Class, Gender, and Race at the Center of Dutchman- William Harris Papers

Authored by Katie Ranno

Review of "Dutchman" by William B. Harris at the wellknown Perry Street Theatre in 1977. A one-act play with one location tackles the topics of race, class, and gender head on. Courtesy of Marymount Manhattan College
Review of “Dutchman” by William B. Harris at the wellknown Perry Street Theatre in 1977. A one-act play with one location tackles the topics of race, class, and gender head on.

My Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) project has been focused on gathering more information about the Dutchman review pictured above. The object was written by William B. Harris, a writer of many talents, including that of theatre reviews. He died in the year 2000 (Brown 2001, 2). Marymount College has since received a number of his works, and now it is their mission to keep his writings alive and accessible so that the general public can learn about part of New York’s theatre history through his writings.

This particular production of Dutchman took place at the Perry Street Theatre with performances beginning on February 10, 1977 (Salem 1984, 46). The one-act play was written in 1963 by LeRoi Jones (also known as Imamu Amiri Baraka) tells the story of a white woman named Lula and a black man named Clay who become interested in each other while sitting on a subway (Als 2007, 1). However, preconceived notions cloud their judgments, taking the play in a direction that tackles class, gender, and race head on.

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The Long Voyage Home – The William Harris Papers: An Avenue for Social Justice

Authored by William A. Slone

The Playbill for Tennessee Williams’ The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O’Neill collected by William B. Harris, who reviewed the play

Tennessee Williams’ play, The Long Voyage Home, by Eugene O’Neill was performed by Washington Market Playhouse, Inc. at Morgan’s Old New York Grill, a tavern, which supplied the perfect atmosphere for a play about the sea and sailors (Harris, n.d.). The Long Voyage Home was most likely performed in 1976 on Saturday, January 10th and Sunday, January 11th (MMM, n.d.). William B. Harris was in attendance during those dates and wrote a review of the play. His review is archived in “The William Harris Papers,” a special collection housed in the Marymount Manhattan College Library. The playbill and Harris’ review provide two examples of the Vincentian concept.

William Harris described The Long Voyage Home as one of the “best hours imaginable” in a waterfront bar where he stated that, “The performers themselves become as natural a part of the bar as the drinking patrons” (Harris, n.d.). He described what one would expect to hear in a bar of sailors – tall tales and songs of adventure, alcohol, loves lost, and the ferociousness of the sea. Harris pointed out that, “most significantly the play contained the spirit of all voyagers: men without purpose who are outcasts except from the cheap dives they frequent while in port” (Harris, n.d.). Harris emphasized that “loneliness and monotony are temporary, and the freedom of choice is limited – a male predicament” (Harris, n.d.). With his description of the sailors in the play, Harris conveys a voice for them who are under-and/or misrepresented. The sailors had demanding jobs and they had to be strong to endure their harsh life.

Harris mentions that, “Alexander Sokoloff directed the play quite admirably” but mentioned, “there was some problem with the handling of foreign accents” (Harris, n.d.). His statement is quite interesting! Listed on the playbill under the heading “Characters” several of the actors have an asterisk beside their name. The asterisk identifies them as actors appearing through the courtesy of the Actors’ Equity Association. The Actors’ Equity Association established on July 18, 1919 negotiated rules concerning bonding, which required producers to post sufficient advance funds to guarantee salaries and benefits; minimum salaries; rehearsal pay; restriction on the employment of foreign actors and protections in dealings with theatrical agents (History of Actors’ Equity Association, n.d.). The foreign actors had the support of the Actors’ Equity Association in The Long Voyage Home. This is a second example of the “Vincentian Perspective.” They were provided a voice by the Actors’ Equity Association because they were under-and/or misrepresented among other actors.

William B. Harris was multitalented. Among many talents, he was a writer for SoHo Weekly News, an advocate for new dance artists and an informal adviser to dance producers (New York Times 2000). Morgan’s Old New York Grill, at 134 Reade Street in lower Manhattan was close to home (New York Times 1976). His review which praised The Long Voyage Home and the playbill each provides an important example of social justice.

Bibliography

Harris, William. n.d. “The Long Voyage Home.” William Harris Papers. Marymount Manhattan College. Accessed March 9, 2019.

“History of Actors’ Equity Association.” n.d. Organization. Actors’ Equity Association 1913. https://www.actorsequity.org/aboutequity/history/.

MMC (Marymount Manhattan College). n.d. William Harris Papers: Archives, http://www.mmm.edu/offices/library/archives.php.

The New York Times. 2000. “William Harris Writer, 49,” July 29, 2000. 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/29/arts/william-harris-writer-49.html.

The New York Times. 1976. “Going Out Guide,” May 13, 1976. 1976. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/05/13/archives/going-out-guide.html.

Charles L. Mee’s “The Trojan Women: A Love Story”

Authored by Sarah West

Newspaper clipping from The Village Voice of an advertisement for Mee’s “The Trojan Women: A Love Story.”

This advertisement ran in the Village Voice on July 9th, 1996. Charles L. Mee authored the play, and it was directed by Tina Landau. The play was a twist on Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Virgil’s Aenid, Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens and “modern day” pop-culture (Brantley 1996).  It followed the story of  Aeneas and his men who leave Troy and sail to Italy. They are lost at sea and end up in Carthage. Here he meets and  falls in love with Dido. Where this play differs from its inspiration, Dido does not die in this play. Continue reading

William Harris Papers – Bread and Puppet Theater

Authored by Rio Aucena

Bread and Puppet Theater production

Archbishop Oscar Romero (giant puppet) from the Bread and Puppet Theater’s new production, The Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.

When historical pictures are unearthed, these items not only tell us about our past but connects us together as a community. Some of these go a step further and leave messages that inspire and instill worthwhile values such as love, respect and service.

While perusing Marymount Manhattan College’s William Harris Papers, an image of a giant puppet caught my attention. Equally attention-grabbing was the note attached behind the black and white photograph stating the snapshot was from the Bread and Puppet Theater’s new production entitled, “The Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.” With such a curious theater group name and an interesting production subject, my interest was piqued.

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The Irondale Ensemble: Making Our World a Better Place

Authored by Yael Bronner

Photo of Irondale Ensemble

Members of Irondale in “Conversations in Exile.” Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

Imagine a theater company on a mission to educate as well as entertain. The Irondale Ensemble does just this, operating as a “performance think tank” and using the theater as a conduit for learning and growth.[1] Irondale delivers performances on thought-provoking topics and works tirelessly to attract the public through its community engagement programs.  The ensemble, located in Brooklyn, New York, was formed in 1983 and is composed of 12 members including actors, directors and designers.[2] It is funded by prominent cultural organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and The New York State Council on the Arts.[3]

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Marcel Marceau-William Harris Papers

Authored by Joann M White

Playbill featuring Marcel Marceau from the William Harris Papers

Playbill featuring Marcel Marceau from the William Harris Papers

The William B. Harris Papers are a collection of theater ephemera collected over a period of 30 years. After graduating from college William Harris moved to New York to become a writer. He would eventually be the theater editor for SoHo Weekly News and managing editor of Theatre Crafts Magazine. In the process of doing this work he would accumulate his theater collection. Mr. Harris would die of a massive coronary at the age of 49 on July 27, 2000. His brother John would donate the collection to Marymount Manhattan College, which has a dance and theater program.

 Mr. Harris’s papers are divided into eight separate genres; three are not in the archives at Marymount Manhattan College. The remaining five include unpublished scripts, photographs, posters, one videocassette and the largest part of the collection is in series #2. Series #2 contains 4,450 folders primarily newspaper clipping of reviews, playbills, photographs, postcards, advertisements for performances, as well as personal correspondence. This playbill from 1958 of Marcel Marceau is part of the collection. Continue reading

William B. Harris Papers – Meredith Monk

Authored by Magdaline J. Lawhorn

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 in the original sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 in the original sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 out of the sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 out of the sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Marymount Manhattan College now houses the collection of the late William B. Harris, a New York theater critic (Brown, 2001, 3p.). After his death his collections were donated, including newspaper clippings, playbills, ticket stubs, photographs, personal correspondence and other assorted items he had gathered over the years. Amongst this extensive collection Harris saved a vinyl record. The record was a single press of Candy Bullets and Moon by Meredith Monk and Don Preston (Monk & Preston, 1967). As one of the earliest recordings of Monk it captures more than just her beginnings. It symbolizes her longevity as a leading woman in the entertainment industry. Continue reading

Joe Papp and His Contribution to Public Theater

Authored by Crystal Lopez

Photograph of actors Priscilla Smith and Jamil Zakkai in full costume and masks during the production of Agamemnon, from the William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College

Photograph of Priscilla Smith and Jamil Zakkai during the production of Agamemnon, from the William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College

William Balber (Billy) Harris was a drama and dance critic who wrote articles, criticism and reviews for many publications including Art Forum, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. Throughout the course of his career he amassed an impressive collection of papers that his brother John wanted to keep available to the public after Harris’ death. They were donated to Marymount Manhattan College, who are best known for their performing arts program (Brown, 2001). Within Marymount’s collection is this photograph from the play Agamemnon. The play originally debuted in May 1977 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival (Playbill, n.d.).

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Eun Me Ahn – William Harris Papers

Authored by Kanisha Greaves

Photograph of Eun Me Ahn from the William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College

Photograph of Eun Me Ahn from the William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College

The William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College consist of 96 unpublished scripts and 4,450 folders of newspaper clippings, playbills, and photographs accumulated by the collection’s namesake, William B. Harris. Harris was a drama and dance critic who amassed this collection until his death of a massive coronary in 2000. After his death, the collection was given to Marymount Manhattan College, which has a performing arts program. Included in this collection is the photograph of Eun Me Ahn pictured on the left. As a dancer and choreographer in Korea and later in New York from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s, the avant-garde dance style of Eun Me Ahn was acclaimed by the press as unusual, but powerful and deeply touching. Throughout her time in New York, she was dubbed the Korean answer to the sacrosanct Art of Japanese Butoh. Continue reading

William B. Harris Papers

Authored by Bug Thomas

Playbill from The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet at New York State Theatre between November 30-December 31, 1989.

Playbill from The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet at New York State Theatre between November 30-December 31, 1989.

William B. Harris was a dance and drama critic who became particularly interested in New York Theater. He was an editor for newspapers and magazines where he wrote articles, criticisms and reviews of many theatre productions. After his death, his family wished for his collection be saved and used. Now, Marymount Manhattan College became the owner of his extensive collection of playbills, tickets, photographs, and personal notes and writings1. Spanning the decades between the 1960’s and 1990’s, Marymount Manhattan College hosts over 4,450 folders of clippings saved over the years, and categorized into a total of eight genre series­2.

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