( b. May 17, 1926 Sugar Island, Michigan, USA - d. Nov 27, 2012 Kingston, New Jersey, USA ) Male
Mr. Neumann had the motley résumé of many a working actor, with small roles in Hollywood films, guest appearances on television series and a foray or two on Broadway. But his main impact was away from the popular track — Off Broadway or Off Off, frequently in the audience-challenging realm of experimental theater.
In 1971 he joined a fledgling troupe consisting of the director JoAnne Akalaitis, the writer and director Lee Breuer, the composer Philip Glass and the actors David Warrilow and Ruth Maleczech.
Calling themselves Mabou Mines — the name came from a town in Nova Scotia where the group spent a working summer — they produced a series of works that, in the parlance of the time, might have been considered less theater than performance art or conceptual art, generally involving the Minimalist music of Mr. Glass.
It was the company’s attachment to Beckett, however, that established it as a theater troupe. By 1990, Mabou Mines had produced eight of Beckett’s works — including six not originally written for the theater that had their world premieres with the company.
Mr. Neumann had met Beckett at a museum in East Berlin in 1976, and their ensuing friendship encouraged the playwright to entrust him and the company with those nontheatrical texts.
“Fred, as an actor, could appear at the same time avuncular and congenial and warm and cuddly — and also dangerous and brutal, quite threatening,” Ms. Akalaitis said. “Behind all that was the mind of a truly cultivated man, interested in literature, who had a long relationship with Beckett that he treasured.”
Mr. Neumann, who appeared in most of the Beckett pieces, directed three of the adaptations. One was Mercier and Camier, a kind of novelistic forerunner to Waiting for Godot. Written in 1946 (though not published until 1970), it tells of two mismatched pals, the title characters — Mr. Neumann played Mercier — on an aimless journey “towards some unquestioned goal.”
The others were Company, a slim volume of fictionalized, autobiographical episodes that Mr. Neumann and his wife, Honora Fergusson, created for the stage together; and Worstward Ho, a dense monologue about existence that Mr. Neumann adapted for four performers, including himself as the narrator.
Mr. Neumann’s film credits include “The Prince of Tides,” an adaptation of the Pat Conroy novel directed by Barbra Streisand, and “Reversal of Fortune,” about the Claus von Bulow murder case, directed by Barbet Schroeder. On television he appeared on “Law & Order” and “Spenser: For Hire.”
On Broadway he appeared in 1979 as Sir Thomas Vaughan in Richard III, starring Al Pacino, and in 1985 as Piet Wetjoen (“the general”), a barfly, in The Iceman Cometh, directed by José Quintero. His credits off Broadway include Cymbeline and The Tempest at the Public Theater, both directed by Ms. Akalaitis, and David Rabe’s Goose and Tom-Tom, also at the Public.
In First Love, by Charles Mee, at the New York Theater Workshop, he and Ms. Maleczech gave striking performances as septuagenarian lovers who enact an entire affair, from first encounter through besotted courtship to anguished heartbreak — including a remarkably persuasive scene of simulated coitus.
In a 1979 interview, Mr. Neumann discussed the turning point of his theatrical life: “Somebody by the name of James Joyce — not the James Joyce — hauled me off on Jan. 3, 1953, to the Théâtre de Babylone,” he recalled. “It was the first performance of Waiting for Godot.”
Source: The New York Times