BIOGRAPHY- long version

Harry Clark

Harry Clark

Harry Clark’s career as both cellist and playwright is a rare combination. The cello part started long before the playwright part, age 10, and years later his performance in Carnegie Hall was described by the New York Times this way: A first rate cellist, the sort who can make his instrument interesting for anybody. Clark and his partner-pianist wife, Sanda Schuldmann, have appeared as a duo on every important musical stage in America and abroad, having premiered and recorded some five dozen works by this country’s most prominent composers.

In 1980, Harry and Sanda, living in Connecticut, co-founded Chamber Music PLUS. Chamber Music PLUS was their dream to present concerts of the highest quality while breaking down walls about appropriate repertoire and concert presentation itself. Thirty years later much of their dream has been realized with state, regional and national awards for distinguished performance and programming. They have maintained this tradition with their move back to Harry’s home town, Tucson.

With this desire for distinctive programming, Harry began his first efforts writing portraits of composers; this body of work nearing 40 scripts is titled RHYTHMS OF LIFE—fusions of theater and music. RHYTHMS OF LIFE have become the signature programming of Chamber Music PLUS, and over the past decade audiences from coast to coast have taken to it with enthusiasm. The Hartford Courant describes it as: An extraordinary interweaving of music and biography … his work has passion, joy, and mystery. And the Arizona Daily Star writes: From his mighty pen Clark has inked a classical-music program that’s both inviting and exhilarating for the learned and ignorant ear alike.

Harry’s had the great fortune and pleasure to work with a who’s who of film, television and stage actors in RHYTHMS OF LIFE. The roster includes Theodore Bikel, Edward Herrmann, Barbara Feldon, Keir Dullea, Philip Bosco, Hayley Mills, Harvey Fierstein, Caroline Kava, Rosemary Prinz, Sandy Duncan, Tovah Feldshuh, Jessica Walter, Michael Learned, Ron Leibman, Sharon Gless, Jean Marsh, Elke Sommer, Kathleen Chalfant, Katherine Helmond, Stephanie and Efrem Zimbalist, Jasmine Guy, Talia Shire, Jenny Sterlin, John Rubinstein, Margot Kidder, Robert Picardo, Armin Shimerman, Shirley Knight, Lou Gossett Jr., Bob Clendenin, John Schuck, Michael York, Beth Grant, Zilah Mendoza, and the departed Jill Clayburgh, Mason Adams and Lynn Redgrave.

Moving from chamber presentations to orchestral portraits has been a most welcome innovation with recent commissions by the Hartford Symphony (Charles Ives), Orchestra New England (Ira Gershwin/Robert Picardo), and half a dozen other scripts in conductors’ and musical directors’ hands awaiting performance. Among these are Confidentially, Chaikovski and Dvorak’s New World.

Clark’s cellistic passion to commission composers has yielded three substantial stage pieces with original scores. The first, Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey, starring Jasmine Guy, features a distinguished score by jazz bassist and composer Avery Sharpe. Raisin’ Cane, originally supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, has toured nationally with a very special stop at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. To celebrate the Tucson Museum of Art’s opening, that institution commissioned Clark to write Maynard Dixon’s Arizona, a work on this most influential Western artist. Dixon was portrayed by John Schuck, with an evocative score for guitar and cello by Brad Richter. Currently, renowned composer Libby Larsen, is finishing incidental music for Clark’s recent play Mesmeric Mozart.

This season, famed pianist André Watts teamed up with Michael York as Franz Liszt for the composer’s 200th birthday commemoration in Lisztian Loves. This show will receive its Ravinia Festival first hearing July 20, 2011.

As a natural progression from cellist to stage portraitist, Clark is now crafting plays—some with incidental music, others having no music and no musical motives. Mesmeric Mozart is one such play with incidental music; another, one of his most frequently performed, is Still Life: Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’ Keeffe. In commemoration of Kahlo’s 50th death year, Lincoln Financial Group and the NEA funded this historical fiction drama. The work was premiered at the Arizona Theatre Company Cabaret Theatre, moved to Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center and then to San Miguel, Mexico.

Among his non-musical plays are Clouds in Heaven (about Laura Bridgman, the first deaf-blind child to learn language); The Combination, his return to Tucson work; Sarabande for Ezra, a famed cellist’s final performance at Carnegie Hall; and Pluto Déjà vu, seven characters in a book club. Pluto Déjà vu & Sarabande for Ezra were selected as a finalists by the Eugene O’Neill Theater for it 2008 summer festival.

Harry’s works have been ably directed by such stage directors as Rob Ruggiero, Samantha Wyer, Howard Allen, Troy Hollar, Dan Guerrero, Cindy Meier and Deborah Lavine.

Harry now resides in Tucson, where he shares his life with Sanda and their two Welsh terriers, Mic and Lola. Mic enjoys the pool, while Lola runs for her life from it.