Harold Ellis Clark
Harold Ellis Clark
Playhouse on the Square (POTS), Memphis, TN’s professional resident theatre company, named playwright Harold Ellis Clark one of two winners in its New Works @ The Works Playwriting Competition for his play, We Live Here, about a black couple from New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward who wins a brand new home in an all-white neighborhood and discovers their "dream come true" is too good to be true. The play’s world premiere happens January 2-25, 2015 as part of POTS’ 2014-15 season at Theaterworks, the company’s third performance space. The other winner is Teri K. Feigelson, author of Mountain View. Clark and Feigelson, chosen from six finalists, win cash prizes and travel accommodations to participate in the development and rehearsals of their plays.
Clark, a New Orleans native who resides in Gretna, LA, wrote numerous unpublished novels and unproduced screenplays for more than 18 years before writing his first play, Marrero Action, in 2010. It was produced a year later at the Anthony Bean Community Theatre (New Orleans). The play surrounds Kerwin Volcy, an American expatriate living in Paris, who returns to post-Katrina New Orleans due to his father, Carl Volcy, suffering a debilitating stroke. Kerwin hates his father. He blames Carl for causing the death of his mother. Clark adapted Marrero Action from his unpublished novel of the same name for which he was named one of eight finalists for the 2007 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Prize, sponsored annually by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.
Clark won UpStage Theatre’s 4th (2013) Annual Emerging Playwright Project for his play, Fishers of Men, which over the past two years has played to sold-out audiences in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The critically-acclaimed play, which debuted at Dillard University’s Cook Theatre in June 2012, focuses on Bishop James Perriloux, an ex-con and controversial pastor of a nondenominational mega-church in New Orleans, who sends men from his congregation into the city’s streets late at night to rescue lost souls.
Clark directed a staged reading of the play starring original cast members Al Aubry, Martin Bradford, Damien Moses and Oliver Thomas on December 6, 2013 at LePetit Theatre (New Orleans). It was the featured theatrical production of the 2013 Words & Music Conference, hosted by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. Fishers of Men receives a full production at Wiley College (Marshall, Texas), Friday, February 28th. A staged reading of the play starring the original cast occurs at Tulane University, Saturday, March 15th for the Freedom Summer Redux Conference.
He was one of two finalists for the 2013 Stanley Drama Award for his play, Tour Detour. That play also earned him recognition as a finalist in Stage West’s 7th Annual (2013) Southwest Playwriting Competition, and as a semifinalist for the 2013 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. Tour Detour is set four months before the 2008 U.S. presidential election. U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant/Explosive Ordnance Specialist Dakar Michalon, just prior to embarking on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, visits his father who's serving a life sentence at a Central Louisiana prison. They haven't seen each other in twenty-six years.
Clark’s screenplay, Chummy’s Spirit, based on his similarly titled 2006 self-published novel, was named an official selection for the 2013 International Family Film Festival (Hollywood, CA). It tells the story of an elderly African American woman from New Orleans who learns that the remains of her son were found 33 years after he’d been declared missing in action during the Vietnam War. She desires to see the site in Vietnam where his remains were found. Clark spent several weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi and Nha Trang, Vietnam conducting research for the novel. His screenplay, Urban Realities, was made into a short 2000 film, starring Mykel Shannon Jenkins (ABC’s Ugly Betty; CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful).
Clark’s a graduate of both Grambling State University (B.A.) and Western Illinois University (M.S.). During the mid-90’s, he participated in fiction intensive workshops at the University of California Berkeley, Extension led by James N. Frye, one of America’s top creative writing teachers. Frye, an award-winning playwright and author of nine novels, including The Long Way to Die, which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, penned several books on the craft of fiction, including the international bestseller, How to Write a Damn Good Novel (St. Martin’s Press). Many participants of Frye’s workshops have gone on to publish with major New York houses and received solid advances (as high as $2 million) and much critical acclaim.
Clark lives and writes via the philosophy of his favorite fiction writer, bestselling novelist James Lee Burke, who said in a 2002 New York Times article, “I have never thought of my vocation as work. I never had what is called writer's block, nor have I ever measured the value of what I do in terms of its commercial success. I also believe that whatever degree of creative talent I possess was not earned but was given to me by a power outside myself, for a specific purpose, one that has little to do with my own life. The previous statement is one of fact and not meant to be a description of virtue. I believe creativity is a votive gift, presented arbitrarily by the hand of God, and those who possess it are simply its vessel. Those who become grandiose and vain about its presence in their lives usually see it taken from them and given to someone else. At least that has been my experience…for me the creative process is more one of discovery than creation. But I also had to learn that the gift or obsession or neurosis that compelled me to write was one that required a discipline that did not allow exceptions, at least not if I wanted to be successful.”
Cast and creative team for FISHERS OF MEN: Martin "Bats" Bradford ("Dabarrow", seated left), Harold Ellis Clark (standing left), Oliver Thomas ("Bishop Perriloux", seated center), Al Aubry ("Deacon Job", standing center), John Grimsley (director/set designer, standing right), and Damien Moses ("Vic", seated right). Photo by Jim Belfon