Queer Places:
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George Reynolds Freedley (September 5, 1904 - September 7, 1967) an author, librarian, lecturer, educator, and theatre critic. He was one of the founders of the Arts Project in Cherry Grove; he later became the first director of the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts. He was very familiar with the regional theater movement which was then sweeping the country. New York’s many newspapers all had gossip columnists. Among them was theater librarian George Freedley, director of Berthe of a Nation. As late as 1954, the summer of the McCarthy hearings and the disappearance of last names from the Arts Project playbills, Freedley’s column announced the movements of Grove celebrities (“In Cherry Grove on Fire Island the other week-end, her friends were greeting Grace Allen Peabody Bangs Bernheim on her recent return from Europe . . .”) very much à la one of Suzy Aronson’s 1949 Grove articles, praised Pat’s Restaurant, and called the Grove “the most theatre-minded community on the eastern coast of the U.S.A.” But Freedley never implied that Grovers Grace Bernheim, Dottie Justin, or Thomas Farrar (whose death he had noted earlier) were gay.

George Reynolds Freedley was born September 5, 1904 in Richmond, Virginia. He was the son of George Washington Jacoby Freedley and Maude A. Reynolds. Freedley graduated from the University of Richmond in 1925. He studied at Yale University, where he was a student of George Pierce Baker from 1926 to 1928, and received his Master for Fine Arts in drama in 1936. After leaving Yale in 1926 Freedley worked in the theatre in various capacities, including three years as an assistant technical director and a stage manager of the New York Theatre Guild. As an actor, Freedley appeared in The Grey Fox (1928), The Came Through the Needle's Eye (1929), and Everything's Jake (1930). Freedley began his career at the New York Public Library in the picture collection. When David Belasco's papers were donated to the library with the stipulation that they be made available to the public, Freedley was selected to organize them and the theatre collection was born. Beginning in 1931 as "librarian in charge", Freedley was appointed curator of the theatre collection in 1938. Except for a brief absence from 1948 to 1950 when he took a position as Chief Play Reader for A & S Lyons, Freedley retained his curatorial post at the library until 1965 when poor health made it necessary for him to change his status to that of a consultant to the collection.

During his tenure at the library, Freedley also pursued his work on behalf of theatre history and theatre librarianship through numerous professional affiliations. He established the Theatre Library Association and served as its president from 1937 to 1963. He also served on the board of the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) from 1946 to 1964. Freedley gave his time and expertise to many organizations promoting international cultural exchange including the International Federation for Theatre Research and the Société universelle du théâtre. He was a delegate to the UNESCO Theatre Conference in Paris (1948) where the International Theatre Institute was established. Other organizational affiliations included: American Educational Theatre Association, Equity Library Theatre, National Theatre Conference, New York Drama Critics Circle, Pirandello Society, The Players, and the Shaw Society of America.

Freedley wrote frequently on the theatre, theatre education and theatre librarianship. He was a regular columnist for Playbill and the dramatic critic (1938-1947), book editor and drama feature writer (1947-1967) for the Morning Telegraph (New York). He was also a reviewer of theatrical books for Publisher's Weekly. Freedley's monographs include The Lunts: A Biography (1957), Simon Lissim: A Biography (1949), History of Modern Drama (1947, with Barrett H. Clark), and A History of the Theatre (1941, with J.A. Reeves). In 1960 Freedley published a memoir of his cat: Mr. Cat and he wrote More Mr. Cat in 1961.

During his lifetime Freedley was honored many times receiving the Kelcey Allen Award in 1956 and the Theta Alpha Phi Educational Award in 1957. He also accepted a Tony Award on behalf of the Theatre Collection in 1956.

George Freedley died on September 7, 1967.


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