Friends and colleagues of Broadway actor Tommy Hollis will gather 2 PM Nov. 9 at The Public Theater in New York City for a celebration of the late actor's life.
Hollis, the strong-voiced Booker T. Washington of Broadway's Ragtime and plays by August Wilson, was originally reported as dying on Sept. 9, but friends later said the official date of death was Sept. 13. He died of a heart attack.
Hollis distinguished himself in plays by August Wilson, and as the voice of clear-headed reason in the musical, Ragtime. He won a Theatre World Award as Rev. Avery in Broadway's The Piano Lesson, a role he later recreated for the TV film of the August Wilson drama. In Wilson's Seven Guitars on Broadway, Hollis played Red Carter. He also created roles in George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum in New York, London, Los Angeles and for the PBS production.
He originated the role of Bailey in Gloria Naylor's Bailey's Cafe and had a recurring role on the TV series, "I'll Fly Away." He played a featured role in Charles Fuller's "Zooman" for Showtime and in TV's "Separate But Equal" with Sidney Poitier and in Alex Haley's "Queen."
He played Malcolm X's father in the Spike Lee film, "Malcolm X," and was Fat Willie in Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors." His TV credits also included "The Vernon Johns Story" and the miniseries "Stay the Night." Those tentatively expected to appear at his memorial are S. Epatha Merkerson (from The Piano Lesson); Ernie Harburg (president of the Harburg Foundation; Hollis was honored as the "definitive" singer of Yip Harburg's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"); Viola Davis (from Seven Guitars); Nora Cole (a colleague from several past musicals); Roger Robinson (a colleague from Seven Guitars, currently appearing in Jitney, in London and flying in for the memorial); Regina Taylor (colleague from "I'll Fly Away"); playwright Lonnie Carter, reading a message from Andre De Shields; George C. Wolfe (friend and director of The Colored Museum); Lloyd Richards (Hollis' director from several Broadway shows and the past artistic director of the O'Neill Playwrights Conference); Lori Tan Chinn (a longtime friend and colleague from the O'Neill Playwrights Conference), among others. Performers will include Michael McElroy & The Broadway Inspirational Voices; Reggie Montgomery (reading a short story written by Hollis); Nora Cole (singing).
Funeral services were held in his home town of Jacksonville, TX, Sept. 29. Survivors include his mother, four sisters, two brothers and a number of nieces and nephews.
The Public is at 425 Lafayette Street. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to The Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Ave., New York, NY, 10019.