Shirlee Harris, Press Rep for Nederlander Shows in Detroit, Dead at 74

Obituaries   Shirlee Harris, Press Rep for Nederlander Shows in Detroit, Dead at 74 Shirlee Harris, a longtime publicist for the Nederlander family venues in Detroit, died Nov. 30 at her Detroit home after a battle with cancer.

Ms. Harris was 74, and was recently the in-house publicist and community relations person for the Fisher Theatre and Masonic Temple Theatre, Detroit venues operated by the Nederlander Organization.

A publicity firm had been hired in recent years to handle major press announcements for those venues, but, until this fall, Ms. Harris remained working in her office in the lobby of the Fisher, the flagship house of the Nederlanders, the theatrical clan that started in the Motor City and blossomed as a major international producing organization.

Ms. Harris, who was known as Shirl to friends and colleagues, was also publicist for most of the 15-year history of the Birmingham Theatre, a unique commercial Nederlander "winter stock" operation that offered New York-produced shows in a former movie house in suburban Detroit, 1980-95.

A lifelong passionate theatregoer, Ms. Harris was also host of a show-tune and interview radio show in Detroit, on WQRS, in the 1970s.

In her time repping shows, Ms. Harris was a believer in casting a wide publicity net, and she invited major dailies, fringe writers and student critic to shows. She expressed the belief that more ink — positive or negative — would stimulate more interest in the theatre. She also said over the years that student writers were vital at her shows because they were tomorrow's critics and arts writers, and she saw as part of her mission the job of educating them by exposing them to plays and musicals. (At least one student critic who got Ms. Harris' press seats to Nederlander shows would later become chief theatre critic of The Detroit News, so her mission paid off.)

Ms. Harris is survived by her companion, Ernie Jay, two sons Thomas Harris and James Harris, two grandchildren and her former husband, Herschel Harris. A daughter, Joan, predeceased her.

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