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”.
George Harris II scouted out New York City in 1963 and found an apartment (no easy feat with six kids!) with the assistance of Ellen Stewart founder of off off Broadway’s La Mama ETC. The apartment was at 319 East 9th Street in the East Village and La Mama had the basement space. George Harris II and Jayne Anne Harris followed in August of 1964 and November 1 1964 is the day the rest of the Harris family arrived in New York City. Read more in the book “Caravan To Oz” . #caravantooz Available on Amazon:
Amazon – Caravan to Oz
One of the off off Broadway theaters we grew up and performed in has a great Halloween party every year. If you haven’t experienced Theater for the New City on Halloween, it is worth the trip!!!! Click on the link for more information.
Theater for the New City Village Halloween Costume Ball
Paul Zone, Miki Zone and The Screaming Violets backstage at Danceteria in May of 1982. It was the memorial for Hibiscus aka George Harris III. He died of AIDS May 6 1982, Paul Zone has a new book about growing up in the New York underground scene.
Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground