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André De Shields

Stage actor, director, and choreographer André De Shields was born on January 12, 1946 in Dundalk, Maryland to Mary Gunther and John De Shields. He was raised in Baltimore, Maryland as the ninth of eleven children. De Shields obtained his high school diploma at Baltimore City College in 1964, and earned his B.A. degree in English literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970. In 1991, De Shields received his M.A. degree in African American studies from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

De Shields began his career in 1969 at Chicago’s Shubert Theatre in Tom O’Horgan’s production of Hair, The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical. In 1971, De Shields joined the Organic Theater Company and began performing in Wrap! in Chicago. In 1973, De Shields left the Organic Theater Company and became an associate choreographer for Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue the following year. In the late 1970s, De Shields began choreographing for Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street. He then went on to perform in many televised productions, including Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1982), Alice in Wonderland (1983), and Duke Ellington, The Music Lives On (1984). De Shields continued his work while holding professorships at New York University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Michigan. In 2009, in honor of President Barack Obama’s election, Mr. De Shields created his solo performance, Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.

De Shields received numerous awards, including three Chicago Joseph Jefferson Awards and nine AUDELCO Awards. In 1982, De Shields won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance for the NBC TV Special based on Ain’t Misbehavin’. In 2004, he received honorary doctorate of fine arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and from SUNY-Buffalo State. De Shields received a Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 2007, and in 2009, he won the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award. De Shields received a Distinguished Achievement Award from Fox Foundation Fellowship in 2012, a Making Waves Award from Florida Atlantic University in 2014, an Award for Excellence in The Arts from the theatre school at DePaul University in 2015, and a Pioneer of the Arts Award from Riant Theatre in 2016.

André De Shields was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.020

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2016 |and| 9/22/2016

Last Name

De Shields

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Robin

Schools

New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study

John Hurst Elementary School No. 120

Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts

Baltimore City College

Wilmington College

University of Wisconsin-Madison

First Name

André

Birth City, State, Country

Dundalk

HM ID

DES04

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Port Antonio, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The Top Of One Mountain Is The Bottom Of The Next, So Keep Climbing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/12/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lima Beans

Short Description

Stage actor, director, and choreographer André De Shields (1946 - ) starred on Broadway in The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On!, The Full Monty, and Impressionism in addition to serving as director of numerous off-Broadway productions.

Employment

The Full Monty

Ain't Misbehavin

The Wiz

SUNY-Buffalo State College

CUNY- Hunter College

Gallatin School of Individualized Study

New York University School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions

Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts

Southern Methodist University

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Morehouse College

Favorite Color

Red

Walter Mason, Jr.

Production manager, stage actor, stage director, and stage production manager Walter Mason, Jr. was born on January 26, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan. His mother, Joanna Columbus Mason, a school teacher, and his father, Walter Mason, Sr., a skilled laborer, reared Mason in a church and community-oriented environment. After graduating from Detroit’s Northwestern High School, Mason attended Wayne State University, where he earned his B.A degree in theater and business administration. Years later, Mason attended the Detroit College of Law while he continued to pursue a career in theater.

In a 1952 adaptation of Richard Wright’s book Native Son, he portrayed its chief character “Booker Thomas” at the World Stage in Detroit, Michigan. His theatrical performances include his role as “Othello” in seven separate productions of Othello and “Caliban” in two productions of The Tempest. Mason has also been an instrumental figure in notable Broadway productions such as Purlie Victorious and A Streetcar Named Desire. Beyond acting, Mason served as a producer, director and artist for The Good Book Sings on WJR Radio and appeared on WXYZ TV’s, Showtime at the Apollo as the master of ceremonies. He collaborated with choreographer, Alvin Ailey, in 1961 as the musical and production manager of African Holiday. Six years later, Mason became the production manager for The Emperor Jones, which starred actor James Earl Jones. Throughout his career, Mason has worked closely with many celebrities, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Jimmy Durante, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Ella Fitzgerald, Lola Falana, Jackie Gleason and Gladys Knight and the Pips. As a private speech and drama coach, Mason has worked with many public figures and film and television performers.

Mason served as an associate to the dean of Yale University School of Drama at both Yale and on Broadway. In 1983, Mason produced and directed a theatrical presentation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. featuring aspiring young actors from black colleges and universities for The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The following year, Mason directed the production of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Soldier’s Story, at Detroit’s Fisher Theater.

Mason is the entertainment director at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and the founder and artistic director of the Aldridge Theater Company, Inc.

Mason passed away on February 28, 2017 at age 91.

Accession Number

A2007.314

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/31/2007

Last Name

Mason

Schools

Northwestern High School

Wayne State University

Sampson Elementary School

Munger Middle School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Walter

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

MAS05

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tahiti

Favorite Quote

Make It Happen.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

1/26/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream (Butter Pecan)

Death Date

2/28/2017

Short Description

Stage actor, production manager, stage director, and stage production manager Walter Mason, Jr. (1926 - 2017 ) was the entertainment director at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and the founder and artistic director of the Aldridge Theater Company, Inc.

Employment

Detroit Art Institute

World Stage

Wayne State University

University of Detroit Mercy

Eugene O'Neill Foundation

Michigan Bell Telephone Company

Las Vegas Hilton (Hotel)

Ira Aldridge Theatre Co., Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter Mason, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his mother's upbringing and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his father's personality and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. talks about his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the sights and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers the case of McGhee v. Sipes

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his early childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his schooling

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls transferring to Northwestern High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his interests as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his early awareness of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls enlisting in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his introduction to theater at Wayne University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his early theater roles, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his early theater roles, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter Mason, Jr. talks about his early theater training

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the Panorama of Progress program

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his radio series, 'The Good Book Sings'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his decision to enroll at the Detroit College of Law in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the arts community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his performance in 'The Tempest'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls managing the production of 'Jazz Train'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his opportunity to act in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers meeting Alvin Ailey

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers managing 'Free Sounds of '63'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his role in 'Free Sounds of '63'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers starring in 'Purlie Victorious'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. reflects upon his theater career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Foundation in Waterford, Connecticut

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers working with Sammy Davis, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes the misconceptions about Sammy Davis, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers managing a production of 'The Amen Corner'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his difficulties with the Actors' Equity Association, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his difficulties with the Actors' Equity Association, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers working with Sammy Davis, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls the Bicentennial Homecoming Festival in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls opening a restaurant in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers the Creative Express Theater Company

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers his work for the Michigan Bell Telephone Company

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Walter Mason, Jr. remembers moving to Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Walter Mason, Jr. recalls his theatrical work at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his work at the West Las Vegas Arts Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Walter Mason, Jr. reflects upon his life and career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his advice for aspiring artists

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Walter Mason, Jr. describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Walter Mason, Jr. shares a message to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Walter Mason, Jr. talks about the opportunities for artistic growth

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Walter Mason, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Walter Mason, Jr. describes the racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force
Walter Mason, Jr. remembers working with Sammy Davis, Jr., pt. 1
Transcript
Did you face any racism in the air cadets [sic. U.S. Army Air Forces; U.S. Air Force]?$$Oh yes.$$Could you explain that a little bit more for us, and how that was? Because basically you were sheltered all your life away from it.$$Yes.$$Now you're in a, in a federal, national organization where there is no shelter. Could you explain that to us, please?$$And traveling around the country in various locales such as Dyersburg, Tennessee; Biloxi [Mississippi]; Lou- a field in Louisiana, you got a real dose of, of racial prejudice, and it had its effect on, on you. You ask questions, how can a bus driver take somebody a mile beyond their stop before he lets them off the bus? And that happened at Shreveport, Louisiana. And came into a major church there and slapped a woman's face, and came back and got on, in his bus seat and drove off, and nothing was done. Or in Shreveport, the allowance of soldiers to be told that they couldn't come to town with a Captain Crockett [ph.] of--who was in leadership in the police department. And he would have an ability to have the soldiers stick their head--, "Look at this piece of paper I have in my hand. Now, draw yourself in and come and look at this paper." And he'd draw, he'd have the soldier to look at the paper, and he'd roll up the window. And once he rolled the window up, catching him between the neck and the window, he'd--, "Didn't I tell you not to come into town? And don't let me catch you in this town." It was this kind of activity that you--whoa.$$Did this occur particularly with you, or did you see this happening?$$This, there was a situation where I had a .45 on, going to Texarkana to get a prisoner. And there was an older gentleman who came up to me and said, "You got business here, boy?" I said, "Yes, I've come to this town to take a prisoner back." "All right, boy, but don't let me see you getting into any mischief." And took his foot and kicked me. Now, I could have turned around as a militant soldier, but I didn't. I knew enough to measure my losses and to step away. And for that, I am grateful.$$So there was definitely a lot of--not just inside of the, itself--you--in your travels and your duties, even just even doing your duties, there were problems with racism?$$Oh yes. For example, there was a situation where it came to--I began writing for one of the military newspapers. And they had a habit of on Fridays draining the pool. They would allow the black soldiers to go into the pool--this was in Dyersburg, Tennessee. And they could swim on that Friday, but they would drain the pool as the soldiers were in the pool. And I wrote in my article that it was not on a Friday, you with your Purple Heart, got shuffled around. It was not on a Friday that Bill [ph.], you, with, in your transition from the European sector to the Asian sector, got strapped with an event like this. So, why should it be in the home of the brave and the land of the free that you're not allowed to go swimming? And the commander called me into his office and said, "Do you want us to print this?" I said, "Well, I wrote it in truth, and I expect you to print it in truth." Another week I received my papers to go to, I think it was--no, this was in Coffeyville, not Dyersburg. This is in Coffeyville, Kansas, to go to, to be transferred out. And the war [World War II, WWII] ended, and so that got wrapped up and nothing more was heard of it.$Sixty-four [1964], you play Pepper White in 'Golden Boy' [Clifford Odets and William Gibson]. Now tell us about 'Golden Boy.' What was very significant about that?$$Well, that's the Sammy Davis, Jr. show (laughter). 'Golden Boy,' written by, eventually written by Bill Gibson, was the piece that was earlier presented with John Garfield as a movie. And Sammy had an ability to take on this project and take on the abilities of a fighter, a boxer and a singer, with new lyrics by Strouse [Charles Strouse] and Adams [Lee Adams]. And I had just joined Sammy, and he offered me this opportunity, but first as just an actor to play Pepper White. I did not sign a run of the play contract. I signed it just as a regular actor. Run of the play, you get, as long as the play runs, you--$$You're in it.$$You're in it. Well, the writers selected that they write out the part of Pepper White. And that's part of, of creativity of the theater. So, they wrote the part of Pepper Adams out.$$Pepper White?$$Pepper White. And so then I was out of that, but I didn't worry about being out of the play. I just went my merry way. And later, it came to be that they were auditioning for a production manager, and they called me. And so I went back as a production manager, which is a higher rate of pay, and--$$Than the actor was (laughter)?$$Right. So, I came in that way. And when you're in with a superstar like Sammy Davis, you get to know him pretty well, and he gets to know you pretty well. And I think Sammy was one of the most misunderstood individuals in show business.$$Please explain. I was going to ask you, what was he like, what was his personality? But explain it from your perspective.$$Well, Sammy was a genuine giver. And I can understand why he had as many difficulties with people like the IRS [Internal Revenue Service], and so forth because he took on the belief, or disbelief, that money was money. It's all to be here to enjoy. We're here for such a short time. Get it, give it, enjoy it. That was his mantra. And don't worry about saving or doing other things. See somebody who needs--who has been wronged, help that person. [HistoryMaker] Maya Angelou was singing in 'Porgy and Bess' [George Gershwin] in her earlier years. They couldn't get a pair of shoes to fit her. Have some made. If the boat--the boat does not leave the dock unless it is first class. And that was Sammy's attitude toward everything. And I think that he had great appreciation for me, because he felt that he ran into somebody that was intellectually challenging.

Harry J. Lennix

Actor Harry J. Lennix was born the last of three children in Chicago, Illinois, on November 16, 1964, to Harry and Lillian Lennix. He grew up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, the youngest of three siblings, and was raised by a single mother. His father died when Lennix was only two years old. Lennix attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary where he studied to become a Dominican priest. He did well in school, and upon graduation attended Northwestern University.

At Northwestern University, Lennix became interested in theater. He majored in acting and directing and was a member of For Members Only, an African American student organization at Northwestern. He was also awarded the School of Communications’ Sandra Singer Scholarship for talented theater students. After graduation, Lennix spent eight years teaching in Chicago Public Schools, although he began to perform in prominent Chicago theaters, including the Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres.

Lennix's acting career began to take off in the late 1980s. His first film role was in 1989’s The Package, filmed on location in Chicago. Lennix continued working in theater, and the following year, he won an Obie award for his portrayal of Malcolm X in The Meeting. After relocating to New York City, Lennix performed in the play Titus Andronicus. He would reprise this role when the play became a film (Titus) in 1999. Lennix received both a Tree of Life Award from the NAACP and a Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy for his performance in that film. Lennix’s film and television credits are numerous. He has had significant roles in movies such as Ray, Love and Basketball, Get on the Bus, Barbershop 2: Back in Business and The Matrix: Revolutions, among others. His television credits included a major role on NBC’s acclaimed series Commander in Chief as well as parts in E.R., Diagnosis Murder and House, M.D..

Lennix is known for playing stern and stoic characters. He joined forces with Goodman Theatre director Chuck Smith to form Legacy Productions. The company has performed plays throughout the country. Although he resides in Los Angeles, Lennix is on the board of advisors at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, and continues to work as a stage actor, including a role in 2005 in the play Permanent Collection.

Accession Number

A2006.057

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/1/2006 |and| 5/3/2018

Last Name

Lennix

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Myra Bradwell Communications Arts & Sciences Elementary School

St. Bride Elementary School

Quigley Preparatory Seminary South

Northwestern University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LEN01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cancun, Mexico, Australia

Favorite Quote

It Is Worth More To Have A Little Bit Of Something You Love, Than A Lot Of Something You Don't Care About.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/16/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Italian, Japanese Food

Short Description

Stage actor and film actor Harry J. Lennix (1964 - ) received both a Tree of Life Award from the NAACP and a Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy for his performance as Aaron in the film, 'Titus'. He founded Legacy Productions with Goodman Theatre director Chuck Smith, and serves on the advisory board of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

Employment

Actor

Favorite Color

Burgundy, Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry J. Lennix's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his family's background working on plantations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his Native American heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the slave rebellions in America and Haiti

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's family and her move to Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his father and uncle

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes his premature birth and childhood illness

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his earliest memories of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his elementary school teachers and friends, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his elementary school teachers and friends, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his childhood aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his acting roles in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the actors and actresses who influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his affinity for languages

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his decision to attend Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his decision to pursue acting

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his freshman year at Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings' college experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's life while he was in college

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his sophomore year at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers performing in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls Northwestern University's SummerStage festival

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his junior year at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his confidence as a young actor

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his courses at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the politics of Chicago and Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his family's opinion of his acting career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his senior year at Northwestern University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry J. Lennix' interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the Summer Academic Workshop at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about prominent professors at Northwestern University

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the 1970s arts scene in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the black theatres in Chicago in the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers seeing his first professional play, 'Fiorello!'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his first professional theatrical roles

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about black theater and colorblind casting

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his first film roles in 'The Package' and 'A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story'

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix talks about being cast in 'The Five Heartbeats'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix recalls making 'The Five Heartbeats'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about dance and vocal techniques for actors

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the differences between stage and film acting

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the voices of prominent black actors and singers

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes how new media platforms have reduced actors' compensation

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers substitute teaching in Chicago Public Schools

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his interest in the Nation of Islam

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the demographics of Chicago's South Shore neighborhood during his childhood

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the Nation of Islam's contributions

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his relationship to the Nation of Islam

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his connections to the North Side and South Side of Chicago

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his move to New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his role as Aaron the Moor in 'Titus Andronicus'

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix talks about playing Othello

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the cultural impact of 'Othello'

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the impact of race on his career

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix recalls touring Jeff Stetson's play 'The Meeting'

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the play 'When Chickens Come Home To Roost'

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix recalls working with Spike Lee in the mid-1990s

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his approach to playing Malcolm X

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the assassination of Malcom X

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the movie 'Get on the Bus'

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the television shows 'ER' and 'Diagnosis Murder'

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his television roles in the late 1990s

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his roles at the Goodman Theater in late 1990s Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the 2000 film 'Love and Basketball'

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix recalls performing in 'Cymbeline' in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix remembers learning about Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. for 'Keep the Faith, Baby'

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the range of characters he has played

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about filming 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' in 2003

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his interest in directing and producing

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers filming 'The Human Stain' in 2003

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his role in the 2005 film 'Chrystal'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix talks about Taylor Hackford's directing style

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls filming 'Barbershop 2: Back in Business' and 'Suspect Zero'

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his process as an actor

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his perspective on improvisation

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix describes the premise of Thomas Gibbons' play 'Permanent Collection'

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the NAACP Image Awards' selection process

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his 2007 production of 'Macbeth' in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his character in August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers playwright August Wilson

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his relationship with August Wilson

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his early community in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the Broadway run of 'Radio Golf'

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his roles in '24' and 'Resurrecting the Champ'

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his support for Hillary Rodham Clinton

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the portrayal of fictional black presidents

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers directing his first film, 'Fly Like Mercury'

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls working with Joss Whedon on the television show 'Dollhouse'

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix talks about watching his own films

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix remembers being cast on 'The Blacklist'

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes the impact of online streaming on the film industry

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his projects as a producer

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his life

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his plans for 'Revival!' and black faith-based media

Tape: 12 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the film 'Black Panther'

Tape: 12 Story: 11 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his favorite role, Jay Gatsby in 'The Great Gatsby'

Tape: 12 Story: 12 - Harry J. Lennix describes his advice to young black actors

Tape: 12 Story: 13 - Harry J. Lennix describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Harry J. Lennix recalls the actors and actresses who influenced him
Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 2
Transcript
Sophomore year [at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, Chicago, Illinois], some friends of mine were auditioning for the play, and I saw a bunch of girls that were auditioning for the play, too. These girls were from surrounding sister schools, like Elizabeth Seton [Elizabeth Seton High School, South Holland, Illinois], Mother McAuley [Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, Chicago, Illinois] and you know, Our Lady of Peace [Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, Chicago, Illinois], and things. And I auditioned, and I got a small part in it. It was 'Guys and Dolls,' and the priest, his name was Father Robert Bridge [Robert Emmett Bridge]. He was a librarian, but was a lover of the theater. He put me in it and I sang a song and met some wonderful people, and just fell in love with this life, with this thing. I saw, on some snowy day when everybody couldn't get there, I saw 'Guys and Dolls,' the movie, and I remember at that same time I had read a book by Mario Puzo, called 'The Godfather.' And I had seen that at the Cheltenham Theatre [Chicago, Illinois], you know, where we would go watch movies with that big box of popcorn. And I couldn't believe, I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that that was the same guy from 'The Godfather' that was in this 'Guys and Dolls' thing. Not Sinatra [Frank Sinatra], but Marlon Brando. And I became fascinated with Brando, and I just started watching everything I could. I would get the movie--the TV Guide every week. This was before, you know, VCRs and all that stuff. And I would find Brando movies, and then I would read about him, from books in the library. I would even find out about the people he liked, you know, and watch those movies. I would watch Olivier [Laurence Olivier] and Alec Guinness, and then from Guinness I would watch people like Charlie Laughton [Charles Laughton], and from Laughton, I would watch people like Robert Donat, and Peter O'Toole, and Richard Burton. You know, like there were all these tangential lines, these connecting threads of amazing performers. And then, you know, we were reading in high school, 'A Raisin in the Sun' [Lorraine Hansberry], and I saw this guy, this Sidney Poitier guy, and I thought that he was amazing, just amazing. And Paul Newman, and Ivan Dixon, and you know there were these amazing actors, wonderful actors, and wonderful actresses, like Bette Davis and Piper Laurie, and Eva Marie Saint, and Kim Hunter and Vivien Leigh, the Hepburns [Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn], you know, just like amazing actors.$$Right, right.$$And Cicely Tyson, I remember seeing the 'Autobiography of Jane Pittman' ['The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman'], and I remember her in this tour de force performance. But there was also a guy who played a small role in it, and they were trying to get people to move off the plantation and settle in other places. And some people were trying to get them to stay, and this young black man, this actor, said, "There's lots of places we can go, there's gold in California." And I remember him saying that and thinking, "He's a wonderful actor."$$Right.$$And that's the only line that he had. He was a wonderful actor, and authentic, and just real. And this thing, this 'Roots' thing came on man. And I was shocked at that story. I had never heard that story in the Catholic schools. I didn't know that.$$So they were making a tremendous impact.$$Yeah, actors were opening up the world for me, through theater and movies and books. We were opening up--my mother [Lillian Vines Lennix], like I said, always read books. And she read things like you know Reader's Digest. I remember I would thumb through Reader's Digest or National Geographic or the encyclopedias that she would buy. When I was a kid like in the fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I would read the encyclopedia. I was fascinated, it was like, Nicolaus Copernicus and people like that, and Isaac Newton, the fundamentals laws of physics and, you know, it was watching things like 'Nova' with Carl Sagan. It was just a wonderful, open, insane, limitless world out there.$$Right.$$And actors were like, they were like cowboys. You know, they were like, they could rope the thing together and they could put a lasso around it and could yield and yank it back. They were able to do--the actors in the theaters and movies can, can for a little while reign in the radical wild universe that we live in. And they can tell a story.$We are still in our freshman year there at Northwestern [Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois] and what was that freshman year like?$$Freshman year was, it too was, was you know, I call my childhood Gothic. This was pure Russian Romanticism. This was (laughter) this was Rachmaninoff [Sergei Rachmaninoff], my freshman year. It was Tchaikovsky [Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky], it was insane, it was a whirlwind of information, of academic excellence, of challenge, of sometimes physical duress. Because of the requirements of being a theater major, you had to do a certain amount of crew. Those hours could be grueling. And, you had to get your coursework done and you had to do the work study, and you had social life, such as it was. And I was a shy boy, and wanted desperately to have a girlfriend, and I managed from time to time to get a smooch in from here and there. So, you know, you just, as I look back at that boy, I have tremendous affection for him and for his innocence, and how humble and a little over his head he was. But that the kid had some moxie (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) He had guts.$$He had some guts. And, and I like him, I like that kid.

Roscoe Lee Browne

Tony and Emmy award winning theatre, film and television actor Roscoe Lee Browne was born on May 2, 1922 in Woodbury, New Jersey. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania until 1942, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he graduated from Lincoln in 1946. During this time, he studied French through Middlebury College's summer language program. He received his master's degree from Columbia University, then taught briefly at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Browne also found success as an athlete, winning two American indoor championships and setting records in the 800 meters, and winning the 1951 world championship. After a knee injury hampered his athletic career, Browne worked as the national sales representative for Schenley Import Corporation.

He began his acting career with a small role in a 1956 New York Shakespeare Festival production of 'Julius Caesar.' Soon thereafter, Browne became an understudy for Ossie Davis’ performance in 'Purlie Victorious.' Although Browne played the character of Archibald in 'The Blacks,' a play that launched numerous other African American stars, Browne’s career did not take off until his 1963 performance in the off-Broadway play 'Benito Cereno.' He would reprise this role again in both 1965 and 1976. In 1966, Browne performed his own poetry while directing 'An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music.' Browne continued to work actively in theater throughout much of his career, performing August Wilson’s 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' in 1989 and giving a Tony Award-winning performance in the August Wilson play 'Two Trains Running' in 1992.

Browne also worked in a variety of films, whether as a character actor (in 'Superfly' and 'Uptown Saturday Night') or as a voiceover performer (as the narrator of 'Babe' and 'Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties'). His television career was prolific and diverse. He received an Emmy award for his recurring role as Dr. Foster on 'The Cosby Show,' a nomination for 'Barney Miller,' and achieved critical acclaim for his work on 'All in the Family' and 'Soap.' His list of television credits included performances in 'Law and Order,' 'E.R.,' 'Will and Grace' and 'New York Undercover.' He also did voiceover work for numerous cartoons, including animated versions of 'Batman' and 'Spiderman.' In addition to his work as a performer, Roscoe Lee Browne wrote short stories, plays, worked as a musical director and was a gifted poet.

Browne passed away on April 11, 2007 at age 81.

Accession Number

A2005.234

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/5/2005 |and| 3/30/2006

Last Name

Browne

Middle Name

Lee

Schools

Woodbury Jr-Sr High

Lincoln University

Columbia University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Roscoe

Birth City, State, Country

Woodbury

HM ID

BRO34

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

The Marmon Group

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York

Favorite Quote

Carpe Diem.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/2/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken (Pot Pie), Pudding (Corn)

Death Date

4/11/2007

Short Description

Stage actor, film actor, and television actor Roscoe Lee Browne (1922 - 2007 ) won Tony and Emmy awards for his work. His film and television credits included, 'The Cosby Show,' 'Uptown Saturday Night,' 'Babe,' 'All In The Family,' and 'Law and Order.'

Employment

Schenley Import Corporation

New York Shakespeare Festival

The Actors Studio

Negro Ensemble Company

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Emerald Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roscoe Lee Browne's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Roscoe Lee Browne's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his mother's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne lists his father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne talks about the spelling of his last name, Browne

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne recounts how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls reading his father's letters to his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his brother, Sylvanus Browne, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his father's ministry

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers meeting Marian Anderson

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls his introduction to Lincoln University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls working at Lincoln University's Vail Memorial Library, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls working at Lincoln University's Vail Memorial Library, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls his time at Woodbury Junior-Senior High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls trying out for his high school's mile relay team

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his activities at Lincoln University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls traveling south as a college student, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls traveling south as a college student, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls a leadership conference at Lincoln University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls a leadership conference at Lincoln University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers enlisting in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls recruiting runners while serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls serving in the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls serving in the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls the death of his best friend in World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne talks about Harrison Dillard

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his return to Lincoln University after World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne talks about Kwame Nkrumah

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls his track participation in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls moving to New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls meeting Charles "Honi" Coles and Dinah Washington in Harlem

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne talks about Roscoe C. Brown

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls trying out for the Olympics in 1948, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls trying out for the Olympics in 1948, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers setting track records in Europe

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers injuring his knee

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers his brother's meniscus surgery

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls working for Schenley Import Corporation, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls working for Schenley Import Corporation, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers meeting Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers how his transition to acting began

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls his friends' reactions to his ambition to act

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his transition to acting

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers acting in the New York Shakespeare Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers leaving Schenley Import Corporation, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his early theater career, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'The Blacks' and 'Benito Cereno'

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls controversy about 'The Blacks'

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'Dream on Monkey Mountain' with the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers revealing his acting ambition, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers revealing his acting ambition, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls auditioning for the New York Shakespeare Festival

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls being cast in 'Julius Caesar,' pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls being cast in 'Julius Caesar,' pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers leaving Schenley Import Corporation, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his early theater career

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'Taming of the Shrew' and 'Romeo and Juliet'

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls being cast as Aaron the Moor in 'Titus Andronicus'

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes acting in 'Titus Andronicus'

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers his early theater reviews

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls George Plimpton and understudying for William Marshall

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes his formal acting training

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers Stella Adler and Mark Rydell

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls performing in 'Bohikee Creek,' pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls performing in 'Bohikee Creek,' pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls meeting Stella Adler after writing 'Song'

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls being elected to The Actors Studio

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls developing his theater network at The Actors Studio

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers acting in 'Benito Cereno'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls auditioning for 'The Blacks: A Clown Show'

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls deciding to act in 'The Blacks'

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls obtaining an Actors' Equity Association membership, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls obtaining an Actors' Equity Association membership, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'The Blacks' and 'Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright'

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers Sarah Cunningham and John Randolph

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls 'The Blacks' touring company, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls 'The Blacks' touring company, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'General Seeger'

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'Dark of the Moon' and 'The Cool World,' pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne recalls acting in 'Dark of the Moon' and 'The Cool World,' pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers acting in a play by Maria Irene Fornes

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers acting in 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe'

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes 'An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music,' pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Roscoe Lee Browne describes 'An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music,' pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers going to Los Angeles, California, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers going to Los Angeles, California, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Roscoe Lee Browne remembers his transition to Hollywood

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$7

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Roscoe Lee Browne remembers setting track records in Europe
Roscoe Lee Browne remembers acting in the New York Shakespeare Festival
Transcript
So we're now into 1952.$$Right.$$And in '51 [1951] I had been the best in the world, 800 meters. I did it in Paris [France] at the Stade Jean-Bouin. It wasn't a particularly outrageously fast time. It was just the best of the year--$$Right.$$--all over the (laughter) world. It was 149-something, although I had run faster than that in the next year--no, that same year in, in Austria, in Vienna. It was 149-something, point 2. And then I was challenged by Elmar Brugh [ph.] because he was after all the European 1500 and 800 meter champion that year. So I had come from behind to beat him that day. I was just back in the rock. And the Americans say, "Ross [HistoryMaker Roscoe Lee Browne], go get the lead out, come on." And I came around the--and won it. So he challenged me on, on the, over the PA system. I mean the, the reporters came to the mics and said to him in French, of course, 'cause he's French, "What's that like?" And he said, "Well, I, I really am 1500 meters," he said in French. "And I'd like to challenge Monsieur Browne to a thousand meter race." And then they brought the mic to me to--they start to translate, and I said, "Mais non, je comprends." And I said, "Perhaps," in French, I said, "Perhaps Monsieur Elmar Brugh does not know that I am the American 1000-yard champion twice," I said. I said, "What's a few little tiny meters to me?" (Laughter) And so the race is on. We went to the track [Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir], Colombes [France], Colombes, right.$$Okay. And this was late (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And that was like--$$--nineteen fifty-one [1951]?$$This is '51 [1951].$$Okay.$$So it's there like a week or two weeks later. And there are other people in the race from around the world, but I do win it. And I set an Americans--it's called American citizens, 'cause nobody runs a thousand meters. It's, it's not a race anywhere, so it was called American citizens championship and record. The record that I had broken that day was Glenn Cunningham's, 'cause he was a miler.$$Right.$$But he ran this thing there for these people in France and Paris at Colombes, is the name of the track. So, my friend, Mal Whitfield, years later we were--he's living in my apartment in New York [New York]. And I ask, 'cause he knows I would never open anything personal, never, never, never. I said, "What is that little book?" He said, "That little book?" "Yeah, yeah." I said, "It's not the chicks," 'cause I knew it's, I knew which book he kept the names of girls. He said, "Well, anytime any of you, particularly you, go to Europe or anywhere and set a record I write it down there." 'Cause you know, we're in the same event--$$Right, right.$$--except he would not run thousands. Indoors, Malvin was, he had won the indoor 600 [meters] when I won the indoor 1000 [meters]. But we both were 800 meter runners, half-milers. I said, "And you're going after them?" Well, I had three somewhere in Europe. He went to these tiny little towns and broke them and, 'cause he knows me better than most people. He knew that once I heard about it, I would laugh my (laughter) head off. It's only one he's never found, and it's too late because we both can't run anymore. But it's too late. I, I told him recently, "You never found the one in Oberhausen [Germany]." He said, "Do you have a record?" I said, "I have a track record in Oberhausen." I said, "You found Ludwigshafen [Germany], and you went to that track, Colombes, and broke what was my American citizens record," (laughter). And I think I have one somewhere else. I'm not sure (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay. That's--$$But you know, nobody--$$--still standing?$$Nobody has it then. It's not even a record that says I won it or something.$$Right. But that record is still there.$$I guess it's still there--$$Yeah, yeah.$$--maybe in Dublin [Ireland].$$Right.$$It's, it used to be my proudest boast that I was twice the Irish national champion, because you know, track works the same way as tennis, for example. The American U.S. Open [U.S. Open Tennis Championships, New York, New York] tennis champion this year is Roger Federer from Switzerland.$$Right.$$It's the same thing in track. If you run it, you are that country's open champion.$Well, this is the second time you've done this in your life. The first time was: I'm gonna run track and beat everyone else out there (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, only because he [Arthur "Ted" Browne] said, "Gosh, mom [Lovie Usher Browne], can't he do nothing yet?" And then, "Wouldn't you know he'd go out for a foreign sport," (laughter).$$All right.$$And I knew that day, and I just went and did it. But any rate, so I read it. I did not presume to think that I could act, but I knew I knew the literature already. I'd taught some of that in, at Lincoln [Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania].$$Right.$$And so I went down there. The next day was Saturday, and I went there. And I'd do you my whole audition, but that would outrage the world. But, by six p.m. I had my first professional job. And the first words that Joseph Papp said to me after the director had me read and whatever, and I realized this, this must be Papp. I had not heard of him. All of theater knew his name.$$Right.$$But I knew nothing. And, but (unclear), he was just sitting in the back in this audition. And there were a lot of actors there to audition. It was in a little church [Emmanuel Presbyterian Church] down the Lower East Side [New York, New York]. And he just came down, and he looked at me. He says, "You're new to me." I said--he said, "Well, you're new to me. How long have you been an actor?" Meaning, why have I not seen you?$$Right.$$I said, "Well, I've been an actor for twelve hours, but I have no intention of bearing any torches." And he broke up laughing, and he said, "No, you're good. You love words." He said, "You see"--these were his exact words: "Shakespeare is a whole world, and you're part of it." And I stayed there, and he said, "Okay," and I said, "Thank you." He says, "I'm Joe Papp," just like that.$$And that play was that he--$$'Julius Caesar' [William Shakespeare].$$'Julius Caesar.'$$I was the Soothsayer--$$Okay.$$Because I'd not acted, you know--and Soothsayer in the first half and Pindarus in the second half. And he loved it when (unclear), they continued doing plays and I'd say, "Joseph, there's no role here for anything." I said, "Petruchio's servant something, anything, some, one of those little hangers-on." Well, I was a hanger-on, and, and it was, it, it made Colleen Dewhurst this 'Taming of the Shrew' ['The Taming of the Shrew,' William Shakespeare]. And, and Jack Cannon, who was one of the great people, he threw an absolutely made up fit. He came--we were all there sitting in the park [Central Park, New York, New York], or on the Lower East Side, 'cause we began the Lower East because the park wasn't ready yet to put down those chairs and just build a stage. He said, "Can you beat that?" And he's just cussing. He was a most marvelous curser. You really knew that he had invented all the words. He said, "They like me all right. And they raved about Colleen." He said, "Roscoe [HistoryMaker Roscoe Lee Browne] doesn't have a line in it." And they talked about how this marvelous guy moved through (laughter) the--and it was I, and we laughed ourselves silly.$$Now--$$Colleen says, "All you gotta do, darling, is walk."

Douglas Turner Ward

Negro Ensemble Company co-founder, actor, director, and playwright Douglas Turner Ward was born Roosevelt Ward, Jr. on May 5, 1930, in Burnside, Louisiana. Ward was a descendant of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan; his great, great, great-grandmother, Elnora, owned as a slave by Forrest, bore a child with him. Ward’s parents, Roosevelt Ward and Dorothy Short Ward were field hands, but they owned their own tailoring business. Raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and attending Xavier Prep High School, Ward graduated in 1946 at the age of sixteen. Ward entered Wilberforce University in 1946, where he performed in two plays, Thunder Rock and A Shot In The Dark, and discovered his ambition to be a sportswriter. When Wilberforce began to lose its accreditation in 1948, Ward transferred to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he played football in his freshman year; he would later quit the football team. In 1949, Ward decided that he wanted to leave college altogether; at the age of nineteen, he went to New York City.

In New York Ward became politically involved and worked as a journalist. Ward eventually decided to become a playwright and studied at the Paul Mann Workshop in New York City. In 1956, Ward began his off-Broadway career as an actor in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh; he went on to perform and understudy for a part in A Raisin In The Sun. In 1965, Ward, Robert Hooks, and Gerald Krone formed the Negro Ensemble Company; he made his playwriting debut that same year with the oft produced Happy Ending/Day of Absence. In 1967, the Negro Ensemble Company was officially opened with Ward serving as artistic director; some of the its notable productions include A Soldier’s Playand The River Niger, which became the company’s first play to go to Broadway. The River Niger eventually won a Tony Award for Best Play. Ward went on to write other plays, including The Reckoning and Brotherhood.

As a result of Ward and his colleagues’ hard work, the Negro Ensemble Company went on to produce more than two hundred plays, and to become a place for Black actors to gain experience and prominence in the theatre. Some notable actors who have worked with the Negro Ensemble Company include Louis Gossett, Jr., Phylicia Rashad, and Sherman Hemsley.

Douglas Turner Ward was interviewed by the HistoryMakers on April 28, 2010.

Accession Number

A2005.135

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/10/2005 |and| 9/21/2006 |and| 11/29/2006 |and| 4/28/2010

4/28/2010

Last Name

Ward

Maker Category
Middle Name

Turner

Organizations
Schools

Xavier University Preparatory School

Wilberforce University

Central State University

University of Michigan

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Douglas

Birth City, State, Country

Burnside

HM ID

WAR08

Favorite Season

None

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/5/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice, Gumbo

Short Description

Playwright, stage actor, and stage director Douglas Turner Ward (1930 - ) was a Tony award-winning thespian and the founder of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Employment

'A Raisin in the Sun'

'The Daily Worker'

Negro Ensemble Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his maternal great-grandfather, Isaac Short

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers asking about his family history

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lack of educational opportunities in Burnside, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Louisiana history

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's parents

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's bootlegging

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his parents' meeting

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his extended family

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his family's ghost stories

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls his interest in reading while growing up

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the impact of Richard Wright's 'Black Boy' and James T. Farrell's 'Studs Lonigan'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward contrasts his experience with Richard Wright's in 'Black Boy'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's religious influence

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his questioning of the church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his elementary schools in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he advanced through schools in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his maternal great-grandfather's influence

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers men he admired, including boxer Joe Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his interest in African American athletes and sports

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his developing agnosticism

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes extracurricular activities at Xavier University Preparatory School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward explains his decision to attend Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his surprise at the segregation in Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls watching movies as a child

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his time at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers enjoying Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the schism at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers acting with the Wilberforce Players

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes transferring to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers becoming radicalized at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about moving to New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing an interest in politics at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding to leave the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about reading Karl Marx

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his influences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to move to New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes registering for the draft in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls arriving in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers working for Henry A. Wallace's 1948 presidential campaign

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes President Harry S. Truman's civil rights position

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the fall-out from the 1948 presidential election

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his experience as a Marxist youth leader in the 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Harlem nightlife in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the acceptance of radicalism in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest in 1951

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest and conviction

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his exoneration

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers returning to New York City after his exoneration

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his path to becoming a playwright

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early writing

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to pursue playwriting

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing as a writer

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the conflict in the Communist Party after Joseph Stalin's death

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his changing political views in the 1950s

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Iceman Cometh'

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early stage roles

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers Lorraine Hansberry's invitation to audition for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his role in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes audience perceptions of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 3

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the original cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the acting methods of the cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the rehearsal process for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers seeing his first plays in New York City

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers touring with 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon the presence of African American actors in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers forming the Manhattan Arts Theater

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in the postwar period

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes expectations for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Manhattan Arts Club disbanding

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the positive reviews of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Broadway run of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes not getting the role of Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes HistoryMaker Ossie Davis and Elwood Smith playing Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands rejoining 'A Raisin in the Sun' on the road

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers a lecture from HistoryMaker Lloyd Richards

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes working with Elwood Smith in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his performance as Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Blacks' in New York City

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his acting roles after 'The Blacks'

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his first staged play, 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the early performances of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls the reception of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his writing process for 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 2

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the process of writing 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about audience responses to 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the opening of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the legacy of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes setting aside time for his family and writing

Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy

Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes selecting plays for the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers receiving scripts for the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes different playwrights' styles

Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about writing for African American audiences

Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the style of theater he cultivated

Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about HistoryMaker Paul Carter Harrison

Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward Douglas Turner Ward describes the Negro Ensemble Company's early plays

Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding not to take 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men' to Broadway

Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the vision of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the lack of a national arts policy

Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers taking 'The River Niger' to Broadway

Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial goals of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the success of 'Fences'

Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the role of AUDELCO in creating audiences for African American productions

Tape: 18 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the purpose of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 18 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial difficulties of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 18 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1

Tape: 18 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2

Tape: 18 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy

Tape: 18 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Tape: 19 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the Haitian Revolution

Tape: 19 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lost potential of Haiti

Tape: 19 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 19 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 19 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon his life and legacy

Tape: 19 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his family

Tape: 19 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$3

DATape

6$14

DAStory

3$6

DATitle
Douglas Turner Ward remembers acting with the Wilberforce Players
Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1
Transcript
The best thing that happened to me besides the, the things I've already talked about as far as education, two things: I became, my drama interest got sparked, once again, for the wrong, for, for, for, for wrong reasons. I really got involved with drama because, once again, I needed to find something to do because I couldn't play ball because I had gotten injured in, in running track in high school [Xavier University Preparatory School, New Orleans, Louisiana] and my knee hadn't heal, healed sufficiently enough to try out for the team. So I needed some extracurricular activity to do, especially I'm stuck out there in the cornfield, (laughter) you know, with, with not much to do. And I found out that the girls in the, in the drama group could stay out later than, than the curfew. At that time, the freshmen had to be in by 6:00. The, the, the, even the juniors and seniors had to be in by nine or ten or something. I said no, so me and a buddy of mine in, in my dormitory (laughter), we said man, like, let's find, you know, a place here. I said if we find out the girls in the drama group had, you know, could stay out long as they, they, they, they, they, they wanted to, and the drama group was very well situated at Wilberforce [University, Wilberforce, Ohio], interestingly enough, because the sponsor behind the drama group and a fanatic theater person was guess, was guess what, the head of the athletic department, Mack [M.] Greene. Mack Greene was I mean famous. It was, it, this odd thing that here was the, the head of the whole athletic department and, and everything else was a fanatic theater person. And he had been responsible for creating the Wilberforce Players. They didn't have a, you know, a, a formal theater program. So the Wilberforce Players was, was, was it as far as the theater activity, and Mack Greene was behind it. So I mean they, you know, and Mack Greene was very powerful figure there. And at that time when I was there, Leontyne Price was, was, was there. In fact, the year I was there, I was in two productions. In that year they didn't do any musicals, so I remember Lee- Leontyne to sew costumes 'cause there, there was nothing for her to do that particular year 'cause they weren't doing any musical ex--. She used to sing that in, in, in the, you know, the school assemblies and all of that, but there was nothing for the theater group there, 'cause we, we did two plays. And I was--and for some reason they, they, they, they cast me in both of the plays they were doing. And I'm there because of the women. I wasn't (laughter) going there for, for theater purposes.$$Now what plays did they do?$$One was--well, what was the, it was a play that originally had been done in, in, in England? What, what was, what was the, the name of it? Had a lighthouse, it took place in a lighthouse. It'll might, it'll occur to me before I, I finish. And the other one was, was some, a play that had, had originally been a thriller movie, '[A] Shot in the Dark' or something, something like that. I forgot the, the name of it. 'Thunder Rock,' 'Thunder Rock,' 'Thunder Rock Island,' [sic. 'Thunder Rock'] I think, was the name of the, the first play. And, and right away, I'm the youngest. No, nobody knew it, but I was the youngest member of the company. All of--let me see--yes, still, by the time I did that first play, yeah, I still, I'm still sixteen years old, 'cause I went, went to school when I was sixteen. And I'm playing the oldest character in the play, (laughter) I mean 'Thunder Rock Island.' And I'm playing the oldest man in the play. And the next play, the thriller, I, I played my, I play my own age, at least, but (laughter) the other I'm playing the father. I said well, didn't know it at the time that I set my course for being the, the resident old man of black theater (laughter) eventually, always playing characters older than myself. But that was, that was, that was one of the main benefits of being there. And, and, and you know, I loved performing in the plays. I still hadn't committed myself to any, any, any theater career. I still was following my original ambition, that I wanted to become a sportswriter, you know, basically.$So how did that, I mean the 1965 opening, St. Mark's Place [St. Mark's Playhouse, New York, New York], you said led, led to the, the NEC [Negro Ensemble Company]--$$Oh, the, the, the whole, the whole, all of the, the, the, the factors, all of the factors that went into 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence' [Douglas Turner Ward]--$$Which were?$$--turned out to be the germs, the germ, the full-fledged germ of what became the NEC every, every element of it: a black-produced play, [HistoryMaker] Robert Hooks, a black producer, a black writer who's written about the black experience to say, addressed to a black audience, and a company, a 99 percent black company, which includes the veteran actors, 'cause I hired, you know, I had Frances Foster, you know, Moses Gunn, Robert, of course, was, was, was in it 'cause Robert played Junie in the orig- original production and also everybody was, of course, the four of us in, in, in, in 'Happy Ending' were all in, in, in 'Day of Absence,' 'cause 'Day of Absence' had about thirteen people I think, and, but Bobby's group, Bobby's workshop group [Group Theater Workshop], the kids who had trained, the ones I said that originally did 'Happy Ending' in that, in that graduation ceremony. They were also, so I got the generations, all of the, the veterans, the younger generation who were developing, who had also been, been part of a training program. So all of these things became the model. By putting together, in putting together NEC, eventually it didn't take--we, we sat down at the, at, at Orquidea [New York, New York], the, the bar right on the corner from the theater, at that time on 9th [Street] 9th and 2nd Avenue. When we found that we were, we were invited to make a proposal, a full-scale proposal, we sat down, and on a napkin (laughter), I mean on a, on a theater cloth, the white cloth in, over the, over the table, sat down and, and, and almost quickly outlined the ingredients for the NEC, the training program, the professional company, the, you know, the theater, the ambition for the productions, and as I said, the training program, which, which was, was thorough, or, and, and, and, and, and, and my insistence that all of this had to be free. See, all of, all of the NEC, all of the training that the NEC did was tuition-free. Nobody paid us a dime for, for, for the--it was a full-scale training because, hey, we, you know. I, I, just to show the training program, Paul Mann was, was, was--I brought Paul Mann in to train the theater company for, for a compressed intensive period of time before they, before they did the first production at a three-month paid, just like actors being paid, paid on a regular basis. Once I selected the company, they started a training program, and they were being paid full-scale salaries, you know, to come in every day. Paul trained them.

Arthur Wellesley French

A director and actor who has appeared regularly on and off Broadway and in movies and television for more than forty years, Arthur Wellesley French, Jr. was born in New York City to Arthur Wellesley French and Ursilla Idonia Ollivierre. Educated at Brooklyn College, French worked for the New York City Department of Social Services before he began studying the Strasberg technique with Peggy Feury and acting in community theatre. He also studied with Maxwell Glanville, the founder of the Dramatic Workshop, as well as performing street plays in Harlem for Amiri Baraka's Black Arts Repertory Theater. A role in an off-Broadway satirical play, Raisin' Hell in the Son at the Provincetown Playhouse, launched his career as a professional actor.

In 1965, French appeared in Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence, out of which the Negro Ensemble Company evolved in 1967, producing professional theatre using Black artists, performers, writers, directors, actors, and craftspeople. During his career, French has performed in plays by Lonne Elder III, Ron Milner and August Wilson; a list which, including Ward, encompasses many contemporary African American playwrights. While French’s broad body of work in theatre includes acting in everything from Death of a Salesman with George C. Scott and Shakespeare’s King Lear to Melvin van Peebles' Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, he has also appeared in films including Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Car Wash, Round Midnight, Kinsey, and on television programs such as Law and Order, as well as in commercials. He has directed, among others, the South African playwright Lungelo Mvusi's Just Won't; Marjorie Elliott's Branches from the Same Tree; Clifford Mason's Two Bourgeois Blacks; George Bernard Shaw's The Village Wooing; Steve Carter's One Last Look; Rudy Gray's Chameleon; Estelle Ritchie's Love You to Pieces and Wole Soyinka's Strong Breed for which he garnered two Audience Development Committee (AUDELCO) nominations.

Along with the Audience Development Committee nominations and much critical acclaim, French won the Obie for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 1997. French currently teaches acting at Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York as he continues to direct and to act on stage and in film.

Accession Number

A2005.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/7/2005

Last Name

French

Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

Wellesley

Organizations
Schools

J.H.S 40

The Bronx High School of Science

Morris High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

FRE04

Favorite Season

Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

Try To Keep Moving Forward.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/6/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pastas, Veal

Short Description

Stage actor, film actor, and stage director Arthur Wellesley French (1949 - ) has appeared regularly on and off Broadway and in movies and television. Along with Audience Development Committee nominations and much critical acclaim, French won an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 1997. French also has taught acting at Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York.

Employment

Department of Social Services

Negro Ensemble Company

HB Studios

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Wellesley French's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his mother's childhood in the British West Indies and her move to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French describes how his parents met in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French shares his earliest childhood aspiration

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his father's work

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesly French describes his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesly French describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French describes memorable figures from his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his home life growing up in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about attending St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his childhood interests and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his childhood interests in reading and math

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French describes memorable teachers from P.S. 90 and J.H.S. 40 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about overcoming asthma and playing sports while growing up in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his early interest in drama in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley talks about his father's death and working to help support his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur French talks about attending The Bronx High School of Science and Morris High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about helping his mother with her sewing jobs after his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his experience at Morris High School in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working for the New York City Department of Social Services

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his experiences working for the New York City Department of Social Services

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his early interest in acting

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working as a stagehand for doo-wop groups in the late 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Dramatic Workshop and his acting coach, Peggy Feury

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about joining Maxwell Granville's acting group in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working behind the scenes for the play 'The Blacks: A Clown Show'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur French recalls his first acting role in the play 'Raisin Hell in the Son'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about marrying his wife in 1961

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the play 'Raisin' Hell in the Son'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about pursuing acting while working full time

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about acting in three summer stock plays, including HistoryMaker Ossie Davis' 'Purlie Victorious'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers meeting HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the plays 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about notable figures who attended the play 'Days of Absence'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the play 'Perry's Mission'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Negro Ensemble Company's groundbreaking success

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects on the naming of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the plays produced by Negro Ensemble Company in New York City during the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his response to reading theater reviews

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects on the early years and accomplishments of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Arthur Wellesley French explains how his attempt to act in Hollywood, California was derailed

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about applying to The Bronx High School of Science in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his decision to commit to acting full time

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the opening of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the cast of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about acting in 'Our Street' and the play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers stage director Gilbert Moses

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about performing the play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death' at the Tony Awards

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the powerful ending of 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the controversial aspects of 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his roles in various productions, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his roles in various productions, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his role in 'Death of a Salesman'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the play 'The River Niger'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men' and directing August Wilson's 'Fences' in Vermont

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers playwrights Lonne Elders III and August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley describes his acting awards

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers actress Rosetta LeNoire

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French lists his roles in various television shows and movies

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French shares an anecdote about one of his early television performances

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about protests against 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' in London, England

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about being typecast as older characters

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about current and future projects

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley talks about the theme of passing in the film 'Bellclair Times'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his training in method acting

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about continuing challenges in African American representation in film

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers his mother, Ursilla Ollivierre French

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French shares his thoughts about discrimination and historical misrepresentation

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Negro Ensemble Company's groundbreaking success
Arthur Wellesley French talks about the cast of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'
Transcript
From around the country, black people--when other black folks get involved in the theater they look to the Negro Ensemble Company--$$Right.$$--as the place to be.$$Well--$$Did you have a sense of that, being in it?$$Well, at first, well, after, this was after 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence.' So, I don't say I had a sense of it. I was very happy to be part of it. And I'd worked with Doug [HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward] before. The same people who were the head people at the Negro Ensemble Company were the same three people who produced 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence,' which was [HistoryMaker] Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward, and Gerald Krone. So, I was happy to be there with this company. I knew every black actor in the city [New York, New York] wanted to be part of this, so I felt privileged to be part of it. I think what happened is that we were there and we were in the same theater [St. Mark's Playhouse, New York, New York] where we did 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence.' And we opened, our first play was 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' by Peter Weiss. Well, what happened, and I guess it was surprising, is that we did our first play. And we just did a play, and I'd done plays before. And almost overnight it seemed, you know, when we got reviewed, suddenly we would read about being compared to the Moscow Art Theater, and being compared to great theaters of the past. There were lines around the block, mostly all white, coming to see us. So, there was that immediate--it was just, just happened. So one day we were a group of people putting on a play, and the next day we were kind of getting all this publicity and a lot of press. And we became--like international press. So it was, it was--but Doug kind of kept us. Doug would let us enjoy that for about twenty-four hours. And then he would say, "Okay, now we've got to start, we've got to start rehearsing the next play." So, we went on and moved on to the next thing. But suddenly that became the place to be. Every reviewer was there. I mean everyone wanted, you know, to find out what these black people were doing, how did this happen? So, we were known throughout, you know, the country almost immediately. I mean it was, I don't think--I personally didn't understand or was aware of the scope of it at the time--$$Now, how--$$--of how far reaching it was. To say it was known all over the world in a very short time.$What role did you play in 'Ain't Supposed to Die [a Natural Death,' Melvin Van Peebles]?$$Well, we didn't have names. I opened both the first act and the second act (laughter). But it was, the experience of that--it was--how serendipitous the whole business is--it's that when the auditions came up, being in my usual ignorance, I wasn't really aware of the 'Ain't Supposed to Die' album. I was doing a series out of Baltimore [Maryland], a television series called 'Our Street' with Whitney LeBlanc. I don't know if you know Whitney. Did you ever interview Whitney? Whitney LeBlanc, and who was down there? The young Howard Rollins was down there. And when the auditions came up I'd just gotten a contract, like ten out of twelve weeks in Baltimore. So, I was about to quit anyway my job. I don't think I'd quit then yet. Anyway, I couldn't go to the audition. And the agreement was, it was like you're going to be there ten out of twelve weeks, but we'll tell you which two weeks you can take off. So, I missed the auditions. But after the first week they said, "We have to go back and shoot an episode before your character was introduced. So, you're off next week." I'd only worked one week. So I came back and kind of called the agent. They said, "We're seeing people on callbacks." But they saw me, and they got me, I got me in and I got a part in the show. I didn't have to go to a callback. But if I hadn't had that week off, I'd never been in it. So I opened the show singing, 'It Just Don't Make No Sense.' And it was a period of songs and street scenes and what not. And then I opened the second act singing, 'Good Morning Sunshine.' It was a great cast. Garrett Morris was in the cast; Dick Anthony Williams; B Winde [Beatrice Winde]; who else? Phylicia Rashad came in after. I'm trying to think of the people--Sati Jamal. It was a big cast, lots of wonderful people, Albert Hall. And I'm going to forget somebody. But don't print it, don't say any names, because I'll never remember them all. But anyway that was, that was, you know, my first Broadway experience. We ran for like eight months.

Ronald Glass

Actor Ron Glass was born Ronald Earle Glass to Lefia Mae Gibson Glass and Crump Allen Glass on July 10, 1945, in Evansville, Indiana. A spelling bee champion at St. John’s Elementary School, Glass attended St. Francis High School where he excelled at athletics and singing. After graduating in 1964, Glass attended the University of Evansville where he received his B.A. degree in drama and literature.

In 1968, Glass made his stage debut at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Moving to Hollywood in 1972, Glass got his first television role in an episode of Sanford and Son. Other roles followed in All in the Family (1972); Maude (1972); Hawaii Five-O (1973); Good Times (1974); When Things Were Rotten (1975); and Streets of San Francisco (1976). In 1975, Glass became a regular on the police comedy Barney Miller; he later went on to play Felix in The New Odd Couple (1983). Glass appeared in series as varied as The Twilight Zone (1985); 227 (1985); Deep Space (1987); Family Matters (1989); Murder She Wrote (1984); Friends (1994); Star Trek Voyager (1995); Teen Angel (1997); and The Practice (1997). In 2002, Glass played the role of Shepherd Book in Firefly, which he reprised for Serenity, the 2005 movie based on the show.

Active in the community, Glass served on the boards of the American Repertory Dance Company, the Ka-Ron Lehman Dancers, and St. Thomas University. Glass was also the chairman of the Al Wooten, Jr. Heritage Center in Los Angeles, California.

Glass passed away on November 25, 2016.

Accession Number

A2005.111

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/27/2005

Last Name

Glass

Schools

St. Francis High School

St. John’s Elementary School

University of Evansville

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Evansville

HM ID

GLA02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Seas

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

7/10/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grits

Death Date

11/25/2016

Short Description

Stage actor and television actor Ronald Glass (1945 - 2016 ) appeared in numerous television shows, including All in the Family, Maude, Hawaii Five-O, Good Times, Friends, Star Trek Voyager, and Firefly.

Employment

The Guthrie Theatre

Hollywood

Al Wooten, Jr. Heritage Center

Favorite Color

Brown

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ronald Glass' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass talks about visiting his mother's sister in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass recalls visits to his father's family in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his paternal family's sense of pride

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ronald Glass describes his father's job as a factory worker and their strained relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ronald Glass talks about his parents' marriage and separation

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass explains his parents' move from Memphis, Tennessee to Evansville, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass describes the projects where his family lived in Evansville, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass recalls attending elementary school in Evansville, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass describes his elementary school experience in Evansville, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ronald Glass remembers his English class at St. Anthony Catholic School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ronald Glass describes his favorite teacher at St. Anthony Catholic School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass describes his reunion with his favorite teacher in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass describes his household as a child and his place in it

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass recalls his introduction to classical music

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass describes how he was perceived in his neighborhood, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass describes how he was perceived in his neighborhood, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass recalls attending St. Anthony Catholic Church in Evansville, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass recalls standing up to bullies in his childhood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ronald Glass remembers playing sports at St. Francis High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass recalls his high school interests in sports and language

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass talks about attending Evansville College in 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass recalls acting in his first play at Evansville College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass recalls graduating from the University of Evansville in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass describes his experience at The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass describes moving to Los Angeles, California in 1972

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass recalls being cast in the television sitcom 'Sanford and Son'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ronald Glass describes appearing in the TV sitcoms 'All in the Family' and 'Barney Miller'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his family's reaction to his success in Hollywood, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his family's reaction to his success in Hollywood, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass reflects upon race relations in Indiana and his awareness of the Civil Right Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass remembers not joining a college fraternity and his exemption from the draft

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass describes his character of Detective Ron Harris on 'Barney Miller,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass describes his character of Detective Ron Harris on 'Barney Miller, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass recalls his favorite scenes from the TV sitcom 'Barney Miller'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass describes his work on the TV sitcom 'The New Odd Couple'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ronald Glass describes his role for the TV sitcom 'Mr. Rhodes'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ronald Glass describes his community involvement in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ronald Glass describes his involvement with Los Angeles' Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ronald Glass describes his appearance on the TV show 'Firefly' and the film 'Serenity'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ronald Glass talks about his desire to continue his acting career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ronald Glass describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his life and career, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his life and career, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ronald Glass talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ronald Glass reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ronald Glass describes how he would like to be remembered

William Greaves

Filmmaker William Greaves was born in New York City to parents from Jamaica and Barbados. Growing up in Harlem, Greaves attended Stuyvesant High School, and after graduating in 1944, attended the City College of New York. Greaves spent 1948 studying under German-born avant-garde filmmaker Hans Richter. After appearing in the musical Finian's Rainbow, Greaves was invited to join the prestigious Actors Studio in New York, where he trained with Marlon Brando and Shelley Winters.

Greaves began his career as an actor, and appeared in the Broadway hit, Lost in the Stars, as well as films such as 1948's Souls of Sin. Relocating to Canada in 1952, Greaves worked for the National Film Board as a writer and director. While in Canada, Greaves studied under John Grierson, regarded as the father of modern documentary film making. After returning to the United States in 1961, Greaves joined the International Civil Aviation Organization as a public information officer producing films for the organization, and in 1963 he went to work for the United Nations Film and Television Department in the African Academy of Arts and Research. Greaves formed William Greaves Productions in 1964, and soon thereafter began producing his own works. Greaves' first feature film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, was released in 1968, the same year he began producing television's Black Journal, a monthly television newsmagazine airing on public television. Black Journal aired until 1970, and received an Emmy in 1969.

After leaving Black Journal, Greaves returned to independent film making with his 1971 Ali, the Fighter. Since then, Greaves has been prolific in his art, producing films such as Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice, From These Roots, and his most recent work, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey. In all, he has produced more than 200 documentary films and has received more than seventy international film festival awards. He has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, received special tribute at the first Black American Independent Film Festival in Paris, and has received an "Indy," the Life Achievement Award of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. Greaves has been a member of the Actors Studio for fifty-five years, and is the chairman of the Film Committee of the Princess Grace Foundation. Greaves and his wife, Louise, resided in New York.

Accession Number

A2003.082

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/17/2003

Last Name

Greaves

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Stuyvesant High School

Archival Photo 2
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

GRE06

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Dakaras, Senegal, Malibu, California, Goa, India

Favorite Quote

A race without knowledge of it's history and like a tree without roots.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/8/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese, West Indian, Caribbean Food

Death Date

8/25/2014

Short Description

Documentary filmmaker, stage actor, and film director William Greaves (1925 - 2014 ) began his career as an actor, but turned to film making. In 1963, he went to work for the United Nations Film and Television Department in the African Academy of Arts and Research, and later formed William Greeves Productions. Greaves has produced more than 200 documentary films, and has received more than seventy international film festival awards.

Employment

National Film Board of Canada

International Civil Aviation Organization

United Nations Film and Television Department

William Greaves Productions

Favorite Color

Olive Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:23036,345:24830,362:27638,408:28106,415:29042,445:29432,451:29822,461:30602,473:30914,478:31772,497:32084,502:33254,523:33800,532:45780,606:46605,613:47265,618:50990,629:51310,634:51790,641:52830,655:53150,661:54590,683:56428,692:57670,703:61550,717:62450,728:62810,733:63620,746:64970,765:65780,773:66140,779:66860,789:71187,862:71591,868:72601,877:74015,893:74722,902:75126,907:75732,915:79931,936:83106,958:89955,1022:90480,1031:91230,1042:91755,1051:92280,1059:94870,1064:99130,1078:99680,1091:100945,1118:101385,1128:103072,1134:103758,1142:106208,1170:106600,1175:111660,1223:112860,1240:113420,1250:113900,1260:114940,1274:116140,1295:117100,1308:117420,1313:118380,1328:119260,1337:120860,1359:124730,1388:125322,1398:126654,1466:126950,1471:127838,1481:128134,1486:128874,1498:129244,1504:129688,1512:129984,1517:130354,1523:130650,1528:130946,1533:131612,1544:132426,1556:132944,1565:137230,1592:137762,1601:142170,1661:142854,1673:144678,1695:145286,1705:145590,1710:146426,1722:146882,1731:148250,1748:148858,1757:153310,1768:154330,1785:154840,1793:157964,1822:159540,1833:160431,1850:160836,1856:168126,1971:169017,1993:169827,2004:170151,2009:170880,2041:171204,2046:171690,2054:172338,2064:172905,2074:173472,2082:174768,2104:175659,2118:181167,2267:181815,2276:182382,2285:183192,2297:183516,2302:190282,2314:190747,2319:191119,2324:192328,2338:192979,2346:193537,2353:194095,2360:195025,2372:196420,2380:197257,2391:199024,2406:199396,2411:204530,2426:205130,2439:205430,2445:205910,2454:206270,2461:206510,2466:206930,2476:207710,2493:210146,2503:210516,2509:210812,2514:211108,2519:211848,2532:212292,2539:213402,2559:215410,2570:217353,2609:218492,2635:219765,2662:220033,2667:220368,2673:220636,2678:222311,2712:222780,2721:223584,2738:223852,2743:224589,2755:230756,2804:231566,2817:232133,2826:233510,2843:233834,2848:235616,2865:236426,2877:237479,2889:237884,2898:244910,2923:247390,2959:248110,2970:248830,2980:252990,3047:253310,3052:256089,3077$0,0:720,9:7182,115:9649,127:10817,146:12496,175:16060,187:19528,234:20446,241:21466,252:21874,257:22792,268:24322,286:25036,293:42130,457:63328,691:73360,758:81265,873:81730,879:82381,908:84706,934:85543,945:89770,960:95748,1020:96639,1034:97368,1044:99069,1070:99798,1081:100527,1089:101094,1097:103443,1125:104577,1142:109670,1173:111510,1226:112070,1236:112870,1252:121430,1373:137654,1535:138944,1552:139890,1567:141866,1579:145826,1640:150578,1708:150974,1713:153746,1748:154241,1754:157460,1759:159783,1823:160692,1834:165434,1888:166122,1898:169060,1929
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Greaves's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his ancestors' origins

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Greaves tells of his father's emigration from Barbados and his personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Greaves discusses his mother's personality and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Greaves talks about his siblings and his parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Greaves talks about growing up in Harlem and his interest in African studies

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Greaves discusses Africanist and scholar William Leo Hansberry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Greaves discusses his intellectual peers in Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Greaves talks about his parents' role in his early education and the fault with America's media and educational systems

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his academic education and his early interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his early career in the performing arts and on screen

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks more about his early acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Greaves details the racist attitudes that caused him to abandon acting and leave the United States

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his work with the National Film Board of Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses his return to the United States from Canada and his filmmaking career

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his time in Dakar, Senegal with Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his film productions with various U.S. government agencies

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks about his film 'Still A Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Greaves details his experiences while working on the 'Black Journal' television series

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his decision to transfer control of the 'Black Journal' television series to Tony Brown

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Greaves talks more about 'Black Journal' and compares it to others with a similar format

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Greaves details his documentary, 'Nationtime, Gary,' and the response it received from mainstream media outlets

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses his film, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his film 'Ali, the Fighter' and its impact on Hollywood films about boxing

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his film, 'Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks more about his film on Ralph Bunche

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Greaves discusses his film 'Voice of La Raza' and his experience with actor Anthony Quinn

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses the perspective needed for a successful black filmmaker

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Greaves gives advice to future filmmakers, and talks about those who inspired him

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses intellectual role models and the 'William Greaves Aesthetic' found in his films

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Greaves relates his impressions and relationships with notable people in the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Greaves details more of his impressions of the notable people in the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Greaves talks about his hopes for today's black community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his parents' reactions to his career choices

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Greaves discusses what his legacy may be

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Photo - William Greaves, age fourteen. Class photo from Fredrick Douglass Junior High School, New York, New York, 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Photo - William Greaves, age eleven, with Albert Popwell and others after a school play at PS89 Elementary School, New York, New York, late 1930s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, New York, New York, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Sir Alistair Cooke's photograph of William Greaves dressed as an Arab, Egypt, 1950s

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - William Greaves's mother, Phyllis Emily Muir Greaves, New York, New York, early 1930s

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - William Greaves with his wife, Louise Archambault Greaves, 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - William Greaves with his great-granddaughter, Lauren, 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - William Greaves's friend, Emily, ca. 1950s

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - William Greaves with Senegalese filmmaker, Ousmane Sembène and unidentified woman, 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - William Greaves working on 'Getting to Know Me' television series, during the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - William Greaves with filmmakers Satyajit Ray and Elia Kazan, New York, New York, 1978

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves, the President of India, Giani Zail Singh, and others in India, 1985

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - William Greaves with 'Black Journal' production staff, Madeline Anderson and Kent Garrett, New York, New York, 1968-1969

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - William Greaves with author Toni Morrison, New York, New York, 1988

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - William Greaves with the 'Black Journal' film crew, New York, New York, 1968

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves and Bobby Shepherd, 1990

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves and Dr. Robert Edgar, 1997

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - William Greaves with Mel Ferrer and Susan Douglas, reuniting with the cast from the movie 'Lost Boundaries,' 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - William Greaves with actor Anthony Quinn and William H. Brown at the movie screening of 'Voice of La Raza,' 1972

Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - William Greaves producing the film on either Booker T. Washington or Frederick Douglass, 1985-1986

Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - William Greaves on the set of his movie, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One,' New York, New York, 1968

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - William Greaves in his office at William Greaves Productions, Inc., New York, New York, 1999

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
William Greaves discusses his film, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One'
William Greaves discusses his film 'Voice of La Raza' and his experience with actor Anthony Quinn
Transcript
So the film ['Nationtime Gary'] on the Gary [Indiana] Convention [of the first National Black Political Assembly, 1972] didn't get (unclear) we were just talking about that so next I guess. Oh, you made a film in '68 [1968] called 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.' (laughs)$$(Simultaneously) 'Take One'.$$'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One' is a very weird film, experimental avant-garde. As a matter of fact Steven Soderbergh [film producer] is crazy about the film and he said that, "This is the film that Jean-Luc Godard tried to make, you know, in the '70s [1970s] and so on, the '60s [1960s]." It's a, it's a film that is in many ways a revolutionary film. Revolutionary in it's artistic embrace of styles of, of filmmaking that were, at the time that that was coming, made, very new, that was cinéma vérité [filmmaking style that stresses unbiased realism] very, very new type of filming that had been used in documentaries by and large only and what I dared to do was to bring cinéma vérité style--the cinéma vérité style of filmmaking into the feature film arena. And so that was one aspect of it, but it had a number of other aspects which is very enigmatic for most people. I mean most people are not aware of the improvisational, role, the role that improvisation plays in the actor's performance. Most people are not aware of scientific principals like the [Werner] Heisenberg Theory of Uncertainty [quantum mechanics theory discovered in 1927] where you talk about the fact that we, as human beings, will never know what reality is because the means of perception of the ultimate reality, which is the atom, cannot be seen because of the fact--that that is the electrons of the atom cannot be seen because the means of perception is an electron microscope which sets out a beam of electrons at the atom and it knocks the electrons out of their respective orbits, so it doesn't get a chance to really see the atom, you see. And this, this comes from out of my science background of Stuyvesant High School [New York, New York] and that sort of thing. So there is, there's that plus there's the Second Law of Thermodynamics [theory explained by physicist Rudolf J. E. Clausius in 1850], then there's Hindu mysticism and Sri Aurobindo. There are all kinds of elements that are involved in this production. It's very controversial subject matter that's designed to provoke debate and discussion and most people are not aware of all these elements coming into play, but when you see the film, you can't take your eyes off the screen because it has that quality of drawing you in and you just don't know where you are, but you're watching it, you know. You just can't stop watching it and by the end of the film you realize it was a very interesting film that in the face of all the dissent, if you will, by the crew and rebellion by the crew against the, the content and against the style of shooting, it still is an interesting movie. And it's been at fifteen or seventeen film festivals by now, and we're going to make the sequel to it at some point this year, I guess.$Now, you made a film on La Raza ['Voice of La Raza,' 1972].$$Oh, yeah, Anthony Quinn, yeah. Yeah, well that was an interesting project, actually, because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission commissioned us to do a film on the Latino experience with respect to employment in the United States, and the--I had put the film together, and then I said, "Oh, it would be a good idea if I could get Anthony Quinn, 'cause he's Latino and he has a crossover capability. It would be interesting to get him to narrate the film." So I contacted him and he said, "Well, I don't know," he says, "What is this, a documentary?" I said, "Yes. It's a documentary." He said, "Well, you know, I'm in features and so on." Anyway, I kept bugging him, I kept, you know, pursuing him and finally he said, "Well, listen--," he said, "you come out here," he said, "let me see some of the films that you've done." So I had done a film called 'Power Versus the People' [1970] with, and in that film it deal with the transgressions, the abuses of the corporate establishment against the Latinos as well as African Americans. So I flew out to California and I showed it to Quinn, and he was very moved with it, you know, and then I showed him, also, the material that I wanted him to narrate, and he said, "This is fantastic stuff," he says, but I said, "Well, will you narrate it?" And he said, "I not only will narrate it. I want to be in it." You know, so I said, "Well, fine," so I got this crew together on a moment's notice and we filmed him in Albuquerque, New Mexico and, as well as Los Angeles [California] and made the film. And it won, I think, four or five film festival awards, I can't remember now. But it was very successful and still is. I mean it still gets called for. My company [William Greaves Productions, Inc.] gets orders for distribution of the film to various, you know, Latino groups as well as non, non-Latino groups.

Douglas Alan-Mann

Accomplished stage performer and director Douglas Alan-Mann was born in Chicago on June 10, 1952, to Malinda, a homemaker, and Donald, a truck driver. He attended Chicago public schools growing up, but graduated from Bangor High School in Bangor, Michigan, in 1970. During high school, Alan-Mann was very active in theater, performing in various plays and productions. This passion grew into a successful career in the arts.

Alan-Mann has been involved with numerous Chicago-based plays and productions as an actor, director and stage manager, and has also worked as the production manager for the X-BAG Theater and later as the artistic director of the Chicago Theater Company. He has played roles in such plays as No Place to Be Somebody, Our Town and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men and also appeared in the film Mahogany. In 1998, Mann worked on a theatrical production, A Red Death, written by David Barr, based on the Walter Mosley novel. He has worked on many productions making poignant commentaries about problems in our society.

In 1999, Alan-Mann directed another Barr play, The State of Mississippi vs. Emmett Till, presented by the Pegasus Players. The play was based on the tragic historical events of 1955 - during the civil rights movement - when fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In an eye-opening case that revealed much of the ugliness of racism in America, the two men responsible for this heinous crime were found innocent. Also in 1999, Alan-Mann adapted a highly acclaimed original play, The Journal of Ordinary Thought, dramatizing everyday life for African Americans in Chicago neighborhoods. In 2001, he directed another Barr creation, Billy, based on a novel by Albert French. This play relays the story of a ten-year-old African American boy convicted and executed for killing a white girl in self-defense.

In 1975, Mann was awarded a Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for his performance in Where is the Pride, Where is the Joy? at the X-BAG Theater.

Douglas Alan-Mann passed away on April 22, 2011.

Accession Number

A2002.232

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2002

Last Name

Mann

Maker Category
Middle Name

Alan

Organizations
Schools

Bangor High School

John Farren Elementary School

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Vincennes Upper Grade School

Overton Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Douglas

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MAN03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

6/10/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food, Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

4/22/2011

Short Description

Stage actor and stage director Douglas Alan-Mann (1952 - 2011 ) has served as the artistic director of the Chicago Theater Company, has performed in such plays as, No Place to Be Somebody, Our Town, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, and appeared in the film Mahogany.

Employment

X-BAG Theater

Chicago Theater Company

Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, IL)

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:3226,36:9607,105:10511,115:17919,170:18195,175:18540,181:31551,304:43181,447:58302,617:58813,625:62755,703:69593,820:69869,825:84320,996:84674,1003:86208,1040:95326,1152:95736,1158:96228,1165:116328,1434:116867,1445:119023,1472:125320,1526$0,0:5450,48:33640,228:42870,348:43494,363:43878,373:47142,437:47722,443:55158,533:55450,538:56399,561:57056,574:65810,662:69343,689:69769,696:71828,737:72183,743:81290,832:81770,840:86260,911:105444,1188:109524,1207:110604,1232:111396,1244:114852,1325:127840,1432:129740,1437:135746,1511:138296,1550:138704,1555:150544,1689:150979,1695:158485,1744:160015,1765:164760,1800:165288,1807:166080,1818:170123,1872:187468,1995:190584,2057:191040,2065:191420,2071:199622,2108:200482,2128:202890,2160:206760,2217:207104,2222:212780,2317:213296,2327:230113,2485:233620,2498
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann narrates his photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Douglas Alan-Mann's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his parents and his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his paternal grandmother, Vivian McPhan

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his parents and his family's move to Bangor, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about growing up in Chicago, Illinois and in Bangor, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his favorite grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the grade schools he attended in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Douglas Alan-Mann recalls high school experiences including his prom at Bangor High School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his return to Chicago, Illinois and the beginning of his acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his first paying job, a commercial for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes the beginning of the Chicago Theater Company and his entry into voiceover work

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the Chicago Theater Company's operations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about audience reaction to the performances at the Chicago Theater Company

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his three favorite plays

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his hopes for the Chicago Theater Company

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Douglas Alan-Mann shares his advice for young actors

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann compares theater and film

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the lack of films that reflect African American life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his younger sister, Ursula Mann

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his son, Dealan Mann

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about why he is single

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about writing and directing

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his relationship with his father and his mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about how he selects pieces to produce

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

3$8

DATitle
Douglas Alan-Mann describes his return to Chicago, Illinois and the beginning of his acting career
Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his three favorite plays
Transcript
What was the transition back to the city [Chicago, Illinois] like?$$I couldn't wait. It was, it was one great big party is what it was. It's like I'm back. And it was just about having fun and it was about trying to get my career going.$$What steps did you take?$$I guess the first thing that we were trying to do was trying to get involved in a play--was trying to get involved in some kind of theater ,because at that particular time, that's what my knowledge was. Sort of naive, I thought if I got into a play, somebody was going to discover me and I would be whisked away and off to Hollywood. So there were several auditions around and we did--we got involved--we--talk about a friend of mine also that--his name was Michael Forenoy [ph.]. He, he and I, we were going to be actors and we were going to be the best actors ever. So we went to audition for one play and we rehearsed it for a while and for whatever reason the play just never got produced; never saw the light of day. A little disheartened by that, but we kept on looking. And then one morning looking in the paper, they were holding auditions for actors at the Experimental Black Actors Guild, affectionately known as X-BAG, with the founder, Clarence Taylor was there. We went to audition and we got the part. And that was our beginning. And audiences began to discover us. And year after year, you know we were doing play after play after play after play after play. And it was--we were just developing our craft. And that was a lot of fun.$Over the two decades or so you've been with and running Chicago Theater--$$Company.$$Can you tell me your three favorite pieces and why?$$My three favorite pieces and why. Number one would have to be a piece we did called "Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting". And the reason that that is significant for me because I directed that show. And usually the director's job after the show is over and the director is gone. You turn it over to the stage manager and that kind of thing. And I was, I was gone. Maybe four weeks into the run, I come down and I sit and I'm watching the show and I got totally engrossed in it. I mean I had forgotten that I had directed the show. The piece was about Branch Rickey bringing Jackie Robinson into the major leagues. And as I was sitting on the back row totally engrossed in the play, I began to well up inside, you know, listening to and watching the performers. And I was holding it back. And somebody who was sitting on the same row, maybe about six or seven seats down, I heard them sniffle. And they started to cry. And then at that point when they--it was all right for me to do it. But I lost myself in my own production, and it was a very weird feeling. So that was one of the most significant things that I've, you know done. For me we did a piece that was based on a book called "Billy". And "Billy" was about a nine-year-old that accidentally kills a white girl in the South. They tried this young man, they sentenced him to the electric, to the electric chair, and they electrocute him. Very dark story. But it had two young people that played the roles of friends, nine and ten-years-old. And in helping of their development as young actors, it was just amazing to me that they were holding their own on stage with people that had twenty, thirty years more experience than they did. And that really touched me inside, is helping to see them grow that much at such a, such a young age. Another piece that probably was "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" with the Experimental Black Actors Guild, going back my first experience on stage with X-BAG. And that was--it was my first full-fledged outing as an actor and audiences were coming to see the play and they were responding to what we did on stage, and then again that word-of-mouth was out there. And as a result of that, my name was getting out there as this new, young, bright thespian. I was just loving it at the time, you know. So those are probably my--probably top three for me.

Okoro Harold Johnson

Okoro Harold Johnson, actor, director, and playwright was born May 25, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Forestville Elementary and DuSable High School, but graduated from Eureka High School in Meridian, Mississippi. He briefly attended Tougaloo College, but ended up working as a waiter on the Grand Trunk Railroad. Later at Roosevelt University, Johnson became involved at the ground floor of the Chicago Black Arts Movement. Johnson earned a B. A. in Theater from Roosevelt University and an M.A. in Theater from Governor's State University.

Johnson is known for his down to earth approach with both acting and directing. He has exposed people from all walks of life to the magic of the theatre through his productions. Some of his plays include: S. C. L. C: Second Coming, Last Chance, The Regal Theater, Kintu and the Law of Love, and Strange Fruit. Johnson directed among other plays: A Candle in the Wind (featuring William Marshall), A Change is Gon' Come by Joe Turner, Purlie Victorious by Ossie Davis, Fats Waller: His Life and Times by Runako Jahi and Jazz Set by Ron Milner. Johnson produced a now legendary black soap opera, written by Richard Durham for public television called Bird Of An Iron Feather for Chicago's WTTW. His acting skills were featured on Broadway in Ron Milner's Checkmates, in a role that he created. Film credits include: The Spook Who Sat by the Door, The Wedding and A Raisin In The Sun.

Johnson served as Artistic Director at ETA Creative Arts Foundation for 17 years and was director of South Shore Cultural Center. Johnson has taught theatre at the college and community level. He is the recipient of the Paul Robeson Award from the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago.

Okoro Harold Johnson passed away on April 3, 2012.

Accession Number

A2002.041

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/31/2002

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Middle Name

Harold

Organizations
Schools

Eureka High School

Forrestville Elementary School

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Tougaloo College

Roosevelt University

DePaul University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Okoro

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

JOH03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

West Africa

Favorite Quote

You Can't Take It With You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/25/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

4/3/2012

Short Description

Playwright, stage actor, and theater director Okoro Harold Johnson (1925 - 2012 ) was known for his down-to-earth approach with both acting and directing. He produced a legendary black soap opera, written by Richard Durham for public television called Bird Of An Iron Feather. Johnson served as artistic director at ETA Creative Arts Foundation for seventeen years and was director of South Shore Cultural Center.

Employment

ETA Creative Arts Foundation

South Shore Cultural Center

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Okoro Harold Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Okoro Harold Johnson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his parents' home

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about living with his grandmother as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes his high school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes how his grandmother valued a college education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his college years at Tougaloo College where he starred in his first play

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Okoro Harold Johnson remembers working on the railroad as a waiter while a student at Roosevelt College

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his service in the U.S. Army

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes his growing interest in theater while in law school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about learning to act at Drama Incorporated

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about black theater groups

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes the beginning of ETA, which he formed with HistoryMaker Abena Joan Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Okoro Harold Johnson continues to talk about the nascency of ETA

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about Stateway Gardens where he worked as a drama instructor and acted in plays

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes how he became the first black director at Theater on the Lake

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about ETA's early productions and the Regal Theater's revival, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about ETA's early productions and the Regal Theater's revival, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his experience at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about directing "Bird of the Iron Feather"

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes racism on the set of "Bird of the Iron Feather"

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about "Bird of the Iron Feather"'s success

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes forcing radio and television stations in Chicago, Illinois to hire black personnel

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his return to theater and ETA's production of "A Candle in the Wind"

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about "Kintu and the Law of Love", his adaptation of an African folk tale

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Okoro Harold Johnson describes his experience on Broadway in the play "Checkmates"

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about working at Chicago State University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Okoro Harold Johnson explains why he cast non-actors like Moms Mabley, LaDonna Tittle, Sherry Scott, and Light Henry Huff in the productions of "A Change is Gon' Come" and "Jazz-Set"

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about the production of "A Change is Gon' Come"

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about tensions with Bobby Womack during ETA's run of "A Change is Gon' Come"

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about directing a musical revue for Harold Washington's mayoral campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about his play "S.C.L.C.: Second Coming Last Chance" and performs the prologue

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Okoro Harold Johnson recites two of his poems, "The First Blues", and "Chicago"

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Okoro Harold Johnson reflects on his parents' attitude towards his accomplisments

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about The HistoryMakers project

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Okoro Harold Johnson talks about the contemporary black arts scene in Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Okoro Johnson narrates his photographs, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Okoro Johnson narrates his photographs, pt.2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$3

DAStory

1$1

DATitle
Okoro Harold Johnson explains why he cast non-actors like Moms Mabley, LaDonna Tittle, Sherry Scott, and Light Henry Huff in the productions of "A Change is Gon' Come" and "Jazz-Set"
Okoro Harold Johnson talks about directing "Bird of the Iron Feather"
Transcript
Okay. We were discussing some of your casting choices and the fact that some of your shows that you use a lot of non-actors?$$Well, that was something that I really got into and I found it to be very, very rewarding. Starting with the Regal Theater, I brought people in, a number of people in, who had never done theater before, but they were either singers or they were performers and I did 'em, brought 'em, Moms Mabley in--but they--it worked out perfectly well. The Regal, did the same thing with Sam Cooke, Alambus(ph.) Dean, who had never done theater. He came in and did Sam Cooke in "[A] Change is Gon' Come", fantastic job. LaDonna Tittle was in "[A] Change is Gon' Come". She had never done a full-length play before. I did "Jazz-Set" which was written by Ron Milner, fantastic play, incidentally. But it was a spiritual--of a spiritual nature. And I said, this is not an actor, this is not something for an actor to do, because an actor would come off phony. I need someone who is deeply rooted in the spiritual aspects. So Sherry Scott, who was with Earth Wind and Fire and Light Henry Huff, who was a musician in the city, and I asked Light to do that and I asked Sherry to do it. And it worked out so beautifully. Light Henry Huff was, I mean, he brought that spirituality to it and it was just whoo, just powerful, it just boom, blew up on the stage. And I never will forget that performance that Light Henry Huff did with "Jazz-Set". "Jazz-Set" was a very interesting concept. Ron Milner wanted to do a play like jazz musicians would perform like they're doing solos and they're doing fours and doing eights and they--back and forth and I didn't understand it when I first read it, I didn't know what he was about. So I went to Detroit [Michigan] and spent four days with him at his house and he went over the play with me and over--and his--were notes and so forth. Then when I cast it he came to Chicago [Illinois] and was assisting me with the casting. And then he explained to the cast, directly to the cast what the play was all about. That's why I asked him to come so he could interpret it directly to the cast so they would understand exactly what he was after. And this spirituality was one of the things that--that was so strong, the leader was a very spiritual person and he was a saxophone player. The other thing about this play is they were all musicians, but nobody had real horns. They had horns made of wire. All the drums, the piano, the saxophone, the trumpet and the bass fiddle was made of wire. And we found a young man, talented person, who made these instruments, I mean, life-sized bass, life-sized piano, all made of wire, fantastic. And the music was--Vince Willis wrote the score behind it. So when they were speaking--if the trumpet for instance was speaking then the trumpet music was playing behind it while he was speaking. And that was his rap, was his solo, his you know, and it was done like a jazz set, and that was the name of it, beautiful. But I was--getting back to Light Henry Huff. Light had never done a play at all, and Sherry, I think, Sherry had done the Regal Theater and maybe a couple of other plays, but Sherry Scott was fantastic in it. The same thing happened with "Billie Holiday". I just did a--Billie Holiday and Lester, in "The Life of Billie Holiday and Lester Young". And I got a young lady, Nuombia(ph.), to played Billie Holiday. I met her out to Chicago State [University, Chicago, Illinois], and she was in a singing group. And then I heard--was at the other place and I saw Bruce Robinson, saxophone player, so I put these two people together as Lester Young and Billie Holiday, turned out fantastic. The whole thing for me has been that you find out when you use artists, all these people had been artists in one form or another, but artists can be artists in many different forms, and it always worked out, it always worked. It never went sour on me, not once, that I put a person into a play that had not done theater before, and it worked out, so.$Okay. "Bird of the Iron Feather", the first black television soap opera in Chicago [Illinois]?$$Yes. And we have to understand that there were no black people in television at this time. This was 1967. There were no black people in television anywhere. I'm talking about directors, behind the scene persons, in lighting, there were no on-camera persons, black persons. The one on-camera black person was Jim Tillman, who did a show called "Our People" at WTTW around the same time. But it was directed by a white person. So they wanted to have their white directors to direct "Bird of the Iron Feather" and we said no. And so, in order to enforce--they were insisting, we were insisting, so we went to a community organization called the Coalition for United Community Action, and this was '60s [1960s] remember. And they got into dialog with WTTW about this show. And we start putting demands on WTTW in terms of--their idea was to do a hundred television shows for $6,000 each and using student writers and using unpaid tele--actors, and so we said, no, you can't do that. If you're gonna do a black television show in Chicago, the first black television show that ever been in Chicago, you gon' do it right, and you gonna do it with quality. So now--so this idea of a black--of the student writers has to go. There we have professional writers, and Dick Durham, Richard Durham, was as we said at the time, he was editor of Muhammad Speaks, but he had written for the black--for the white soap operas. He'd written for the "Long Ranger" all under assumed name of course, I mean, they would not allow his name, but he's ghost writing. And we said, so we've got people who can write, you know, we've got people who can direct and--so I told them, I said, well I've been to GBH [WGBH Boston], which is your sister station, and I've learned--I've taken directing, so I'm ready to direct. I have fifteen years of directing in the theater, and so putting that together with television, I'm ready to direct television. No, no, no, it takes five years, you gotta have five years of directing training. I said look, I've taken this course in Boston [Massachusetts] and they--I have a certificate that says I am qualified. And so, I'm insisting that. They wanted to hire me as a drama coach to teach, I mean, to coach the actors for the white directors. I said, I'm not gon' do that. I'm a director and that's what I want to be. So they said, well, no. And so then the Coalition got the Black Stone Rangers together and put 'em on a bus and went out to WTTW and took over the station. We had eleven demands. And on the top demand was that Harold Johnson would become a director. The other was that in every capacity where there--in every capacity of the production, if you don't have--we want a black person in every capacity, if you don't have one, you train one. So that was one of the eleven demands. And so finally they agreed under this pressure.