Julie Harris: Make Them Aware

Julie Harris, in her dressing room at the Empire Theater, prior to a performance as Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera, 1952.

Interview with the Author
Hotel Wyndham

When it comes to dedication or seriousness, I don't differentiate things in my life. I'm every bit as devoted to being a mother or a friend or a citizen as I am in being an actress, and I think this is, for me, the only correct way to live. I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying that I succeed all the time, but I can say that I'm always trying to give all that I have to all that comes into my life.

We have such a short time, really, to give of ourselves and to avail ourselves of all that is available. It can be a mind-boggling experience to really look around and try to love and honor all that is around us. It can't be done, and this is both wonderful and staggering. We had an acting exercise once--when we were very young in the Actors' Studio and working in the woods--that required us to observe and document everything that fate or Nature had placed in our paths. It could not be done. There was simply too much. It was a good exercise in that it brought into focus how extraordinarily rich life is and how difficult it is for artists to transmit this to others. It is also difficult at times to see it for ourselves.

I had a suicide in my life--a sibling. I still have trouble dealing with it, not only because I lost a loved one, but because the message was so clear that life held nothing else: There was nothing that could salvage this battered life. I am so aware now of everything that life gives us--as a gift--each and every moment of every day to remind us of our value and of our great fortune in being present.

All of us, I think, need to be the witness for these gifts. Not just actors or writers. I think the greatest gift we can give to another is to remind them of where they live and all that it gives them. I love Tennessee's concept of being a witness to others and to things. I think I'm saying the same thing, if not as beautifully. Make people aware of the extraordinary time in which they live, and their place in it. Make them aware. To be aware is a remarkable privilege, a lovely gift.

© 2014 James Grissom
From Artistic Suicide


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