The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

Thespian Serves Up New Theater

And Frellick definitely has a big idea.

It's the type of idea that could just as easily be labeled ingenious or ridiculous.

When Deep Dish opens its doors in a few weeks, it won't be in an obscure corner of an artsy Triangle neighborhood or on one of the many area college campuses.

Instead, Deep Dish will be serving its productions right around the corner from the Chick-fil-A.

Frellick is bringing theater to Chapel Hill's University Mall, and it makes sense when he explains it. "The idea is to take theater to where people already are," he said. "We're trying to break down the barriers and hurdles that might prevent someone from attending a production."

The production Frellick chose to launch Deep Dish is an ambitious one. Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" is a work widely read but rarely performed. "This is a play about four people who may well be the last four people on earth," he said. "With the millennium rollover and all, I think it's ripe for revival."

But for someone with such large ideas, Frellick is exceptionally lucid about the realities of American theater.

"The theater is no longer as central to people's lives as it once was," he said flatly. "You never see that apathy from people leaving the theater, though.

"It's just when you tell people that you are doing a play and they nod and give you a look that says, 'There's no chance in hell I'm coming.'"

When he isn't working on Deep Dish, Frellick, a 1982 Yale University graduate with a degree in Theatre Studies and English, serves as program director for the School of Education's International Social Studies Project.

Established in 1996 by the N.C. General Assembly, the goal of ISSP is to help public school students become well-informed citizens and decision-makers in a rapidly changing and complex world.

"It's a different way of learning about different cultures," Frellick said.

ISSP provides teachers with up-to-date teaching materials and information related to international studies, as well as training and support for master teachers to train other classroom teachers.

Though his literary background got him the job, Frellick turned to his theater roots to find innovative ways to achieve the ISSP's objective.

In 1998, while preparing a seminar for master teachers on Russia, he chose to present Lee Blessing's "A Walk in the Woods," a play about two arms negotiators, one Russian and one American.

The presentation elicited such a response from the teachers that the play's script was provided to ISSP master teachers for use in their own workshops and classrooms across the state.

Frellick's efforts were incorporated into the ISSP to form The Global Arts Initiative, which brings dramatic works from across the globe to local high schools. Frellick said it provides students an opportunity to see different cultures from a more tangible perspective.

"It's about identifying the humanity behind the headlines," he said.

Educators weren't the only ones who praised Frellick's idea. Last year, a full-length version of the play was praised by both the Spectator and The News & Observer. Frellick himself was nominated for Theater Person of the Year.

Before the accolades, Frellick was directing throughout college and building his impressive range of theater experience. His love for the stage dates back to grammar school, when he starred as the grumpy everyman from the Peanuts Gallery.

"I played the lead in 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown,'" he said with a smile. "That was the jumping-off point."

Frellick continued acting throughout college but shifted his focus shortly after graduating. After several years of apprenticing, Frellick got the break he was looking for while working at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

He hasn't looked back since.

After freelancing for several years, he settled in Chicago in 1988. Frellick gained a wealth of experience in the Windy City, serving as the artistic director of the Organic Theater and working with such companies as the Chicago Dramatists and Live Bait Theater.

Frellick said the relocation was inspired in a very simple manner.

"I decided that I needed a permanent address other than my parents'," he said.

Going on his fifth year in Chapel Hill, Frellick said that he's here for the long haul. "I arrived here the same week as Hurricane Fran," he chuckled. "So I guess that was a sign."

His impact hasn't been as sudden, but at the rate he's going, it will be much more lasting.

Deep Dish's "Endgame" will run from April 26-29 and May 3-6 at University Mall. Call 967-6934 for reservations and information.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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