“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Pope Freeman, a giant in the Santa Barbara theatre community for over forty years, peacefully passed away at his home in Goleta on October 31. He had battled Parkinson’s Disease for more than two decades. He was 84.
Benjamin Pope Freeman, Jr, was born in Savannah, Georgia on September 20, 1935. He grew up performing in the family living room on Sunday evenings with his younger sister Margaret Mary.
Directed by his father and accompanied by his mother on the piano, the theatrical seed was planted as they performed song and dance numbers from his father’s amateur vaudeville career. Pope graduated from Savannah High School and received his BFA in Speech and Drama from the University of Georgia.
He received a Master’s Degree in Theatre from Cal State LA and a PhD from Tulane University, New Orleans. After completing his PHD he returned to Cal State LA where he taught in the Theatre Arts Department.
In 1963, Pope married college sweetheart Jane Armitage and adopted her son Robert. They had two other children, Meg and Davis who followed in their father’s artistic footsteps and have become successful choreographers and directors in Europe.
In 1971, Pope moved to Santa Barbara to become the Producer/Director for the Alhecama Players, a community theatre group operating through SBCC’s Adult Education Program. Over the next 15 years, he transformed the Alhecama Players into a civic treasure. He produced and directed four shows a year at The Lobero Theatre with plays ranging from King Lear to The King and I. He turned the 100-seat Alhecama Theatre into a space where edgier and more avant-garde plays were performed. He also directed for Santa Barbara Youth Theatre. During that time, The Alhecama Players merged with the Theatre Arts Department at SBCC where Pope was a major player in the expansion of the Theatre Arts Department and the construction of the Garvin Theatre. In 1977 Pope moved in to the newly completed Drama/Music complex on SBCC’s West campus and began a 26-year tenure where he taught a generation of young actors and directed over 60 shows for the SBCC Theatre Group. He retired in 2003 and was honored with the Santa Barbara Independent’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre.
In 1991 Pope married his life partner and soul mate, Jan Hanreddy. He and Jan were a team in all things and he was immensely proud his step-daughter Amy, an Associate Professor at Cal State University, Northridge. He was a doting grandfather to Kaya, Paul, Eleanor and Iris. He was an avid camper and fisherman, a frustrated golfer and a great friend and mentor to more people than he could ever imagine.
A memorial celebrating the life of Pope Freeman will be held in the Garvin Theatre on January 11 at 2PM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to The Parkinson Association of Santa Barbara, PO Box 6254, SB, CA, 93160-6254 or VNA Health, 512 E. Gutierrez, SB 93103.
Heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Sarah Kempe-Mehl, VNA nurses Laura Guerrero and Melody Zaida and caregiver Luis Castenada Herrera.