Kendrew Lascelles

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Kendrew Lascelles
Born (1935-09-20) 20 September 1935 (age 85)
Gatley, England
  • Actor
  • Performer
  • Writer
Notable work
The Box (poem)
Wait a Minim! (revue)

Kendrew Lascelles (pronounced Lassels); born 20 September 1935) is an English-born actor, performer and writer from South Africa.[1] His works are known for raising the profile of issues of major social conscience, particularly Apartheid and the Vietnam War.[2][3]

Some of his most notable works include Wait a Minim!, an anti-apartheid revue that he co-wrote and performed;[4] and, The Box, an iconic poem first recited by him on The Smothers Brothers Summer show on the ABC TV network in the summer of 1971, and was later performed by John Denver on his 1971 album Poems, Prayers & Promises.[5] Wait a Minim! brought the Anti-Apartheid Movement to Broadway and the rest of the Western world.[6] The Smothers Brothers Show received four millions contacts and one million letters from fans after The Box was performed by Lascelles on the show.[7]

Lascelles has written four novels, seventeen plays, two produced screenplays, four musicals, a television mini-series, and four anthologies of poems.[8] His performance background is in comedy, revue, drama, and dance.[2] Lascelles' writing style entertains and informs, bringing irreverence and humor from his comedy for revue and television.[9] He has a background in classical Cecchetti Dance and performance.[9] His plays have been published and produced, along with his work being recorded by various musical artists and broadcast on networks that include the BBC and networks in the United States.

Early life and education[edit]

Lascelles was born in Gatley, England near Greater Manchester in the United Kingdom on 20 September 1935.[9] He moved to South Africa with his family when he was three-years-old, finally settling in KwaZulu-Natal in his late teens.[9] He gravitated to a theatrical career with his first professional role when he was 17 years old. After studying in London, gaining a diploma in Checchetti, he returned to South Africa in 1956 and worked with the National Theatre's "Seven against the Sun" and with the Frank Staff 's South African Ballet Company.[9]


Early career and "Wait a Minim!"[edit]

His first paid performance was in 1953 replacing the Principal Dancer, injured two hours before opening night, of a visiting Italian opera company in the dance sequence in their production Faust, starring Giuseppe Di Stefano.[10] Lascelles began working with various ballet companies in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, with one of his most notable roles being the Wolf in Frank Staff's Peter and the Wolf. He met Leon Gluckman in 1953 during Elizabeth Sneddon's Natal University production of King Lear in which Gluckman played the title role.[11]

After returning from studies in London in 1956, Lascelles continued performing. His first major success came in 1962 when he co-authored with the cast, Gluckman's production of Wait a Minim! which traveled the world for seven years, including two years in the West End and two years on Broadway.[6][12] At the conclusion of the Minim tour Lascelles settled in the United States where he continued to write and perform.[9]

Lascelles also played numerous roles outside Minim! during his tour with the revue. He co-wrote and performed on the BBC production Time To Breve, a skit based on the Laurence Olivier production Richard III.[13][14] He also played the Buckingham Palace Flunkie in the 1965 film Help! starring The Beatles.[15]

1970s – "The Box," The Dean Martin Show and Golddiggers[edit]

During and immediately after his work with Minim!, Lascelles appeared as a guest on various talk shows, including David Frost, Steve Allen, and Ed Sullivan.[16] After settling in the United States, Lascelles began writing scripts for television, most notably the Smothers Brothers and The Dean Martin Show.[17] He continued to appear on television and talk shows throughout the 1960s and 70s as a popular counter-culture icon.

Lascelles wrote "The Box" in 1971. The iconic poem was first performed by Lascelles on the Smother Brothers Summer Show on ABC the same year. A few weeks later, John Denver appeared on the show and asked Lascelles if he could perform The Box, later recording it for his 1971 album "Poems, Prayers & Promises." Burl Ives attempted a deal to record the song; however, the deal fell through when Ives realized it was already released on the flip side of a 45 by Lascelles. "When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow," the song from the other side of the 45, was later recorded by Chicago as part of its 1971 album Chicago III. Lascelles received over one million letters from fans after he first performed the poem in 1971. Lascelle gave a follow-up recitation of The Box on the Smothers Brothers in August 1971.[7] Lascelles also released an anthology of poetry in 1973.[18]

Lascelles was a staff writer and occasional performer for the Smothers Brothers Show and Dean Martin's Goldiggers in 1972–73. One of his most famous roles was that of Harry Nine Lives with Dean Martin and Peter Sellers.[19] He also expanded his film career in the 1970s with numerous movie roles. He played the role of Owen in the 1974 Roger Corman produced film Candy Stripe Nurses. Lascelles also played the role of Nonus in the Donald Cammell film The Argument, a movie filmed in 1971 and not released until 1998.[20]

1980-90s, theatre and playwriting[edit]

Lascelles was involved in numerous productions at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.[21] Lascelles was involved in several productions at Gordon Davidson's Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. "Waterhole" was first produced at the Mark Taper Forum under the title "Legends" directed by Robert Egan and then at the Actor's Theatre at Louisville's Humana Festival as "Waterhole".

He wrote Exclusive Circles; it received a reading with Alfre Woodard directed by Robert Egan at the Mark Taper Forum – it received a second reading at the New York Actor's Studio and monitored by Elia Kazan;[22] it was finally produced at the Denver Center Theatre Company with Lascelles playing the role of Bossie. He also played the role of Doc in the 1982 production of Sam Shepard's The Tooth of Crime. His work in theatre in the Los Angeles area continued with performances of Trophy Hunters at the Company of Angels Theater where he played the role of Lang. Lascelles also starred in the one-man-show of Samuel Beckett's Molloy at the UCLA Theater. He also performed alongside Susan Tyrell in a production of Tigers performed in Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles).

From 1985 to 1987, Lascelles spent some time with the Denver Centre Theatre Company as playwright. The company produced Trophy Hunters first and then in the following year Exclusive Circles in which Lascelles performed the role of Bossie. The company also produced Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in which Lascelles played Lucky.

Lascelles also met Michael Butler in the late 70s and was commissioned with Leon Gluckman to develop the musical Reggae. They worked on the project in Jamaica until Gluckman's death. The production eventually was brought to the Biltmore Theatre Broadway in 1980 with a number of additional writers contributing.[23]

2000s, novels and writing[edit]

Lascelles continued to make appearances on U.S. television until he left to spend more time writing. He adapted Arthur Miller's 1945 novel "Focus" to screen.[24] Released in 2001, Focus starred William H. Macy, Laura Dern, David Paymer, and Meat Loaf.[25] Miller was first approached in 1994 about turning the novel into a movie, but was hesitant to do so.[24] It was only after he read the script written by Lascelles that he agreed to let the film be made.[26] It was produced by Robert A. Miller, Michael R. Bloomberg, and directed by Neal Slavin.[24][27]

Lascelles wrote the script for the film The Aryan Couple, a drama produced and directed by John Daly and released in 2004. It starred Martin Landau, Caroline Carver, Kenny Doughty, and Judy Parfitt. It won numerous awards at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in 2005, including the Golden Palm Award, Best Director, Best Producer, and the jury award for Best Feature.[28]

Lascelles is the author of four novels. "Tamara Hunney", the first of the four was released in 2008.[10] The book is a post apocalyptic fantasy adventure about an orphaned teenage porn star who travels with a Christian cowboy to find a relative in Denver. In 2010 he published "A Child's Guide to Heresy," sometimes referred to as "The Great Yorkshire Witch Trial of 1249," which won the Pacific Book Award for Occult Fiction in 2015.[17] The novel is a contemporary fantasy about Church and the Occult in 13th century England.[17] In 2010 he released his third book, "Blood Oasis," a novel set in Darfur juxtaposing the regional culture with Western expectations. "A Child's Guide to Heresy" was adapted for stage in 2011 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse with Lascelles also playing a role in the performances.[17] His fourth novel, Cradles of Eden, was published by in 2014.[29]



Year Title Notes
1971 The Box Recorded by Lascelles and later recorded by John Denver, Jack Lemmon, and Peter Lawford
1971 When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow Recorded by Chicago and used as the title for the autobiography of Lance Rentzel
1973 Earth Fungus and the Stuff of Stars Anthology of poetry, recorded by United Artists[18]


Year Title Original publisher ISBN Notes
1970 Trophy Hunters Stanley Richards N/A Best short plays of 1970
1973 Tigers Stanley Richards N/A Best short plays of 1973
2008 A Child's Guide To Heresy ASIN B00439GKDK Novel, stage, musical format.[30]
2008 Tamara Hunney ISBN 978-1-4251-3398-6 First of an apocalyptic world trilogy
2010 Blood Oasis ASIN B0045EOJEU Novel, stage, and screenplay format
2014 Cradles of Eden Blurb, Inc. Novel and screenplay format
2014 The Box Blurb, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8402-8079-4 Iconic anti-war poem



Select theatre productions/performances

Year Movie/TV Show Role Notes
1953 King Lear Oswald Elizabeth Sneddon production, Natal University
1956 The Rivals Faukland Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg
1957 Peter and the Wolf Wolf Frank staff South African Ballet Company
1957 Apollo '57 Lead Frank staff South African Ballet Company
1957 Seven against the Sun Jock Originating production, National Theatre
1958 Grab me a Gondola Newsman Brook Theatre, Johannesburg
1959 Thieves Carnival Flute player Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg
1959 Miracle Worker Doctor Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg
1960 Gershwin Interludes Principal dancer Brook Theatre, Johannesburg
1960 Irma la Deuce Frangipane Brook Theatre, Johannesburg
1960 The Fantastiks Mute Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg
1962–69 Wait a Minim! Various International tour[12]
1962 Minim Export Various Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg[11]
1963 Minim Bili Various Intimate Theatre,Johannesburg[11]
1970 Trophy Hunters Writer & producer[31]
1980 Malloy Malloy UCLA Theatre, California
1980 Reggae Story and book co-writer[32]
1987 Waterhole Producer[33]
1988 Exclusive Circles Bossie Denver Center Theater Company[34]
1988 Waiting for Godot Lucky Denver Center Theatre Company
2011 A Child's Guide to Heresy Tannegut Pittsburgh Playhouse Theatre[35]

Film and television[edit]

Select film and television credits

Year Movie/TV Show Role Notes
1964 Help! Buckingham Palace Flunkie Film
1966 Ed Sullivan Show Self Appeared as guest
1972 Smothers Brothers Staff writer Cameo performer
1973 Dean Martin Show Staff writer Cameo performer
1973 Gold Diggers Staff writer Cameo performer
1973 Death Takes a Dark Trip Poet NBC production
1974 Steve Allen Guest
1974 Candy Stripe Nurses Owen Comic cameo
1974 The Wide World of Mystery Male poet Actor in episode "Death Is a Bad Trip"
1976 Malloy Malloy Bill Snell production
1984 Sunday Night Live Self Played self in reading of poem "The Box"
1999 The Argument Nonus Short film produced by David Cammell[20]
2001 Focus Screenwriter, adapted novel to film[26]
2004 The Aryan Couple Writer.[36] Numerous awards at the 2005 Beverly Hills Film Festival.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Outside of his professional arts, Lascelles is an avid painter. In a 2015 interview he stated that he paints as a hobby to get him through the times when he has writer's block.[10] He is a keen horseman and enthusiast of U.S. horse culture, which features in most of his paintings. He considers himself a bit of a hermit writer and most of his friends are horses.[10][37]


  1. ^ Gussow, Mel; Miller, Arthur (2002). Conversations with Miller. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-55783-596-3.
  2. ^ a b Atkey, Mel (2013). A Million Miles from Broadway – Musical Theatre Beyond New York and London. Lulu. ISBN 978-0-9916957-0-6.
  3. ^ "Censorship in Action". The Des Moines Register. 24 April 1966. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  4. ^ Rich, Frank. "Wait A Minim at the Colonial through May 25". The Crimson. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  5. ^ John Denver – The Complete Lyrics. Hal Leonard Corporation. 2002. ISBN 978-1-4768-6411-2.
  6. ^ a b "Old hand beats the digital divide". The Independent on Saturday. 21 April 2012. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b "4,000,000 People Requested This Record Last Week!". Billboard Magazine. 29 August 1970. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Kendrew Lascelles". IMDb. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f van der Heijden, Gillian. "Kendrew Lascelles: Selected Works – A Biographical, Thematic and Stylistic Introduction". Academia. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d "Author Interview with Kendrew Lascelles". Pacific Book Review. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  11. ^ a b c Willis, Thomas (12 November 1967). "Minim Family Gives Musicology a Nudge". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b Dietz, Dan (2014). The Complete Book of 1960s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-3072-9.
  13. ^ "Time to Breve". BBC. Genome. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  14. ^ "BBC program listings". BBC. Genome. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  15. ^ "United Artists on New Soundtrack Rampage". Billboard Magazine. 9 April 1966.
  16. ^ Blank, Edward L. (4 August 1970). "Morey Amsterdam: Policing Humor For 'Tops' Revival". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d Eberson, Sharon (5 September 2011). "REP takes on the challenge of A Child's Guide to Heresy". The Post-Gazette. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  18. ^ a b "FM, Campus Aid UA Series". Billboard Magazine. 20 October 1973. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Dean Martin & Peter Sellers – Midnite Cat Burgler". YouTube. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  20. ^ a b D'Arc, James (2010). When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Movie Making in Utah. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 978-1-4236-1984-0.
  21. ^ Kuchwara, Michael. "Focus has shifted for Humana Festival". The Day. Google News. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  22. ^ Ingram, Bruce. "'Circles,' an apartheid drama, smells of soap". Chicago Sun-Times. HighBeam Research. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  23. ^ Suskin, Schirmer (1997). More Opening Nights on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Musical Theatre, 1965 through 1981. Schirmer Books (University of Michigan). ISBN 978-0-02-864571-1.
  24. ^ a b c Matsumoto, Jon (1 November 2001). "A Close-Up of Bias". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  25. ^ Johnson, Malcolm (2 November 2001). "Portrait of Anti-semitism From a Young Arthur Miller". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  26. ^ a b Amatangelo, Amy (8 November 2001). "Slavin takes novel approach to film debut". The Boston Herald. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  27. ^ Reed, Rex (22 October 2001). "The Ripper". The Observer. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  28. ^ a b "The Aryan Couple sweeps Beverly Hills Fest awards". Film Festivals. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Cradles of Eden Revised Edition". Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  30. ^ "Theater Reviews – A Child's Guide To Heresy, a showcase for The Rep's talents". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  31. ^ Richards, Stanley (1970). The Best short plays, 1970. Chilton Book Co.
  32. ^ Hatch, James V.; Hill, Errol G. (2003). A History of African American Theatre. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62443-5.
  33. ^ "No Headline". The New York Times. 26 March 1987. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  34. ^ Christiansen, Richard (6 November 1990). "Exclusive Circles Leaves No Device Out of Story Mix". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  35. ^ Carter, Alice T. (8 September 2011). "'A Child's Guide to Heresy' offers fantasy, no special meanings". Trib Live. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  36. ^ "Filming outside the U.S." Daily Variety. HighBeam. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  37. ^ "Kendrew Lascelles bio on Fine Art Europe". Fine Art Europe. Retrieved 29 May 2016.

External links[edit]