When Robert L. Freedman started writing musicals at United Synagogue Youth in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s, he couldn’t have imagined one day winning a Tony Award. Or could he?
“People used to say to me, parents of the [USY] kids, they’d say, ‘Someday you’re going to be on Broadway, remember me then,’” recalled the 58-year-old screenwriter and dramatist as his taxi navigated the streets of Washington on Jan. 13 — the afternoon before his Tony-winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was set to debut at the Kennedy Center.
Freedman received the Tony Award for best book for a musical at the 2014 awards show in New York. It was one of four Tonys the Broadway production nabbed that night.
The show is running for three weeks at the Kennedy Center.
“I’m really excited about [being at the Kennedy Center],” said Freedman, who lives in L.A. but spends a lot of time in New York. “I’m not going to every stop on the tour, but I really wanted to come here because this is the premier cultural institution of the nation and the nation’s capital, and it’s very meaningful to me to have a show perform at the Kennedy Center. Very exciting for me and my family.”
Freedman was president of USY’s Far West region from 1974 to 1975. He was a USY youth adviser at L.A.- area synagogues until 1979.
A close friend from Freedman’s USY days, Glenn Easton, hosted a large group of friends and associates for the Kennedy Center premiere. Easton was executive director of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington for 23 years and is the executive director of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville.
“USY taught me so much about believing in myself. About leadership. I learned leadership skills and about what it means to be part of a community. It really informed the rest of my life,” Freedman said.
“It was a really pivotal experience — and I really believe I would not be here with a show opening at the Kennedy Center tonight had it not been for USY. It gave me the confidence that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It gave me confidence socially and as a Jew and as somebody committed to doing good in the world.”