptional aptitude for Shakespeare or the advancement of Shakespearean research.

Messages of Remembrance

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  • Neil was a beloved instructor of mine at the National Theatre School of Canada (and later, through the Quebec Drama Federation and private tutoring). His insights into Shakespeare's first Folio; his emphasis on capitals, long-spellings and major punctuation, turned on a light for me, allowing me immediate visceral responses to texts so often one step removed from the body (and the bawdy) by a more cerebral focus on the poetry of it all. Neil made the study of Shakespeare fun and fierce and absolutely immediate, vital and alive. Neil opened my mind in a way that has transformed more than just my theatre practice. I believe I am a better student, better teacher and better person in many ways due, at least in part, to Neil's vast knowledge, great generosity of spirit, keen directorial eye and seemingly infinite wellspring of enthusiasm and encouragement. He believed in me and in my work in a way that helped me to believe in it as well. He helped to teach me not only how to "do", but, more importantly, how to think, in order to get where I need to go even without him - and then to be able to share that journey with others. I have many fond memories of Neil and, like most of us who have been his students, it seems, I enjoy telling stories of him "in character". (He certainly was a unique character). But there are also two other memories in particular that crop up for me today: One is related to the time when my friend (and fellow NTS classmate), Ann Hodges, and I went into the public school system in Manitoba to introduce young people to Shakespeare using Neil's 'Capital, Loooooonggg Spellinge' approach. Sometimes I would act out only the capitals and long spellings in order to show the students the raw emotions that the words offered a clue to in understanding a scene or monologue. We could see the instant connections made for the students to their own hormone-driven teenage experience. This wasn't the sometimes incomprehensible, antiquated Shakespeare they had, perhaps, been previously more familiar with. They loved it. The work was very engaged and engaging. Thank you Neil, from all of us, for providing the groundwork for those sorts of breakthroughs. (From you, through us, to them and beyond). The other memory, much more recent, is of being a part of the company performing at Neil's memorial celebration at UBC yesterday. I was the only representative there from the National Theatre School (the others were mostly from UBC, with a smattering of York Alumni as well), but I didn't feel alone. I was struck by the incredible community of ex-students of Neil's who all share very similar stories, gratitude for the gifts they have been given and are able to pass along, and real affection for a wonderful teacher. Though many of us never met one another before yesterday, we were already brothers and sisters of a sort, instantly connected through our shared experience of Neil. And so the generations go, so the circles spiral away but always return, and so the legacy of this great teacher will endure because he touched the hearts of so many. What a gift! I am so glad to be a recipient. "How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world." Missy Christensen NTS 1992

    Missy Christensen, Student
  • Like many of Neil's students I have an invisible bracelet on my wrist when teaching classes or interacting with students - WWNFD? What would Neil Freeman Do? He taught a series of seminars at the National Theatre School where he lit up the room with energy, enthusiasm and passion. His sheer good sense of humour, combining with a ready intelligence was inspirational . There must have been a class, lecture or presentation where I did not look at my WWNFD? bracelet... but I cannot remember them. Thank you Neil for all that you gave us. I hope you are in some theatrical production up in heaven helping the angels say their lines right and keeping an eye on Will. Declan Hill

    Declan Hill, Student at NTS
List of Donors
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  • Ruth Jenkins

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  • Stephen Drover

  • Paul Sugarman

  • Declan Hill

  • Gregory Berry

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  • Paul Sugarman

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