by Walter Michael Harris
Last night my sisters, Eloise Harris-Damone and Mary Lou Harris-Pietsch, opened in a new concept production of the musical ‘HAIR’, directed by Ari Rodriguez and presented by Columbia Stages at the Connelly Theater, 220 E. 4th Street in Manhattan. Here’s a mini-review by our friend, Jackie Rudin, who also took the photos below this post:
“Went to opening night for this glorious new production of HAIR at The Connelly Theater staring, among others, my dear friends Mary Lou Harris and Eloise Harris-Damone, sisters of my old friend Hibiscus (entertainer)!
Went with Fussy Lo Mein, Fannie Mae B. Free, Hucklefaery Ken, Sasha Silverstein, Jamie Leo and Alan Sabal and what a treat to run into Jim Rado, co- writer of the original production of HAIR and theater luminaries Robert Heide and John Gilman from Cafe Cino days.
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of HAIR is was quite poignant to have a cast mostly made up of actors in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s, who were around for the original HAIR debut in 1967, beautifully giving it their all!
The show put on by The Columbia University School of the Arts under the leadership of Anne Bogart is almost sold out but get a ticket if you can! Bravo to Mary Lou, Eloise and all! You certainly deserved the standing ovation!
Photos above by Jackie Rudin.
And here’s some background on HAIR from our good friend Jim Gossage, off-off-Broadway’s premier photographer:
“Hair: A Tribal Love-Rock Musical” is connected very strongly to Cafe La MaMa. In April, 1966 Co-author Gerome Ragni was Clown 1 in an Open Theater production, “The Clown Play”, a scene by Bertolt Brecht. Clown 2, Joyce Aaron Funk, a year earlier joined Ragni and his “Hair” co-author James Rado in the Chicago production of Ann Jellicoe’s “The Knack” where the two authors worked on the “Hair” script.
Joseph Papp was preparing the opening of his new Public Theater space when Gerome Ragni and James Rado brought him their play. Eventually Papp decided to use “Hair” as his inaugural production at the Anspacher Theater and Ellen Stewart invited him to use Cafe La MaMa on Second Avenue for production of the replaced play “Stock Up On Pepper Cause Turkey’s Going To War” (February, 1967) by Frank Zajac. Joseph Papp brought in his portable stage and he set it up on the floor of Cafe La MaMa. I think this was the first production at Cafe La MaMa without the service counter. The traveling stage took up too much space.
“Hair” anniversary celebrations have occurred at La MaMa Experimental Theater including the fiftieth only a couple months ago.
With Tom O’Horgan directing, the original Broadway cast included La MaMa people Walter Michael Harris, Jonathan Kramer, Marjorie LiPari with Seth Allen as a standby for Claude (James Rado’s character). Later, Tom Eyen cast Leata Galloway, an original cast member as Nefertiti in his 1973 production at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club on East Fourth Street.
And a new production will include more La MaMa alumni, Michael Harris’ sisters who enjoyed success in their own La MaMa productions, including “Cheek To Cheek” and “Hibiscus” (directed by Jacque Lynn Colton, written and originally produced by Walter Michael Harris at Pilgrim Center For The Arts in Seattle). Jayne Anne Harris is recovering from an injury but her sisters, Mary Lou Harris and Eloise Harris-Damone are cast members in a production that is part of a Masters thesis at Columbia University with performances beginning this Wednesday, March 29 at Connelly, 220 East Fourth Street. http://arts.columbia.edu/events/spring-2017/hair
Curated and directed by Coffeehouse Chronicles Series Director Michal Gamily, LaMaMa is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of HAIR: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical with co-creator James Rado, composer Galt MacDermot, and featuring members of the original Off-Broadway cast of 1967, Broadway cast of 1968, and the cast of the 2009 Broadway revival, including Shaleah Adkisson, Debbie Andrews, Michael Butler (via video), Peppy Castro, André De Shields, Lauren Elder, Ellen Foley, Annie Golden, Walter Michael Harris (via video), Ula Hedwig, Antwayn Hopper, Rev. Marjorie Lipari, Melba Moore, Natalie Mosco, Allan Nicholls, Jill O’Hara, Jim Rado, Robert Rubinsky, Dale Soules, and Jared Weiss. The artist lineup is subject to availability and may change. The musical director and pianist Balint Varga will lead Richard Cohen as Musical Supervisor/Saxophone/Flute/Clarinet, Aaron Drescher on drums, Dave D’Aranjo on bass, and Thayer Naples on Guitar. The Coffeehouse Chronicles #139, at La MaMa (66 E. 4 St. in NYC) on Saturday, January 21 at 2 p.m, moderated by Gamily and Coffeehouse Chronicles Co-Founder, Chris Kapp, will offer a panel, performances, and archival media by Dagmar Krajnc and the HAIR private collection. The event will also feature artwork by Suki Weston. Click here for more information on Coffee House Chronicles and here for the 50th Anniversary of HAIR.
Read the New York Times preview article:
And La MaMa’s press release:
This gallery contains 3 photos.
Our mother, Ann Marie McCanless Harris, passed away September 10, 2016, at 90 years young. She sang and danced her way through life, giving us all inspiration as well as the feeling that anything was possible. A life celebration is being planned in New York City in November or December, date and venue to be […]
Mark Thompson helped the world understand the LGBT community. His influence is enormous, and his voice will continue to resonate through his publications, photos and in those he has influenced.
Follow this link to a wonderful profile by Karen Ocamb:
Each year the family tries to top itself at this popular Halloween costume contest in the Catskill Mountain town of Andes, New York. This year was no exception. Here are your “Best Group” winners, The Presidential Candidates, from left to right: Donald Trump (Jayne Anne), Hillary Clinton (Mary Lou) and Jeb Bush (Eloise). Wow!
This weekend, a new production of HAIR opened at Bainbridge Performing Arts, just a ferry ride away from my home in Seattle. Michael Moore, theater critic for The Kitsap Sun, was won over by the energy and vibrancy of the cast, the fine work of the creative team, and by the irresistible theatrical alchemy of HAIR. Here is his review, in PDF:
If you live near Seattle, this is a HAIR you should see. Its anti-war message is as relevant today as it was almost 50 years ago. But don’t procrastinate – its three-week run ends Sunday, October 25. Below are director Teresa Thurman’s excellent program notes, and photos shared with me by BPA’s public relations director, Sally Jo Martine.
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Teresa Thuman
What happens when two opposing forces collide, such as when a writer of college musical revues (James Rado) meets an experimental ritualistic theatre artist of the Open Theatre (Gerome Ragni) in the middle of an era of radical social change (1960’s)? You get the cosmic explosion and unique cultural fusion that is HAIR, the Broadway hit musical. HAIR was honest, raw, organic, iconoclastic, non-linear, and spoke to a generation rejecting their parents’ rigid and conventional social norms.
HAIR is primarily an anti-war story, created at a time of unapologetic experimentation with every conceivable means of altering reality: psychedelic drugs, sexual freedom, revolutionary politics, a search for identity, self-examination, and, under the shadow of potential induction into the draft, questioning existence itself. Within this environment, a brave, intimate and idealistic tribe is forged, and tested, on their path to celebrate the gift of life.
HAIR is now almost 50 years old, and in 2015 our concepts of radicalism have changed. The pendulum of social change swings through the decades, and HAIR now holds outdated views of racial equity, cultural and gender identity, sexual orientation, politics and drugs (addiction is never explored). We look back knowing much of this hippie utopia was naïve and unsustainable. However, I am forever grateful to this vanguard of courageous idealists, because without their radical acts in the 1960s, this world would be a very different place. Perhaps the Age of Aquarius is indeed upon us and the endurance of this musical is proof enough for me.
This quote is from a recent rave in The Antigonish Review:
“….Dominic writes as Julius Caesar spoke (“I came, I saw, I conquered.”), as Dickens wrote, and as Toni Morrison writes. The style is immediate and emotive. It also makes for a fasten-your-seat-belt read….”
And here’s the link to the full review by Marjorie Simmins:
Get to know Magie by ordering “STREET ANGEL” and by visiting:
Only three more performances remaining – hurry, hurry to Albuquerque before they sell out! Our cousin Dale Rose and her family caught the show this weekend and were quite moved by it. Here’s a local review:
ANGELS OF LIGHT REVIEW BY DEAN YANNIAS
Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes
The Dolls at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
If you were lucky enough to have been at the opening weekend of Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes, you would have had the privilege of hearing Rumi Missabu, one of the few surviving members of The Cockettes, sing “Stranger in Paradise” from Kismet half in the voice of Alfalfa and half in the voice of Marlene Dietrich, in drag. It’s this kind of absurdist creativity (genius, in a way) that was the hallmark of The Cockettes.
The Cockettes flourished for only a few years, 1969 to 1972, and were sui generis. They are usually called a psychedelic drag troupe, but their fantastic costumes and glittery makeup owe more to Mardi Gras parades than to traditional drag, and there were a few women in the group. They lived communally in San Francisco and performed almost exclusively there, except for a less than successful stint in New York. They were too hot not to cool down, and after a couple years the group broke up for good.
Just by chance, after seeing this show, I saw a Susan Sontag reader sitting among the dozens of unread books at my bedside, and found her famous “Notes on Camp” essay. She says: “The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric—something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” She was in essence defining The Cockettes.
Kenneth Ansloan, who is without doubt one of the most creative people in Albuquerque, has turned the history of The Cockettes into a partly fictional stage play, another world premiere for our town. He not only wrote it but, along with Jessica Osbourne, directs it as well. His way into the story is through an elderly Cockette, Juju (played by Ansloan), reminiscing to a young student (Bryan Andrew Lambe) who is doing research on the group. The student then takes on the role of the young Juju, and we’re transported back to San Francisco in 1970. He soon meets Hibiscus (Garrick Milo), the leader of the Cockettes, otherwise known as George Harris III, who was immortalized in the famous 1967 “Flower Power” photograph as the young man putting a flower into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle. After passing the blow job test, Juju is invited into the commune and becomes a Cockette member. We then follow the group to the climax of their fame, and the deflation that follows.
In all of Ken’s shows, amid the flamboyance and hilarity and raunch (there’s always a dildo somewhere), there are moments of poignancy and pensiveness. Here, they originate from the love story between Juju and Hibiscus, and that’s one of the problems with the script. That love story hardly exists, so when young Juju breaks down in tears or old Juju finds some evidence that Hibiscus really did love him and can finally be at peace, it’s easy to question why this wasn’t demonstrated to us other than by an offhand whisper of “I love you” by Hibiscus as he was flouncing around. There’s dramatic potential here that wasn’t quite realized.
My only other suggestion is to trim the first act a little, since it drags a bit. There is a “Cheech and Chong” stoner dialogue between two minor characters that goes on too long, and a monologue by Candy Darling (A.J. Carian) that could be shortened. Sometimes too much of a good thing is really too much. And for some reason, old Juju sounds British but young Juju, except for a couple lines, sounds totally American.
But these few shortcomings are easily outweighed by the really good things about the show. The story itself is interesting, the spectacle is always entertaining, and the actors are all very good. I’m grateful for the fact that they didn’t lip-sync. There are some excellent performers here, in drag or not, and I would have loved to have heard more singing from Jaime Pardo (who plays Sylvester, the only Cockette to have a well-known solo career) and Jessica Osbourne and Garrick Milo. It’s a pretty big cast that includes Hasani Olujimi, Joshua Ball, Brian Fejer, and Joel Miller.
As in all Dolls shows, the costumes and makeup and wigs are fabulous. Credit goes to Off Broadway, House of Dolls, Korlee Robinson, and Nikolas Hoover. The amazing set, which transforms in seconds from a New York City apartment to a San Francisco commune or a theater dressing room, was built by Tom Epley, Ray Cawley, Ray Francia, Garrick Milo, Heather Epley, and Lauren Epley. The set is beautifully dressed by Dean Squibb and Nina Dorrance, who also did the props (she’s everywhere). Lighting and sound, by John Kupjack and Tom Epley, are excellent.
Whether The Cockettes were a seminal group, or just a one-off, history will judge. But they should not be forgotten, and we can thank Ken Ansloan and all of the Dolls for reminding us that once upon a time, for one brief shining moment …
Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes, written and directed by Kenneth Ansloan, is being presented at the Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill in Albuquerque. On Monte Vista just north of Central.
Through May 31, 2015. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets $20. Info at www.auxdog.com or 505-254-7716. Unfortunately, Rumi Missabu was here only for the first weekend.
Not long after we arrived in the land of off-off-Broadway, we found ourselves in very good company. Marshall directed two of us in world premieres of Lanford Wilson plays in 1965: Dad (George Harris, Sr.) in “This Is The Rill Speaking” at the Caffe Cino; and Walter Michael Harris in “The Sandcastle” at La MaMa. In 1967, Marshall directed an all-star cast that included Jayne Anne Harris in Claris Nelson’s “The Clown” at the Cino. Also that year he invited Walter to reprise his role as Kenny in “The Sandcastle” – a revival that ran first at La MaMa and was extended at the Cino. These shows were rich experiences that helped us grow as artists. Marshall’s example became our gold standard of how a director works effectively with playwrights, actors and designers. He was a class act from Day One, and a pleasure to work with. So it comes as no surprise to us that Marshall is being recognized and honored in this way.
Here is the text of Marshall’s acceptance speech at the American Theater Hall of Fame “Class of 2014” induction ceremony on May 4th at The Gershwin Theater in New York City:
“I’m so grateful this honor is not being bestowed posthumously.
What a privilege to be inscribed among the names of the great directors of the past: David Belasco, Orson Welles, Tyrone Guthrie, Peter Brook, Garson Kanin, Mike Nichols and, my artistic hero, Elia Kazan.
This reward is for a lifetime of doing what I loved, so I must thank my mentors who guided my path to this moment: Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg and, especially, Alvina Krause. It would be disingenuous of me not to also mention Mel Gussow.
When I founded Circle Repertory Company, I followed visionary trailblazers like Eva La Gallienne, Margo Jones, Joe Cino, Ellen Stewart and Joe Chaiken.
Enlarging my vision were my inspirations: Tennessee Williams, Francois Truffaut, John Gielgud, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Laurence Olivier, Kim Stanley and Cat Stevens.
Always before me were the examples of enduring creative relationships: Chekhov and Stanislavski, Lindsay and Crouse, Rogers and Hammerstein, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Lanford Wilson and I were proud to join that list, with the longest collaboration between a playwright and director in the history of the American Theater. Lance, you’re still here.
This recognition is a celebration of my colleagues: John Lee Beatty, Rob Thirkield, Tanya Berezin, William Hurt, Trish Hawkins, Judd Hirsch, Nancy Snyder, Jonathan Hogan, Swoosie Kurtz, Jeff Daniels, Helen Stenborg, Richard Thomas, Debra Monk, Bill Hoffman, John Bishop, my Stage Managers Margo Channing & Eve Harrington, otherwise known as Fred Reinglas & Denise Yaney, and the amazing company of actors, playwrights and designers who were Circle Rep.
A personal thanks to Rand Mitchell, my Assistant for many productions, who advised me on details I was inclined to overlook, like the high-heeled shoes of my leading ladies. Also to my good neighbor George Atty for kindnesses too numerous to mention. And to my faithful friend, who´s here tonight, my Gal Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday, Glenna Clay.
Always sharing my journey to this peak was mi compañero of 40 years, and mi esposo for the last four, Danny Irvine.
As Ozymandias might warn us, unfortunately being designated an Immortal does not actually impart Immortality. But in my posthumous years, which I hope will be in some distant future when even Wicked will have closed, someone will look at this impressive list (in the South rotunda) and say: “Who was he? He must have been Someone.” Perhaps his companion will answer: “Of course: everyone is someone; but not every Has Been has been someone who is remembered.”
Thanks for remembering me.”
With love from The Harris Family