photo of Truman Clark

Freud on tour

Sigmund Freud is appearing on college and university stages across North America with a little help from Truman Clark, Ph.D. '70, history.

Clark plays Freud at the age of 82 in a one-person show, "Freud," which he wrote. "What I try for," says Clark, "is to convince audience members that they have just listened to Sigmund Freud reminisce in his London study."

What does Freud reminisce? His study in Paris under Charcot; his feelings about Paris and about Sarah Bernhardt, when he saw her act there; the development of his psychoanalytical theories and work; his romance with Martha Bermays and their four-year engagement and marriage; his children; his feelings about the United States and Woodrow Wilson; his trip to the United States to lecture at Clark University in 1909; his relationship with Carl Jung; his Jewishness, cigars, and heart problems; his cancer of the jaw and the 33 operations he underwent to treat it; the Nazis and Hitler; the difficulties of escaping from Austria to England; his new life in England; and his approaching death.

Clark wrote the script "entirely from the words" in Freud's letters, his diary from 1928-1938, and his books. "I have woven them together by topics to make a logical and flowing script," Clark says. To perfect his German accent he worked with two native speakers (one who was born in Nuremburg in 1925 and recalls meeting Hitler as a little girl in the female Hitler Youth).

"The play has a number of Freud's humorous lines in it that break up the grim realities of those times and of his terrible health problems," says Clark. Before he appears on-stage, the audience sees 27 slides of people and places in Freud's life. Music is also part of the production, including "Earth Prayer" by Bill Douglas and Nazi party music. The play begins with Freud's intention of asking his personal physician to keep his promise not to let him remain in pain when life "seems to make no sense anymore."

Clark took up acting at the age of 60, appearing in community theater productions in the greater Houston area. Prior to Freud his roles included Petrovin in "Anastasia," Aide Turkle in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Commander Walter Stone in "A Few Good Men," and Arvide in "Guys and Dolls." These roles were secondary to his major role as professor of United States history at Tomball College.

"One day," says Clark, "as I walked down the hall, a student I didn't know stopped me and asked if I was one of the profs there, and I said I was. He had seen me in the halls before, and had often thought I looked like a photo of someone in one of his textbooks. He hoped I wouldn't be offended that it was Sigmund Freud. I immediately said, 'Oh, no, I'm not offended at all!' " It then occurred to Clark that Mark Twain, Harry Truman and Will Rogers had all been portrayed in one-person shows-so why not Freud?

Clark then began researching the script and wrote it over a period of about two and a half years. Since 1999 he has performed "Freud" at Mountain View College, Sam Houston State University, Tomball College, Lee College, Minnesota State University at Moorhead, the University of Winnipeg and Abilene Christian University. Charging only his travel expenses and a small acting fee, Clark says "Freud" hasn't exactly made him a lot of money-"but that's OK."

As a historian Clark's area of expertise was 20th-century Puerto Rico. He published from 1976-1998 a dozen articles on running for Runner's World and other running magazines, as well as numerous op-ed articles involving history for major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

Return to profiles page