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Playwright and Theatre Professor Paul Carter Harrison Dies at 85

Harrison is known for conceiving 'Ain’t Supposed To Die a Natural Death' and writing 'The Great MacDaddy'.

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that playwright and theatre professor, Paul Carter Harrison, has died at 85.

Harrison taught theater at Howard University from 1968 to 1970, where 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's 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 collection of essays that identified African retentions in the aesthetic of African American culture.

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 recent 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-sighted 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.

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.

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