Laura Harrington Brings Her New Novel ALICE BLISS to Nashville For A PERFECT 36 Reunion


This weekend will be a homecoming of sorts for award-winning writer Laura Harrington, as she returns to the Nashville for the first time since 1996, in support of her new book Alice Bliss and a reunion with some of the city's best-known and best-loved theater artists who worked with her on the creation and production of The Perfect 36, an original musical staged by Mac Pirkle and Tennessee Repertory Theatre to celebrate the Volunteer State's Bicentennial.

Harrington will be at Parnassus Books in Green Hills on Sunday afternoon (at 1 p.m.; Parnassus Books is at 3900 Hillsboro Pike, call [615] 953-2243 for details) to sign copies of Alice Bliss, to read a brief excerpt from the book, engage in a question-and-answer session and to greet friends-both old and new-as she continues her cross-country book tour. She's just recently returned from London (where Alice Bliss also has been released) and has set off across the USA to bring her first novel to the attention of America's readers, but there is perhaps no stop on the tour with more personal meaning for Harrington than Nashville.

Although it's her first visit to Nashville since she was last here in 1996 for The Perfect 36, Harrington maintains a strong connection to Music City through her friendships with the women and men she befriended during that previous sojourn during which she was crafting the libretto for the original musical about Tennessee's vital role in giving American women the right to vote.

For the past few months, Harrington and The Perfect 36'ers have gathered, if you will, on a special Facebook page created to plan their reunion and to share memories of their experience in bringing the musical, which was a centerpiece of Tennessee's Bicentennial Celebration, to the stage. Reading the various posts, engaging in the lively conversation that has transpired, it's easy to see that for everyone involved-all the way from Tennessee Rep's founder Mac Pirkle to actors Shelean Newman, Travis Harmon, Matthew Carlton, Linda Sue Simmons, Carolyn German (and scores of other theater personalities who've made Nashville home over the years)-The Perfect 36 was, indeed, a unique experience.

Shortly after her return from the British leg of her book tour, Laura Harrington took the time to respond to our questions, to tell us about Alice Bliss and to talk how special the whole Perfect 36 experience was for her and for everyone else involved.


Tell me about your new book...I was given this incredible award for my music theatre work: The Kleban Award for "Most Promising Librettist in American Musical Theatre."  It gave me two years of writing time. Which was an awe-inspiring moment – so much validation for my theater career coupled with so much possibility. But I didn't immediately think: Great! I can't wait to write my next musical. Instead I thought: This is my chance to be a beginner again, to re-connect to the creative process by trying to do something I've never done before. I also wanted to pick up my pen without thinking about anything other than story. No worries about size of cast, cost of production, etc.

So I decided to write a novel.

Alice Bliss is about a 15-year-old girl whose father is in the Reserves and deploys to Iraq. It tells the story of a family, and of a small town looking after its own in times of loss; the love between an absent father and his daughter; the complicated love between Alice and her mother, Angie; and first love between Alice and the boy next door. It's a universal story and yet it touches on something very personal: these characters' struggles amid uncertain times echo our own.

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.

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