Partner George Eells

Queer Places:
Northwestern University, 1801 Hinman Ave, Evanston, IL 60208
Columbia University, 116th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10027
556 Pierce St, Gary, IN 46402
Grace Church School, 46 Cooper Sq, New York, NY 10003
Jamesport Masonic Cemetery Jamesport, Daviess County, Missouri, USA

Picture of Aurand Harris (July 4, 1915 – May 6, 1996) was a prolific and much-performed playwright who wrote for young audiences.

James Aurand Harris, the only child of Myrtle Sebastian and Dr. George Dowe Harris, was born on July 4, 1915, in Jamesport, Missouri. His father was a physician; his mother, a graduate of Northwestern University, was trained in theater and speech, and was also an active and well-know director, teacher, and amateur actress who maintained her own studio. From an early age, Aurand Harris was drawn to things theatrical, no doubt in part due to his mother's influence, but also because of the variety and high quality of the theater with which she surrounded him. Harris' acting career began at age four when he played a bumblebee in a local musical production; before seven, he had written his first "little dramatic piece." His education was augmented with speech, dance, and musical train. In high school, he was involved in dramatic and oratorical contests, to the extent that when he graduated, he was named 'the best actor and the best orator in the state of Missouri.

In 1936 he obtained Bachelor of Arts from the University Kansas City. In 1939, he obtained a Master of Arts from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he worked with Winifred Ward, a pioneer in children's theatre.[8] Then he made postgraduate studies at Columbia University (1947). In 1991 he obtained his Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary) from Indiana University. Thomas Ehrlich, the 15th President of the Indiana University, presented the honorary degree.[9] He commenced his teaching career in September 1939 at Horace Mann High School Gary, Indiana, as a studio teacher for dramatics. He taught there for two years. In September 1941, he served as the Head of the Drama Department at William Woods College, in Fulton, Missouri. In 1946, he relocated to New York City to study writing for the theater. Simultaneously, he commenced a teaching position at Grace Episcopal Church School in Manhattan. He remained in this position for 33 years.[8]

Over four decades he wrote more than 50 plays, many of which became classics in the children's repertory. They include "Androcles and the Lion," a commedia dell'arte farce first performed in 1963 and translated into 10 languages since. Harris's publisher, Anchorage Press, estimated that by the early 1990's his plays had been given more than 30,000 performances. After its publication in 1964, "Androcles" was televised and soon became standard fare for school, community and college theaters. The play remains Anchorage's top seller. Among Mr. Harris's other favorites were "Steel Away Home" (1972), "Yankee Doodle" (1975), "A Toby Show" (1978) and "The Arkansaw Bear" (1980). The last, an original story, confronts the subject of death, considered a controversial topic for a children's audience. His most recent play, "The Orphan Train," made its debut at Northwestern University at the time of Harris' death. Harris also edited several anthologies of plays adapted for chidren to perform. One volume of 15 plays was published by Anchorage a month after his death. In 1976, Harris was the first playwright for children to receive a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

HHarris died on May 6, 1996, at Beth-Israel Hospice in Manhattan. He was 80 and lived in Greenwich Village. The cause was cancer, said Nellie McCaslin, a colleague at New York University, where Harris taught playwriting for the last 10 years. His long-time partner, author George Eells, his friend since their days at Northwestern, had died one year before.


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