Valley Scene Magazine

They Call Me Mister Fry

by Amy Dunn

We have all heard the saying , “Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach”. To anyone who believes that, I challenge you to see They Call Me Mister Fry and not change your mind.

Jack Freiberger, aka “Mr. Fry”, writes and stars in this one-man show about his personal experiences during his first year teaching.  The audience is invited to follow Mr. Fry as he navigates his way through a school year filled with drama, laughs, and tears.  After substitute teaching for five years, Mr. Fry finally gets his first real teaching job at a dingy school in South Central L.A. teaching fifth graders.

Almost immediately, Mr. Fry discovers that children have changed a lot since he was one himself.  He has nothing in common with his students and he cannot understand or relate to them on any level, no matter how hard he tries.  As he struggles to find ways to reach his students, his personal life falls apart and he gets reprimanded by the school administration.  Needless to say, things are not going well.

Mr. Fry includes various characters through out the show, two of which are students in his class, Jasmine and Anthony.  Young Jasmine is often left alone because her mother works fulltime and goes to school at night.  Jasmine is desperate for a father figure and even asks Mr. Fry if he’ll be her dad in an emotional scene.

Anthony is a budding gang-banger being raised mostly by his uncle.  Anthony loves to torture poor Jasmine and Mr. Fry is constantly trying to make get along.

Freiberger does an excellent job of evoking a good mix of emotion and humor throughout his tale.  He effectively takes on different characters with precision and enthusiasm.  Freiberger portray everyone from his fiancé to the principal to Jasmine and Anthony and their parents.

The set is minimal and unassuming: a simple desk and chair. His alter ego, King Arthur of Camelot, finally offers him a way to get the students excited about learning.  With his balloon sword in tow, King Arthur leads the students through math races and reading.  Freiberger uses multi-media to enhance the tone of the show by presenting artwork, letters and newspaper clippings on a digital screen.  At one point, Jasmine creates her “Important Christmas Book” and Freiberger displays her heart-wrenching poems on the screen as he reads them aloud.

Throughout the play, Mr. Fry has to learn how to deal with his own life’s dilemmas as well as the tragedies and traumas that occur in his students’ lives.  From disciplining them in the classroom to attending their family member’s funeral, Mr. Fry never loses track of what is most important: the children.

A talented blend of comedy and emotion, They Call Me Mister Fry may terrify you about our school systems or it may inspire you to become a teacher yourself.  Whether you know a teacher, have kids in school, or don’t regularly communicate with teachers at all, you will feel for them and their plight after seeing this play.  Freiberger touchingly illustrates the ups and downs of a teaching career and, in the end, elicits respect for all of our teacher around the world.

They Call Me Mister Fry is playing at the Whitefire Theater May 10th,June, 21st, and July 19th, and at the fanatic Salon May 24th, June 28th, and July 26th. All shows are 3pm matinees.  Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for teachers.