Donald Freed

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For the Canadian singer, see Don Freed.

Donald Freed (born 1932) 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),[1] 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").[2] He has been Playwright in Residence at Denison University 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 staged at York Theatre Royal in early 2008 ("Donald Freed", Another America).[2]

Early life[edit]

Freed was born in Chicago to a Jewish family. He was raised in Alexandria, Louisiana,[3] "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".[4] " '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".[4]

Personal life[edit]

He and his wife Patricia Rae Freed, a former teacher who represents him, live in Los Angeles.[5] After his visiting appointment in Leeds and York, they returned to USC, where he has taught in the United States' first multidisciplinary master's program in creative writing for 22 years".[6]

Work for the Peoples Temple and Jonestown Tragedy[edit]

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 Lane and Freed to help make the case of what it alleged to be a "grand conspiracy" by intelligence agencies against the Peoples Temple.[7] 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."[8]

In August 1978, Freed visited Jonestown and encouraged Lane to visit.[9] Lane held press conferences with the results of his and Freed's visits to Jonestown, stating that "none of the charges" against the Temple "are accurate or true", and there was a "massive conspiracy" against the Temple by "intelligence organizations," naming the CIA, FCC, and even the U.S. Post Office.[7]

Temple member Annie Moore wrote: "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."[10] Another Temple member, Carolyn Layton, wrote that Freed told them that "anything this dragged

out could be nothing less than conspiracy."[11]

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.[12][13][14]

Death in Washington[edit]

In their 1980 book Death in Washington, Freed and Fred Landis, a political science teacher at Cal State Los Angeles, charged that the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in the 1973 Chilean coup d'état and the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier.[15] The authors specifically named David Atlee Phillips as being involved in a cover-up of the assassination and reiterated Gaeton Fonzi's claim that Phillips served as Lee Harvey Oswald's case officer while using the alias "Maurice Bisop".[16] In 1982, Freed, Landis, and their publisher were named in a $230 million libel suit by Phillips and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.[15][16] A settlement was reached in 1986 with Phillips receiving a retraction and an unspecified amount of money.[16]

Selected writings[edit]

  • 1951–2006 published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Alfred and Victoria: A Life
  • Circe and Bravo (Perf. Faye Dunaway; dir. Harold Pinter)
  • The Death Of Ivan Ilych published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • The Devil's Advocate (about U.S. invasion of Panama and President Manuel Noriega) published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Hamlet (In Rehearsal) published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • How Shall We Be Saved? published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Inquest (dir. Alan Schneider), about the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
  • Is He Still Dead? (Perf. Julie Harris (Nora Joyce)
  • Patient #1 published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Sokrates Must Die (Perf. Edward Asner)
  • The Quartered Man published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Tomorrow published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Veterans Day (Perf. Jack Lemmon and Michael Gambon)
  • The White Crow published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
Non-fiction prose
  • The Killing of RFK. New York: Dell, 1975
  • Agony in New Haven: The Trial of Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins, and the Black Panther Party. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973. Rpt. Figueroa Press, forthcoming January 2008.
  • The Existentialism of Alberto Moravia (Co-author with Joan Ross). Carbonale: Southern Illinois UP, 1972. ISBN 0-8093-0549-6.
  • In Search of Common Ground (Co-author with Erik Erikson, Kai Erikson, Huey P. Newton)
  • Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1980. ISBN 0-88208-124-1 (10). ISBN 978-0-88208-124-3 (13).
  • Killing Time: The First Full Investigation into the Unsolved Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman (Co-author with Raymond P. Briggs). New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1996. ISBN 0-02-861340-6 (10). ISBN 978-0-02-861340-6 (13).
Prose fiction
  • The China Card (Arbor House, 1980)
  • The Spymaster (Arbor House, 1980)
  • Every Third House (Penmarin Books, 2005)



  • Three Rockefeller Foundation awards, including the Rockefeller Fellow in Residence, Bellagio Center, Italy.
  • Two Louis B. Mayer Awards
  • The Unicorn Prize
  • The Gold Medal Award
  • The Berlin Critics Award
  • The NEA Award for "Distinguished Writing"
  • Hollywood Critics Award.
  • PEN USA 2006 Literary Award for "Devil’s Advocate," a play set on Christmas Eve 1989 during the U.S. invasion of Panama.


  1. ^ "Note On Donald Freed"
  2. ^ a b "News" at York Theatre Royal,, September 28, 2007, accessed October 10, 2007.
  3. ^ (Johnson, Mikulan)
  4. ^ a b (Johnson)
  5. ^ (Johnson, Mikulan, Another America)
  6. ^ ("Author Biography")
  7. ^ a b Tim Reiterman (1982) "Raven: The Untold Story of The Rev. Jim Jones and His People" ISBN 0-525-24136-1 page 440
  8. ^ Roller, Edith Edith Roller Journals, August 1978, archived at Jonestown Institute at San Diego State University
  9. ^ Moore, Rebecca (2000). "American as Cherry Pie". Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases. Syracuse University Press. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
  10. ^ Moore, Rebecca. A Sympathetic History of Jonestown. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press. ISBN 0-88946-860-5. p. 282.
  11. ^ Moore, Rebecca. A Sympathetic History of Jonestown. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press. ISBN 0-88946-860-5. p. 272.
  12. ^ See, e.g., Jim Jones, Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 234, Q 322, Q 051
  13. ^ Jim Jones, Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 050
  14. ^ "Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University.
  15. ^ a b UPI (March 5, 1982). "CIA critic arrested after Cuba visit". UPI. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Bugliosi, Vincent (2007). Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 1201. ISBN 0-393-04525-0.


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