Photo Submitted by Freeland, taken by Eric Smith.
January 9, 2018
Monteze Freeland knew he was meant to perform following his first presence on stage at six years old in his kindergarten debut of “One of the Birds.”
Lovell McFadden could see his friend going far in theatre since their childhood, convinced he would reach stardom early in his career.
Richard Keitel said Freeland’s professors saw promise in him as well, convinced that his stage presence and charisma were not easily forgettable.
To the 29-year-old’s friends, family and instructors, the announcement of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s 37th Performer of the Year wasn’t a surprise at all; they had been banking on it.
“I was happy of course, but I think it was a shining moment for those close to me; those that believed in me,” Freeland said in a phone call last Friday.
Freeland’s presence doesn’t end when he walks off the stage. In the past year, he has written an original musical “Kalopsia,” stepped behind the scenes to direct “Miss Julie, Clarissa and John,” shared his theater knowledge as Quantum Theatre’s director of education and artistic associate for Pittsburgh Playwrights and continued helping less affluent communities provide theater instruction through his personal endeavor, the LAB Project.
“Monteze always took his craft beyond rehearsal,” McFadden, life-long friend and fellow alum said in a phone interview last Sunday. “Whether it was going to Barnes and Noble together to pick up new cast albums and analyze all the lyrics or watching musicals in his room as a kid, reenacting the whole thing with props – he always put 150 percent into it.”
Freeland and McFadden have been performing together since childhood, learning the craft at Baltimore’s African-American community theater, Arena Players.
Freeland attended Juniata College for a year before joining McFadden at Point Park, graduating in 2009.
“My childhood friends inspired me to join them at Point Park; it was blissful – they kept me humble, kept me grounded and shaped me as a person,” Freeland said. “I also have to thank my professors – I love teaching because I had great teachers. It’s now my job to give back.”
Conservatory of Performing Arts professor Richard Keitel is one professor that shaped Freeland’s college experience.
“Monteze is fearless, intelligent and fierce – someone I consider a friend,” Keitel said. “We often say of people in this industry being a ‘triple-threat,’ but a lot of us have said that Monteze is something like a sextuple threat because he can do so much.”
Giving back and engaging in the conversation surrounding social change has been central to his work over the past year as well, especially in his new project “Kalopsia.”
At 25, Freeland was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, leaving more questions than answers. He responded in the way he knew best – through word, song and dance.
“Kalopsia is the delusion of things being more beautiful than they really are,” Freeland said. “It’s been a labor of love where I’ve been able to explore heavy topics like denial and religion in the black community, while experimenting with funk, [rhythm and blues] and gospel – I learned more about myself.”
The line-up for 2018 is already looking busy for Freeland. While continuing his administrative roles, Freeland is also looking forward to directing “In the Heat of the Night” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
McFadden said that he is excited to see what will be the next step in his friend’s career.
“Even though I’ve known him for years, he has such a dynamic personality that I’m still learning new things,” McFadden said. “It’s one thing that’s kept our friendship going – always seeing new sides of him.”
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