Actress Julie Harris, stricken with an undisclosed ailment during the run of a Chicago world-premiere play May 26, will leave St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, IL, June 8 and be transferred to a hospital on the East Coast, according to a statement released by Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.
Harris, a five-time Tony Award-winner, remains in stable condition. Harris, her family and representatives have requested that no specific information on her condition be released.
The respected 75-year-old Harris, who toured for years (as recently as spring) in The Belle of Amherst, was admitted to Chicago's Grant Hospital May 26 after being found semi-conscious in her Chicago apartment. Victory Gardens staffers found her after she failed to show up for a performance of Claudia Allen's Fossils. She was later transferred to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, on May 28.
Harris' understudy, Yolanda Lyon Miller, went on for Harris in the role of Carrie for performances of Fossils May 26-27 and has continued to do so.
Harris was born in Grosse Pointe, MI, and studied at the Yale School of Drama. She appeared in such Broadway plays as The Member of the Wedding, I Am a Camera, The Lark and is best known, perhaps, for her signature role of poet Emily Dickenson, in the popular Broadway and touring play, The Belle of Amherst. Classic roles and new parts in regional and stock and festivals have punctuated her career. Her most recent Broadway appearance was in a 1997 revival of The Gin Game, with Charles Durning, which they later toured. She also appeared in TV's "Knots Landing." For the record, she won Tonys for I Am A Camera, Forty Carats, The Lark, The Belle of Amherst and The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. Her film appearances include The Member of the Wedding (Academy Award nomination, reprising her 1950 Broadway role) and East of Eden (playing Abra opposite James Dean). She appeared in the national tour of Peter Shaffer's Lettice & Lovage. In a 1999 interview with Playbill On-Line, Harris was asked what role she would like to return to, regardless of the age of the character.
"Probably Frankie, in Member of the Wedding," she replied. "I love that play, and in Frankie, I never felt I was really up to that part completely. If I could transform myself to be 16 (well, the character was actually 12), and could again work with Ethel Waters and Brandon DeWilde, that would be the one."
What was the best advice Harris got about acting?
"My great acting teacher, Charlotte Perry — she taught at Mansfield Theatre Workshop and directed people like Charles Durning and Dustin Hoffman — she told me to get enough sleep."
Fossils, which officially opened May 21, is scheduled to run through July 1 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The nonprofit group was given the 2001 Special Tony Award for regional theatre excellence. Harris appeared in the premiere of Claudia Allen's Winter at Victory Gardens in 1999.
— By Kenneth Jones