Everything below this is more or less exactly how this page looked in later versions of the Jonathanfrid.com website.
EXCEPT: The original page was white with black text and blue links.
NOTE: Jonathan's stage career was very extensive, and not all of it is listed here.
The Wayback Machine capture of this page is here: http://web.archive.org/web/20120321210524/http://www.jonathanfrid.com/New%252520Site/biography.htm
Visit the STAGE GALLERY on this website for an extensive collection of photos from Jonathan's long stage career.
A CAREER BIOGRAPHY OF JONATHAN FRID
Revised October 2002
1. Follow the reference numbers in the text to view the footnotes located at the bottom of this biography. [Note from Jana, these links don't work, scroll down manually].
2. Put the mouse pointer over the side photos to read the descriptions (it's not necessary to click on them, but be patient, some descriptions are very slow to appear). [I put the photo descriptions under each photo, so this is not necessary].
3. Be sure to maximize this window... and be patient with the time it takes for the new pictures to load. [This is likely not an issue with current technology].
Jonathan Frid's stage career began almost sixty years ago when he first offered his soul to the theatre at a prep school in his native Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - playing Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan's brilliant Post- Restoration comedy The Rivals. It was an experience which transformed the shy teenager. In the years that followed, Frid went on to play characters who were typically much older than himself. They were often authoritarian or downright villainous as well ... characteristics which Frid stubbornly questioned at every turn.
As John Frid, he joined the local Hamilton Players Guild and attended McMaster University where he learned, through practice and professional tutelage, the basics of acting.
Frid served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II and later returned to McMaster University, where he headed the drama society, graduating in 1948.
In January 1949, Frid was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. He subsequently found work with British repertory companies and appeared in a touring production of a West End thriller The Third Visitor. Two years later, Frid returned to Canada where he continued working in repertory companies, including the Earl Grey Players in Toronto, where at the same time he also studied at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts.
It was at this point where Frid played one of the most satisfying roles of his career… the evil Dr. Sloper in The Heiress. [See footnote #1]
For a young actor in his twenties, it was a great challenge defining the complex nature of an aging father. At one extreme a reasonable and civilized man, highly respected in the community, at the other, a father devastated by his wife's death during the birth of their only child and subsequently possessed with a stubborn refusal to acknowledge anything good at all about his only daughter, a very sensitive young woman and the only heir to his fortune.
During that period, Frid appeared on some of the renowned radio dramas of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and on some of the CBC's early experiments in television drama, pictured here in a series based on Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
Frid moved to the United States in 1954, where he enrolled in the Yale School of Drama, earning a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Directing in 1957. Although Frid was a directing student, he appeared in many plays at the famed school - on the strength of his experience as a professional actor.
Directing got left behind, or rather put off, as Frid quickly found work in some of America's most celebrated regional theatres including the Williamstown Theater Foundation in Massachusetts, where he was the leading man in their inaugural season (1955).
The following summer he worked at the American Shakespearean Festival in Connecticut, where he performed with Katharine Hepburn in The Merchant of Venice and in Much Ado About Nothing... a production that went on a national tour of the United States in the winter and spring of 1958."The American Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, CT.
Though frequently cast as the "heavy", Frid nonetheless "broke type" many times to play a wide range of roles, such as: Starbuck in The Rainmaker, O'Bannion in Auntie Mame, Mr. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, roles that showed Frid's natural flair for comedy.
However, there were his more serious roles, such as Dr. Sloper in The Heiress, Orlando in As You Like It, Caliban in The Tempest, Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and the title role in The Tragedy of Macbeth. In addition Frid made several television appearances during the 1950's and 1960's and had brief stints on Broadway. In 1962, John took the stage name Jonathan Frid.
In the summer of 1966 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, CA, Frid took on the roles of Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Caliban in the Tempest and the Duke of Milan in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Frid wanted to use his stage experience and training to become a drama professor; he enjoyed visiting schools as a performer and working with students. He was an actor-in-residence at the State College of Penn State University's professional summer theatre in 1965, where he played the title role in The Tragedy of King Richard III.
Still searching for a teaching opportunity, Frid had just returned to New York from a year-long tour with Ray Milland in Hostile Witness when he was hired to play the role of Barnabas Collins on ABC-TV’s drama series Dark Shadows in 1967.
The role was supposed to last for only a few weeks. For Frid, it represented some extra income before he headed to California for a teaching job. But, once he was onboard, Dark Shadows became a phenomenal hit. It ran for four more years with Frid, and Joan Bennett, as its stars.
Frid's sensitive portrayal of the complex, conflicted vampire earned him a place as an icon of American popular culture. The show is still on the air, in syndication. "Barnabas Collins on ABC's Dark Shadows. 1967 - 1971"
During the run of Dark Shadows, Frid appeared in regional theatre productions of Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark.
He also starred in the motion picture, House of Dark Shadows in 1970. Based on the television series, the film was a major box office hit for then ailing MGM.
When the "Dark Shadows" series went off the air in 1971, Frid was already in rehearsal as Thomas Beckett in a stage production of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral in New York City.
In 1972, Frid co-starred in ABC's television movie-of-the-week, The Devil's Daughter, with Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotton and Belinda Montgomery. In 1974, he played the lead in Oliver Stone's stylish directorial debut, the motion picture 'Seizure.'
High visibility did not give Frid the same variety of work he had enjoyed prior to his fame. For some years, he left the business to pursue other interests, to travel (a year in Mexico), and to simply enjoy his privacy once more.
However, Frid's compulsion to act was strong and he accepted a return engagement at Penn State University for an anniversary production of The Royal Family of Broadway (a not too subtle spin on the Barrymore family) as Anthony Cavendish.
He started to experiment with readings, seminars, and theatre workshop productions in New York City and immediately found that he enjoyed the independence such work offered.
In the 1980's, when Frid was appearing at Dark Shadows conventions across the United States, he began reading poetry, short stories, and scenes from plays for his fans, who responded enthusiastically. Frid enjoyed this new format for acting so much that he formed his own production company, "Clunes Associates," with a business partner, Mary O'Leary, in 1986, to develop and perform three touring readers' theatre productions.
They became known as: "Jonathan Frid's Fools and Fiends," "Jonathan Frid's Fridiculousness," and "Jonathan Frid's Shakespearean Odyssey." These programs were ideally suited to smaller audiences and to intimate venues. Frid toured regional drama centres, colleges, and universities to the four corners of the United States from 1988 to 1994. [see footnote #4]
While still developing his first one-man show, Frid along with Marion Ross, Gary Sandy and Larry Storch joined the Broadway company of Arsenic and Old Lace (a 1986 revival) specifically to co-star with Jean Stapleton for the national tour that lasted for a year, followed by a spring (1988) tour of Florida.
He won critical acclaim for his villainous turn as Jonathan Brewster. The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, lauded Frid as "one who captures the eerie madness that is the essence of this nutty piece." The show shattered box office records across the United States for the next year and a half, as it toured all of the nation's major cities
Throughout that tour, Frid continued to develop his one-man shows, performing them at local libraries, supper clubs, and other venues on his nights off.
During that period he finally put to the test his long neglected directorial ambition, directing a production of The Lion in Winter by James Goldman at the Georgia College Theater in Milledgeville, Georgia. It starred his friend and erstwhile colleague from Dark Shadows, Marie Wallace, as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Frid moved back to Canada in 1994. Ostensibly retiring from public life, Frid remained active "on the boards" in small ways to preserve his sanity. He created special short programs derived from his established one-man shows for such diverse gatherings as the McMaster Alumni Association, the United Empire Loyalists of Canada, and private dinner parties - all with a view to raising money for a variety of charities. In the process, Frid created a new production company called "Charity Associates."
In April 1998, Frid was inducted into the McMaster University Alumni Gallery Hall of Fame for his continued devotion to the art of acting. In September of the same year, Frid gave a lecture on acting at the prestigious Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science, and Art.
In the fall of 1999, Frid returned to the United States to perform a one man show in Long Island (for the second year in a row) another in Crawfordsville, Indiana (see footnote #5), before closing out the year with a performance in Oshawa, Ontario. The latter performance was so well received that Frid was invited back by the Oshawa & District Council for the Arts to perform a special program at the council's annual fundraising event in February 2000.
In June 2000, Frid returned to the traditional professional stage in the highly charged comedy drama called Mass Appeal by Bill C. Davis. The play concerns two adhearents of the church: the younger, an intense and idealistic seminarian portrayed by Canadian actor Dean Hollin, despises the tarnished values of an aging priest (Frid), whom, he feels, has opted for popularity to the detriment of his beliefs.
It is a story of their search together for the basic Christian truths. The production was part of the summer series at the Stirling Festival Theatre in Stirling, Ontario, following a two-week "out of town" stint at the Aquarius Studio Theatre, in Hamilton, Ontario.
Then came time for Frid to catch up with the rest of you and confront the likes Bill Gates and his mad mad world of Microsoft... and that's where Frid is right now.
#1. Frid recollects a personal comment made to him many years ago by Herbert Whittaker, who was then theatre critic for Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper. Whittaker had praised him publicly for his interpretation of the evil Doctor Sloper in The Heiress (a dramatization of Henry James' Washington Square) at Hearthouse in Toronto. But the praises only bewildered Frid, who felt they were all for the wrong reasons, because he was attempting to portray the doctor as a partly reasonable man. Whittaker's private explanation went something like this: 'You may have been trying to bless the character with some good intentions, if only to make him believable - and, to your credit, that may be why you were so effective - but in the end your Doctor Sloper remained, and quite rightly so, an unconscionable villain.'
#2. In fact, he had to drop his suitcases after opening his apartment door to answer a chance telephone call from his agent about the Barnabas offer. Had there been any delay with the taxi bringing him from the airport, or with the apartment buildings' elevator taking even more time than it usually did, his legacy with Dark Shadows would not have occured.
#3. It airs daily on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States, after getting its syndication start on various PBS stations. The series recently completed its first run in syndication in Great Britain. Ironically, it has never been widely available in The-Head-Of-The-Lake (Ontario) region, embracing Buffalo, the Niagara border and Toronto, Ont. (Frid's home territory). The manager of the Buffalo affiliate of the ABC network (partial affiliate, not outright) chose not to carry D.S. during the initial run. Frid was overjoyed when he learned of this during those early days of insecurity in the role of Barnabas Collins.
#4. "These days, the Yale-trained Frid seems willing to exploit that hollow-cheeked vampire of TV's Dark Shadows only enough to get him audiences for something he values more, the well-honed word, shared aloud with others" (The Orange County Register, California).
#5. Audiences were drawn to those American venues via the internet, through such websites as: www.jonathanfrid.com. Back 6. In 1984 the play was adapted as a film with Jack Lemmon.