Messages to Keith
The poetry of Keith Harris
I find myself wishing to write of Keith Harris’ work, because I can’t be there for his celebration, yet am daunted by the impossibility of doing the man and his work justice in just a few descriptive words.
All of my thoughts about Keith fly best into images, which in turn have everything to do with his designs reminding me of poetry.
But if “poets can only talk about the things they canna’ do,” these in fact are some of the times and things that Keith did in our time together.
When we first worked together, I think now of fire and ice. Fire maybe because of our respective temperaments, and our feet set in a passionate art form; ice because o temporary disagreements, which dissolved like spring storms do. I mean, they may have flashed sometimes with lightning but left the air sweet, clear and beautifully cool for the next new day.
I will use some other “poetic” examples of our work together:
What I Did Last Summer became a billowing wisp of a sail set on the misty small lake of our imagination. The play was also set in an intimate “on-stage” performance space for both our audience and actors. That “venue” or configuration turned into Stories for a Summer Night, which was a company of staged fiction.
The Scarlet Letter revealed a rich wooded setting through which our actors could magically enter. (Judith Tucker Snider’s costumes for that show were particularly detailed and communicative, of the Puritan influence upon the clothes of the period).
Dial “M” for Murder was old time, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” radio at it’s spooky best
Little Shop of Horrors had a New York “El” train arrive complete with iron stairs and rusty fire escape-like supports.
When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder? was a deserted diner unlucky enough to have captured our country’s lost fortunefor finding heroes.
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside Dramatic Arts Department has been lucky to have Keith Harris’ work. I fondly remember his own love for the real Iowa and it’s fictional as well as actual Field of Dreams. In a way, Keith works in his own field of dreams, and I happened upon the luck to have toiled with him there for a time.
To use our production of To Gillian on her 37th Birthday, as my final example, we threw a few glances into the sea together, conjured a sympathetic ghost and for those memories, I will always be grateful. It was Keith who made us a real beach on our stage.
I think Keith, you are one of the best reasons for brick and mortar dedications. You worked in the world of the moment. Enjoy this moment, I wish I could be there to toast you, but trust that I am there in spirit. Cheers to you!
Leon Van Dyke
Theatre Arts faculty emeritus
To a very deserving mentor. I love you! It couldnt happen to a better man.
Naomi Levin '91
Very well deserved honor Keith. I am proud to be have been among the group of individuals that worked along side you... Guys and Dolls was my favorite.
Michael Gename '94
So happy for the opportunity to celebrate Keith!! He is a great guy and I have nothing but fond memories of him. I wish you all the best Keith!!! Love, Bethie
Beth Brouillette '99
"Ashley" it was such a pleasure to work alongside you my four years at Parkside and I am thrilled that your work is getting the acknowledgment and presentation it deserves! I am very sorry I am unable to attend but hopefully I can give you a big hug at the alumni reunion. Miss you and congratulations again!
Sarah Kucej "Mergener" '11
Hey dad I’m really proud of you. I’ve thought about this event for awhile now and thought of all the life lessons you’ve given me throughout my life. You’ve shown me so many invaluable things. You’ve taught me integrity, selflessness, work ethic, to take pride in whatever I do. Today I got a chance to hear so many stories about how you’ve taught other people the same. I listened to your team mates give so many examples of what you showed me and Matt and now Aria. As I get older I’ve started to realize the importance of realizing the moment that you are in at the time. Many people don’t get recognized for they’re impact until it’s too late. Today we had the opportunity to recognize your impact. There’s a famous quote from the sandlot “hero’s get remembered but legends never die” (Babe Ruth). Today we recognized my hero.. your impact is truly legendary. Thank you dad. I love you.
Hey Keith, I didn’t go far in the theatre program, but I remember you fondly. You are brilliant, and thank you for making my brief time memorable. And for doing so much for you professionals in the field.
Nico Hogan '16
Keith - I still remember (and cherish the memory) when you graciously taught me how to throw a baseball so I wouldn’t look like an idiot during Brighton Beach Memoirs. I will forever be in awe of your talent and your generosity, your kindness and your artistic eye. Thank you for everything (the sets, of course, and so much more).
Chad Bay '11
It was so great to be able to celebrate your work in person this weekend. I didn’t get to tell you how grateful I am to you for everything you’ve done for us. Kevin would not be the man he is today without your example of hard work, dedication, passion, and kindness. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being a surrogate dad and one of the best role models we could have asked for. We hope to see you again this fall. ♥️ Tiff
Tiffany Lutz '12
Congratulations on your accomplishments!!
Julie Harris Carlson
Hey, Keith. Sorry I missed your big event, but I was traveling around the East Coast to see friends and family before the next COVID wave hits us all. I'm so happy to see your work for UWP honored. You have been an inspiration to all your colleagues over the years, and our pleasure in the productions you oversaw was immeasurable!
English faculty emeritus
Theatre Production Enhancement Fund
Would you be interested in making a donation to enhance theatre productions? Small donations add up, and you can make your gift in honor of Keith Harris.