Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright to visit Harper

Alfred UhryJune 11, 2014

Playwright Alfred Uhry clutched the iconic gold statuette during his acceptance speech at the 1990 Academy Awards and quipped, “I guess I’m lucky that my grandmother was such a terrible driver.” Uhry was, of course, referring to the woman who inspired the title character in “Driving Miss Daisy,” the play and later film about the relationship between a Southern Jewish widow and her black chauffeur.

Uhry, one of just a few writers to have won an Oscar, a Tony (two of them) and a Pulitzer Prize, will share similar stories on a more intimate stage at Harper College for “An Evening with Playwright Alfred Uhry.”

The free event will take place from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at the Performing Arts Center on the College’s main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine.

The Georgia native’s visit ties into Harper’s current run of Uhry plays known widely as the “Atlanta Trilogy.” Assistant Professor Kevin Long directed “Driving Miss Daisy” and the musical “Parade” in 2013, and he’s preparing to lead the production of “The Last Night in Ballyhoo” from August 29 to September 7 at Harper’s Drama Lab Black Box Theatre.

The plays, all set during the first half of the 20th century, draw on Uhry’s heritage as a southern Jew.

“As a director, I’m always drawn to pieces that showcase the predominate element of character,” Long said. “In each of these pieces, Alfred Uhry created such specific, well thought out, three-dimensional and engaging characters. He said, ‘I just wanted to write what I knew about, and I knew about Atlanta back in the day.’ Well, the Harper community thanks him.”

Long will join Richard Middleton-Kaplan, Professor and Dramaturg, in hosting Uhry in a conversation about the poignant themes and timeless relevance of these works. The evening will also feature live, short performances from the various casts. After a Q&A with the audience concludes the event, Uhry will sign copies of his work.

Long said he reached out to Uhry to let him know about Harper tackling the trilogy and received a quick response: “I congratulate you on your good taste! Seriously, it’s very gratifying to hear from you and your high regard for my work.” That sparked regular emails and an invitation to visit Harper.

Uhry’s first major success came when he collaborated with Robert Waldman on a musical adaptation of Eudora Welty's “The Robber Bridegroom,” which opened at the Mark Taper Forum in 1976 and went on to Broadway, winning Uhry his first Tony nomination. His first play, “Driving Miss Daisy,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. The film version, starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, won the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay in 1990. His next play, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” was commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. It opened on Broadway the next year, where it ran for more than 500 performances and won Uhry the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama League Award and the 1997 Tony Award for Best Play. His book for the musical, “Parade,” won the Tony Award in 1999.

Tickets to “An Evening with Alfred Uhry” are free but required. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information, contact the Box Office at 847.925.6100 or harpercollege.edu/boxoffice.

Media contact: Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159