We rehearse Act One of my play Flesh, Flash and Frank Harris this afternoon, for a free staged reading at the Lawrence Public Library at 7 PM on Thursday, December 3rd. The play was written back in 1980, was produced by the Lawrence Community Theatre at that time, and subsequently also had a successful run Off-Broadway in New York. So now, 35 years later, I am revisiting the play.
Before he wrote My Life and Loves, his scandalous five-volume autobiography which was immediately banned as pornography in both Europe and America upon its publication in the 1920s… before he was a successful journalist and editor in London in the 1890s, where he was friendly with literati like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and glitterati like the Prince of Wales and Princess Alice of Monaco… Frank Harris was first an Irish immigrant and student at the University of Kansas in the late 1860s.
There’s a scene in Act One which shows Young Frank arriving in Lawrence with Prof. Byron Caldwell Smith. They are met at the train station by Frank’s older brother William and Mrs. Mayhew, a saucy local woman.
WILLIAM: And what do you profess, professor?
BYRON: Nothing of great importance, I’m afraid. I’ve been hired to teach Greek and Latin. I’m surprised the University didn’t send someone to meet me.
MRS. MAYHEW: Isn’t that typical of those folks on the hill? Come, I’ll take you up to Fraser Hall myself. I have my buggy with me. We can leave the long-lost brothers together. Come, before it gets dark. On the way, I can tell you all about the wildlife in Kansas.
BYRON: How about the University? Do you know any of the faculty?
MRS MAYHEW: Wildlife, faculty, same thing. Give a professor two or three shots of whiskey, and he becomes part of the local wildlife!
At the staged reading at 7 PM on Thursday December 3rd at the Lawrence Public Library, Young Frank Harris is played by Benjamin Good, William is Jeremy Auman, Byron Caldwell Smith is Shawn Trimble, and Mrs. Mayhew is Cynthia Evans. Other actors include Jeanne Averill, Will Averill, Dean Bevan, James Carothers, Amy Devitt, Margaret Kramar, Stephen Moles, Karl Ramberg, Kitty Steffens, and John Younger.