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George E. Harris, An Off-Off-Bway Pioneer and Theatre Veteran, Passes Away

George E. Harris, a pioneer in the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway movement and a theatre, film and TV veteran, passed away on December 29th.

George Edgerly Harris II of Margaretville was born in Bronxville, New York, to Ruth Hoffman Colony and George Edgerly Harris Sr., both artists. He attended school in Margaretville and Scarsdale, and served in the Air Force as a radio trainer during World War Two. After the war he attended Columbia University on the GI Bill.

In 1948, he married Ann Marie McCanless of Bronxville, New York, where the first four of their six children were born.

In 1958, the family relocated to Clearwater, Florida where the youngest two girls were born. In Florida the family became interested in theater.

In 1963, they moved to New York City, where they began successful professional careers. The family has spent their summers in Margaretville since the 1960s. Harris and his wife took up permanent residence there in 2002.

As an actor and director George was a regular in the early experimental Off-Off-Broadway movement. In 1968 he made his Broadway debut in The Great White Hope alongside James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. He worked steadily in movies, including Superman, on television and radio, in summer stock and as a featured player in first-run national tours. His professional shows include No Place to Be Somebody, The Trial of A. Lincoln (with Henry Fonda) and many others. During his long career he worked with pioneering producers and playwrights including Joe Cino, Ellen Stewart, Crystal Field and George Bartinieff, Al Carmines and Lanford Wilson - and with renowned artists including Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

Harris, a lifelong musician and lover of big band music, became a successful and respected bandleader during the 1970s in New York, where his Ninth Street Stompers was a popular act. The band featured many A-list musicians and launched careers. George worked on staff for the Musicians Union Local 802 in New York until his retirement.

Harris' last New York appearance took place in April, when LA MAMA ETC.'s Coffeehouse Chronicles series presented a tribute to the Harris family, who playwright Robert Patrick called "The Lunts of Off-Off-Broadway."

Harris' proudest achievement is his family including wife Ann and their six children: George III, Walter Michael, Frederic, Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou; and their many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. George III became known as the performance artist Hibiscus (and is also the man in the famous 1960s photo of the hippie, putting the flower in the guard's rifle), while Walter Michael performed in Hair. Harris is also survived by his younger sister, Susan Joyce Weimer of Ocean Springs, Mississippi and her three children: Dale, Don Allen and Christopher.

The family requests that memorial gifts be donated to Catskill Area Hospice Hope Foundation, 116 Main Street, Delhi, NY, 13753.

To visit Patrick's Harris Family Tribute Page, visit this link.

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