USITT gives the award annually to the author of an outstanding publication in the field of design and production for the performing arts. Harris will receive the award at the USITT Annual Conference and Stage Expo in Phoenix. He also will autograph copies of the book and present a conference session on the Eckarts’ work.
“There is no higher honor for a theatre book than USITT’s Golden Pen Award,” Harris says. “It confers an honor not only on The Performing Set, but also on William and Jean Eckart, the subjects of my book, whose contributions to stage and costume design might otherwise have been forgotten.”
Harris' book, published earlier this year and now in its second printing, explores the innovative work of the Eckarts, a husband-and-wife team that revolutionized Broadway musicals. The Eckarts' set designs flowed with the action of the play by moving and changing in front of the audience.
The book contains more than 500 full-color illustrations, including production stills and the Eckarts' artistic renderings. Some of the Eckarts' most famous sets include those for Damn Yankees in 1955; Once Upon a Mattress, in which Carol Burnett had her first big role in 1959; the live television production of Cinderella, featuring Julie Andrews, in 1957; and Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, in 1966.
"I am pleased that USITT has chosen Andy Harris's book for this honor. It confirms the high quality of the writing and production that went into The Performing Set," says Ron Chrisman, director of UNT Press.
Harris and the Eckarts met in 1985 when Harris served as chairman of the Southern Methodist University theatre department where the Eckarts were teaching theatre design. Harris began working on the book in 1995, two years after Jean Eckart's death in 1993, and continued his research after Bill Eckart's death in 2000 by using documents from the Eckart Collection.
Harris, who joined UNT in 2002, has served as chair of theatre departments at Columbia University, SMU and Texas Christian University. His production credits include shows in Chicago, New York and Texas, including The Life of Galileo with Laurence Luckinbill and Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote Broadway Theatre, which won the Broadway Theatre Institute Award for Excellence in Education.
USITT is an association of more than 3,600 design, production and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry with members from the United States, Canada and 40 other countries. USITT's Golden Pen Award is integral to the institute's mission to recognize excellence and significant contributions in the performing arts and entertainment industry.