John C. Frey, an actor, screenwriter, theater director and acting teacher who split his career between New York City and Lisbon, Portugal, passed away suddenly on January 23, 2021, in New York. He was 62.
John was born in the Bronx on April 30, 1958 to Margaret (Peggy) and Robert Frey. His family moved to Pearl River in 1972, where John attended Pearl High School and Rockland Community College, where he studied the performing arts.
A graduate of the prestigious William Esper Studio for actors in Manhattan – where he eventually became a teacher of the Meisner acting technique from 2019 until his death – John went on to a 25-year international career in film, theater and television. His last credit was as an actor and screenwriter for Bruno de Almeida's Cabaret Maxime, a feature film for which he won the Portuguese Society of Authors 2019 best screenplay award.
A release by the William Esper Studio days after John's death stated: “An artist pure of heart and generous of spirit has been taken from us far too soon. John was a critically-acclaimed director, award-winning screenwriter and among the most respected acting technique teachers in the world.”
John Frey's early New York theater acting and directing credits include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Miss Julie, Of Mice and Men and a Bruce Nauman Retrospective at DIA Center for the Arts, written and directed by Tate Award winner, Mark Wallinger.
It was in the New York City that he first started working with Portuguese filmmaker, Bruno de Almeida – an expatriate director with whom John went on to collaborate on several movies over the following two decades, first in On the Run (1999,) followed by The Collection (2005,) The Lovebirds (2009,) The Lecture (2012,) Operation Autumn (2013,) and Cabaret Maxime (2019.)
His other film work includes Michael Imperioli's The Hungry Ghosts, 15 Months in May, Call Girl in Slow Motion (Portugal,) The Wake (Denmark,) and Les Taxis Rouge with Jean Reno (France.) John's television acting credits include Rescue Me with Dennis Leary and the TV miniseries, Mata Hari, with Rutger Hauer and Gérard Depardieu (Russia.)
In 2009, John Frey moved to Lisbon, Portugal – the capital with which he'd had a deep, personal relationship for many years. He had found his place in Lisbon's twisted, centuries-old, cobblestone alleys, and in its inherent cinematic atmosphere. He opened the John Frey Studio for Actors shortly thereafter to great acclaim, where he taught the Meisner technique to a new generation of young, Portuguese actors. In Lisbon, John also founded the Below the Belt Theater Company in 2013, through which he directed and staged several plays.
John Frey's many awards and film recognitions in Europe include The Sophia Award for Best Adapted Screenplay from the Portuguese Academy of Cinema for the film, Operation Autumn; the Best Screenplay Award from the Festival of Independent Cinema of Ourense for the film, The Lovebirds; and the Best Screenplay Award from the Society of Portuguese Authors (SPA) for the film, Cabaret Maxime.
John Frey returned to his native New York in 2018 to join the William Esper Studio faculty. At the time of his passing, he was to promote, what turned out to be his last completed project – a screenplay about Herman Melville, the author of arguably the greatest novel ever written, Moby Dick.
On a personal level, John was athletic and had a true love for basketball, starting with his early years at Tolentine grammar school. He was also a die-hard Knicks fan and followed the team passionately throughout the years. His roots in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen led him to Andy B and the Tuesday night basketball game played at a school gym on 48th & 8th that lasted over 30 years, until the pandemic hit. They were a tight-knit group of friends. John also had many close friends in Rockland County whom he kept in touch with over the years. He always made an effort to connect with them, whenever he came for a visit.
John is survived by his beloved mother Margaret (Peggy)Frey; sister Mary K Fusco of Pearl River; brother Gerard Frey & (Regina) of Durham, NC; nephews Tim Fusco & (Meagan), John Gannon & (Amanda) Michael Frey & (Kelsey); nieces Christina Urezich & (Paul), Jackie & (Kevin) and Kathleen Frey; his adopted brothers, Anthony Siciliano and Bruno de Almeida; his loving Frey and Hayes cousins whom he cherished and enjoyed many summers with in Hampton Bays; numerous friends from Pearl River, New York City and Lisbon, where he was affectionately known as “Johnny from the Bronx”.
Visiting: Friday, January 29, from 4-6pm at Wyman Fisher Funeral Home
Memorial Mass at St. John the Baptist RC Church, Piermont, NY will be announced at a later date.
A Celebration of John’s life will be planned for the spring of 2021.
Repass at the Pearl River Elks @ 6:30pm
2041 Elks Drive, Nanuet, NY 10954
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