Author Archives: michael

Director Marshall W. Mason is inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame –

Director Marshall W. Mason is inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame –

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.

Marshall Marshall.wall:

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.”

Congratulations, Marshall!

With love from The Harris Family

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Brothers Against The War Machine

Brothers Against The War Machine

by Walter Michael Harris

In the fall of 1967, with the war in Vietnam raging, a large scale antiwar demonstration was organized at the Pentagon. Many photojournalists were on hand, including Bernie Boston, who took a photo of my brother, George Harris III, age 18, inserting flowers into the rifle barrels of National Guard soldiers in a tense confrontation.

Bernie Boston told Curio Magazine interviewer Alice Ashe in 2005:

“I saw the troops march down into the sea of people, and I was ready for it. One soldier lost his rifle. Another lost his helmet. The rest had their guns pointed out into the crowd, when all of a sudden a young hippie stepped out in front of the action with a bunch of flowers in his left hand. With his right hand he began placing the flowers into the barrels of the soldiers’ guns. He came out of nowhere, and it took me years to find out who he was . . . his name was Harris.”

Boston’s iconic image of my brother George, answering guns with flowers, remains a metaphor for the message of the 1960s youth counterculture movement – that love can overcome political tyranny, unite the human family, break the war machine, and bring peace to the world.

Three months later, at age 16, I was cast in the rock musical HAIR as it was preparing to open on Broadway. HAIR has a reputation as a “hippie musical” but, in fact, it was (and is) a powerful anti-war statement. The show was an overnight sensation, broadcasting the hopes and dreams of the youth counterculture, and an earnest plea to end the war.

Boys from my New York City neighborhood were drafted, went to Vietnam and returned injured, or never came back. Inspired by my brother meeting guns with flowers, I poured my whole self into making my performance in HAIR a deeply personal statement against the Vietnam War. I believe the show’s many first-run productions around the world played a part in ending the war. In modern HAIR productions my brother’s courageous act of protest is reenacted.

Our full story is in the new memoir, Caravan to Oz: a family reinvents itself off-off-Broadway.

To order the book, CLICK HERE.

Photo credits for this blog:

“Flower Power” – Bernie Boston/RIT Archive Collections/Rochester Institute of Technology

HAIR Logo – courtesy Michael Butler

Flower_Power002a_dochair logo

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Flower Power blooms 47 years ago as George Harris III answers guns with peaceful flowers

Flower Power blooms 47 years ago as George Harris III answers guns with peaceful flowers

Photo: Bernie Boston/RIT Archive Collections. Rochester Institute of Technology

Flower_Power002a_docOn October 21, 1967 – Bernie Boston’s photo of the brave, peace-loving teenager in a turtleneck sweater putting flowers into the gun barrels of military police went far beyond being a runner up for the Pulitzer Prize. This iconic moment became the origin of “Flower Power,” the most popular anti-war catchphrase of the 1960s. Mr. Boston told Alice Ashe of Curio magazine in 2005, “I saw the troops march down into the sea of people, and I was ready for it. One soldier lost his rifle. Another lost his helmet. The rest had their guns pointed out into the crowd, when all of a sudden a young hippie stepped out in front of the action with a bunch of flowers in his left hand. With his right hand he began placing the flowers into the barrels of the soldiers’ guns. ‘He came out of nowhere,’ says Boston, ‘and it took me years to find out who he was . . . his name was Harris.'”

“Harris” was George Harris III, at 18 years of age, whose life’s work was an example of Flower Power and free expression. George went on to rename himself “Hibiscus” and created powerful new forms of theater and political expression around the world. He passed away from AIDS in 1982 at the age of 32. His life story is recounted in ‘Caravan to Oz: a family reinvents itself off-off-Broadway,’ a memoir written by his family. www.caravantooz.com

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