Our family reunion started at the beach in Ocean Grove, New Jersey and turned into the kickoff of writing our second book about our brother George Harris III aka Hibiscus. Once back in New York City, positive signs from the universe began to appear. A freshly glittered sign at Judson Church (one of our first Off – Off Broadway homes), a fresh Hibiscus flower found at 7AM on an industrial street in Chelsea. In the words of Joe Cino before every show at the Caffe Cino – “It’s magic time.”
By Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris and Mary Lou Harris
Photo by Dan Jansen
(L-R Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris and Mary Lou Harris)
Off-Off Broadway theater was our first home. For two decades, The Harris Sisters (Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou) and the rest of our family performed in original drama and musicals at New York City’s La Mama ETC., Caffe Cino, Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, Theater for the New City, Judson Poets Theater and more. They travelled across Europe with their brother Hibiscus and his Angels of Light Theater troupe.
Inspired by the beat of the New York punk and rock scene of the late 1970’s, The Harris Sisters and Trouble (our band), led by brother Fred, included bassist Ray Ploutz, guitarists Bill Davis and Josh Callow and drummers Mike Pedulla and Mike Kimmel, played at CBGB, SNAFU, Great Gildersleeves, The Mudd Club, RT Firefly, Peppermint Lounge and other rock venues of the day.
At the height of the disco era, The Harris Sisters were unable to resist our charismatic brother Hibiscus’ charms in wooing us to form the bejeweled rock and roll group, Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets. We embarked on a new tour of New York City disco clubs such as Studio 54, Xenon, The Ice Palace, Bonds, Danceteria and The Red Parrot. We performed on the same circuit with Madonna, The Weather Girls, Blondie, Nona Hendryx, Grace Jones, Michael Musto and The Must, Billy Idol and Cyndi Lauper. It seemed that we had an all access pass to the greatest musical scene on earth…. Stay tuned for more blogs from The Harris Family…
Read The Harris Sisters’ full story in their new memoir, Caravan to Oz: a family reinvents itself off-off Broadway
A must read for theater enthusiasts, academics and emerging performance artists!,August 29, 2014
This review is from: Caravan to Oz: A family reinvents itself off-off-Broadway (Paperback)
Caravan to Oz is a chronicle of one of the most unique families of the off off Broadway stage and screen. The saga begins with Ann and George Harris, Sr. (Superman, 1978), where life and art converged in a small D.I.Y. garage theater in Florida. Just like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films Anne and George Sr. took themselves and their six “babes in arms” to acclaim to stages throughout New York City and Europe. The cast of this family memoir ranges from La Mama’s Ellen Stewart to Oscar winning actor / director Tim Robbins.
The candid pictures and narrations from the Harris siblings is a “how to survive guide” for any hopeful thespian or artist in this new depression era. The memoir answers every question, challenge, and tells it like it is … behind every TV, IMDB film credit or theater credit there is the day job or in the case of The Screaming Violets: Jayne, Eloise, and Mary Lou – a night job at the coat check at Studio 54.
Besides the nail-biting, high risk-taking for the sake of art making there is tragedy ranging from losing Hibiscus to HIV/ AIDS causes (the renowned performance artist and founder of the psychedelic theater troupe The Cockettes) to 9/11 and its effect on the Harris family and their own survival and need for further reinvention.
Caravan to Oz shares the highs and the “do or die” of the artist’s way (… and then some). What is refreshing is that book is full of living and not replete with backstabbing or name dropping of most memoirs. The names that are dropped however throughout the picture packed pages just happen to have graced the lives of Anne, George, Sr. Hibiscus, Walter-Michael, Frederic, Jayne, Eloise, and Mary Lou Harris. A must read for theater enthusiasts, academics or emerging D.I.Y. performers.
Timothy Bellavia is an Educator, Author, and Owner/Founder at “We Are All The Same Inside”.
Award winning author, artist Magie Dominic with her copy of Caravan To Oz. Click on the links below to see Magie’s recent discussion about the Caffe Cino – then click on her blog link to read about her new book, Street Angel.
The Caffe Cino: Lanford Wilson, Bette Midler and Everyone in Between