Time Warp: Richard Harris Returns To Scranton Amid ‘Camelot’ Confusion

November 8, 2017
Richard Harris Returns To Scranton Amid ‘Camelot’ Confusion

Oct. 14, 1986: Irish actor Richard Harris came to Scranton to portray an English king in the national tour of the Lerner and Loewe musical “Camelot.”

Harris starred as King Arthur alongside Martha Traverse as Queen Guinevere, James Valentine as King Pellinore and Merlin, William Bookmyer as young Arthur and Tom of Warwick, and Chris Pender as Mordred. The show ran from Tuesday, Oct. 14, to Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Masonic Temple.

A review of the show in The Scranton Times following opening night said Harris was never better in his performance as Arthur. Valentine brought big laughs with his portrayal of Pellinore, it added, and 14-year-old Bookmyer made the finale memorable in his role as Tom of Warwick.

Tickets cost $20.50 to $27.50. Harris, who also produced and directed the tour, said in an interview with the Times that ticket sales were down in Scranton compared to other cities. He attributed this to confusion regarding Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania tickets. “Camelot” was not part of the league’s lineup for the 1986-87 season, and some people believed the show was only open to the league’s season ticketholders.

Harris was no stranger to the region. In 1968, he and Sean Connery filmed “The Molly Maguires” in the Hazleton area, and Harris later formed a connection with University of Scranton. In December 1986, he returned to the Electric City to establish the Dermot Harris Foundation at the university in memory of his brother, who had joined him on the “Camelot” tour and died in Chicago in November 1986. The Jesuit-educated actor created the scholarship for deserving students from Ireland in part because he and his brother had become close friends with several people in Scranton during “Camelot’s” stop there.

In January 1988, Harris again came to Scranton, this time to teach a drama class at U of S during its intersession. Students worked with Harris on a production of his new play, “Julius Caesar, A Work in Progress,” which debuted at the Masonic Temple in February as a fundraiser for the Dermot Harris Foundation.

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