Paul Carter Harrison

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Paul Carter Harrison (born March 1, 1936) is an American playwright and professor.


Born in New York City, Harrison earned a B.A. in psychology from Indiana University in 1957. Harrison earned an M.A. in psychology and phenomenology from New York City's New School for Social Research in 1962. He then went to live in Europe to write and direct for the theater.

Harrison taught theater at Howard University from 1968 to 1970. His students included Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Linda Goss, Pearl Cleage and Clinton Turner Davis.

While teaching at California State University, Sacramento (1970–1972), Harrison conceived and directed Melvin Van Peebles' "Ain't Supposed To Die a Natural Death" prior to its Broadway production, and wrote his play The Great MacDaddy which was produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1973, and won an Obie Award.

Harrison taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1972 to 1976 before moving on to Columbia College Chicago in 1976 to work as Chair, Professor, and Writer in Residence at the Theatre Department until his retirement in 2002. He is currently Professor Emeritus.

Young Life[edit]

Paul Carter Harrison is an African American man born on March 1, 1936 to Thelma Inez and Paul Randolph Harrison whom were born in North and South Carolina but raised in New York City. His brother, Kenneth Allen Harrison was the first black basketball player on scholarship at Villanova University. Harrison attended Commerce High School and graduated in 1952. While attending New York University, Harrison was introduced to many writers and theater artists such as Lou Gossett, Jr., Billy Dee Williams, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), and Ted Joans. He transferred to Indiana University where he interacted with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Larry Ridley, and David Baker.


After graduating from the New School, Harrison went to Spain and the Netherlands for seven years where he worked on his writing and theatre skills. During his time out of the country he wrote a movie called “Stranger On The Square”. His first book of edited essays "The Modern Drama Footnote", was published in Amsterdam, as well as his plays, "Pavane for a Deadpan Minstrel" and "Tophat". Other plays written, performed and directed in the Netherlands included, "The Post Clerks" and “The Experimental Leader”, the latter becoming the center piece for his book,“Dialogue from the Opposition”. While living in Amsterdam, he married the Dutch actress, Ria Vroemen who gave birth to his daughter, Fonteyn in 1963.


On August 6 of 1988, Paul Carter Harrison married his wife, Wanda Malone. Harrison’s work as a playwright and theatre theorist has been published and produced in Europe and the United States, causing him to win awards for his work. His play, “Great Macdaddy” won an Obie Award and “Tabernacle” won the Audelco Award for Best Creative Musical. He also has written and edited many other plays, anthologies, and books that involved theatre and jazz performers. “The Drama of Nommo” is a book he wrote, which is a collection of essays that identified African retentions in the aesthetic of African American culture and has helped many directors in the Black Theatre practice. Harrison is known for coming up with terms such as “Nommo” and Mother/Word” as constructive references for Black Theatre. His most recent book, “Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora”, was published in the Spring of 2002. His most current task was writing the libretto for "Doxology Opera: the Doxy Canticles", a full-length opera composed by Wendell Logan which was premiered in a concert version at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in 2002. He has also written the text for the operetta, "Goree Crossing" with music by Olu Dara that was also given a concert performance at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. As Dramaturg for the ETA Theatre in Chicago, Harrison developed Marcia Leslie's highly successful play, "The Trial of One Short-sighte Black Woman vs Mammie Louise and Safreeta Mae". His most recent conceptualization and direction is "Sweet Thunder: the Billie Strayhorn Story" which has been performed at the Phoenix Black Theatre Troupe and the Kuntu Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh. He is currently living in New York City and continues to travel to Spain every year with his daughter.


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