They call him Mr. Fry

A Los Angeles teacher received a standing ovation Friday for his performance of “They Call Me Mr. Fry,” a one-man show that portrayed his belief that teaching is a one-man performance in and of itself.

The show focused on real interactions between Jack Freiberger, “Mr. Fry,” and two of his former students, Anthony and Jasmine, while teaching at what he calls a “No Child Left Behind” school.

The names of Freiberger’s characters were the only aspects of his show altered from the reality of his encounters with his students.

Original copies of letters and homework assignments were used as props to be displayed on a projector for the audience to experience what it was like to be in his South Los Angeles classroom.

President Bill Perry and his wife Linda Perry were among the rest of the Charleston community members and Eastern students who came to see the show.

Bill Perry said he hoped to gain new insight from Freiberger’s narration.

“I hope I learn something about the mind of a teacher,” Bill Perry said. “I think the most important thing that happens between a teacher and a student is the kind of meeting of the minds where the student learns how the professor thinks, and the professor learns how the student thinks.”

Freiberger said he felt similarities about performing.

“I wanted to tell their stories,” Freiberger said. “They needed to be heard. I’ve been doing this nationwide so I feel like a national artistic mouthpiece for teachers.”

Freiberger emphasized the struggle he said he believes each teacher faces while trying to balance the fantasy of a perfect first year in the classroom and the reality of its hardships.

He achieved this throughout the show by using references to Camelot and King Arthur as an optimistic alter ego.

“As a first-year teacher, it is a raw experience, and you come in with such big ideas and such Camelot hopes,” Freiberger said.

Those Camelot hopes were encouraged by Freiberger’s portrayal of King Arthur, who motivated him to transcend mandated curriculum and reach his students on a personal level, something he said one of his childhood teachers did that inspired him.

“I loved and adored him, and he found a special thing about all his students and made them feel special, and he grew and planted that special seed,” Freiberger said. “His teaching style, I’ve adopted a little bit of it. It got people really involved and at stake and made people try harder.”

Freiberger said if he could give a piece of advice to new or aspiring teachers, it would be to remember why they wanted to teach.

“Keep your internal journey strong and spiritual, and don’t worry about the external factors,” Freiberger said. “It’s all about the kids, and remember that: it’s all about the kids. No matter what travails you may face. Don’t forget that teaching is fun.”

Katie Smith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].