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Donald Freed (born 1933) is an American playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and actor. He is associated with writing programs at the University of Southern California, and was Artist in Residence at the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Fall 2006 – Spring 2008), and Playwright in Residence at York Theatre Royal (Fall 2007 – Spring 2008), participating in a six-week Master Class in York in October and November 2007 ("Freed in Residence in York"). He has also been Playwright in Residence at Denison University, Ohio and taught at Loyola Marymount University.
His latest play, Patient #1 (draft posted on Another America), "set in 2009 at an elite psychiatric clinic in South Florida, imagines a heavily sedated President George W. Bush, after he has left the Oval Office" (Johnson). It was published in 2007 and is being staged at York Theatre Royal in early 2008 ("Donald Freed", Another America).
He was born in Chicago to a Jewish family and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana (Johnson, Mikulan), "where he lived mostly with his mother and stepfather, a successful merchant selling clothing for a time, then military gear, and later soft drinks. His biological father was an attorney. After World War II, when the wartime boom deflated and prices soared, his stepfather’s business collapsed and he committed suicide" (Johnson). " 'We’ve all known a Willy Loman in our life,' Freed said, referring to Arthur Miller's classic play, 'Death of a Salesman,' [emended] in which the protagonist Willy Loman commits suicide hoping that in death he may provide for his family. Freed's mother, who sold insurance 'in the back roads of Louisiana,' supported the family until she died of cancer at 42" (Johnson).
He and his wife, Patricia Rae Freed, a former teacher who represents him, live in Los Angeles (Johnson, Mikulan, Another America). After his visiting appointment in Leeds and York, they returned to USC, where he has taught in the nation's first multidisciplinary master's program in creative writing for 22 years" ("Author Biography").
Freed visited Jonestown before the mass suicide of over 900 members of the Peoples Temple. Freed's visit followed Jim Jones contacting Freed and Mark Lane to uncover alleged plots by intelligence agencies against the Temple.
In the summer of 1978, the Peoples Temple hired Mark Lane and Freed to help make the case of what it alleged to be a "grand conspiracy" by intelligence agencies against the Peoples Temple. Temple member Edith Roller wrote in her journal that Freed said a Temple defector pressing for a U.S. investigation of Jonestown "was a CIA agent before coming to the Temple."
In August 1978, Freed visited Jonestown and encouraged Lane to visit. Lane held press conferences with the results of the Lane and Freed visits to Jonestown, stating that "none of the charges" against the Temple "are accurate or true" and that there was a "massive conspiracy" against the Temple by "intelligence organizations," naming the CIA, FCC and even the U.S. Post Office.
Temple member Annie Moore wrote that "Mom and Dad have probably shown you the latest about the conspiracy information that Mark Lane, the famous attorney in the ML King case and Don Freed the other famous author in the Kennedy case have come up with regarding activities planned against us--Peoples Temple." Another Temple member, Carolyn Layton, wrote that Don Freed told them that "anything this drug out could be nothing less than conspiracy."
A month later, on November 18, 1978, over 900 Temple members committed mass suicide in Jonestown, while Congressman Leo Ryan, NBC reporter Don Harris and others were murdered at a nearby airstrip. Jones created fear among members by stating that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were conspiring with "capitalist pigs" to destroy Jonestown and harm its members.
(As listed in Johnson, Mikulan, and "Donald Freed" in Another America)