MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO GRAHAM BROWN

GRAHAM BROWN October 24 1924 to December 13, 2011 

MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO GRAHAM BROWN

INAUGURAL NEGRO ENSEMBLE CO ACTOR AND LUMINARY

“…The shac-shac and the violin

Mix with the smoke and malcochom

They say “Sing how Chantal the brute

Took the white planter Regis’ life

And what I tell them is the truth

Don’t believe all you heard or read

Chantal the tiger cannot dead….

Like the staining of clear springs the mind of man,

In blood he must end as in blood he began

Like mist that rising from a muddy stream

Between beasthood and Godhead groping in a dream

The rage of the tiger is taken for granted

Man’s beauty is sharing his brother’s pain…”

-quote from Malcochon one act by Derek Walcott


Graham Brown (born Robert E. Brown) was a founding member of such mainstays of American Theatre as The Negro Ensemble Company, the Guthrie Theatre , The New York Shakespeare Festival and  London’s restored Globe Theatre. Brown’s versatility  and virtuosity as an actor gave him influence in a variety of theatrical organizations. As a founding member of The Negro Ensemble Company,  he shared the daring vision of this auspicious organization with relentless writers, actors, directors, teachers and administrators, who forever revolutionized the landscape of American Theatre under the direction of Douglas Turner Ward.  The Ensemble bound together by a life and death passion for theatrical excellence often facing bodily threat for the sake of expressing personal truths. He shared his expertise with the likes of Frances Foster, Lloyd Richards, Robert Hooks, Irene Gandy, Alice Childress, Michael A Shultz, Richard Wright, Wole Soyinka, Lonnie Elder III, Peter Weiss,  Julius W. Harris, William Jay, Hattie Winston Clarice Taylor, Arthur French, James S. Lucas, Rosalind Cash.

See IMdb Graham Brown

On television he had recurring roles on episodic drama, Law & Order, situation comedy, Sanford & Son and soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Among his screen credits were Malcolm X, The Muppets (with Negro Ensemble Company puppeteer Brad Brewer of Crowtations fame), Clockers and played Mr. Wrightson in Take Manhattan. His distinctive voice can be heard in many voiceovers and commercials.


“A theater evolving not out of negative need, but positive potential; better equipped to employ existing talents and spur the development of future ones.  A theaate whse jutification is not the gap it fills, but the achievment it aspire toward — no less high than any other camparable theater company of present or past world fame.”

— Douglas Turner Ward, The New York Times August 14, 1966

The NEC boasts a competitve theater in New York’s downtown Theatre District and a rigorous training  or Black Actors in mask work,  voice production, acting, directing, writing, theatre adinistration, karate, musical techniques, which set a high standard for NEC works that jolted the confines of what was possible in world theatre from a Black point of view.

” A theatre concentrating primarily on themes of Negro life, but also resilient enough to incorporate and intepret the best of world drama — whatever the source.  A theatre of permanence, continuity and consistency, providing the necessary home-base for the Negro artist to lanch a campaign to win his ignored brothers and sisters as constant witness to his endeavors…so might the Negro, a most potential agent of vitality, infuse life into the moribund corpus od American theater.”

..quote from Douglas Turner Ward, The New York Times, August 14, 1966.

Graham Brown (October 24, 1924 – December 13, 2011) was celebrated as one of the best actors to transform The Negro Ensemble Company stage. As an award-winning American actor he is celebrated for his work in the theatre and television.[1]

    Vituosity and Humility!

The Negro Ensmble Co. L. to R. Hattie Winston David Downing Rosalind Cash Graham Brown Bill Jay Ester Rolle Norman Bush Clarice Taylor Arthur French Joeph A. Walker 1/2-2/4 1968

Born Robert Brown in New York, New York, . Graham Brown was an original member of The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) and played in many NEC productions like: Malcochon by Derek Walcott, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men by Lonnie Elder III, District Line and The River Niger both by Joseph A Walker.

Mr. Brown brought his enhiusiasm for the art of acting to the original cast of the controversial play Song of the Lusitanian Bogey by Peter Weiss,  which toured Europe and was subject to riots in a London theatre in August 1968.

Phillip Meister of The National Shakespeare Company Conservatory often said that the highest compliment an audience could give actors was to get up and walk out ( I imagine he admired The NEC for it’s ability to challenge and passionately engage it’s audiences, who, in 1964, were seeing themselves often for the first time in complex roles on the stage.

Graham Brown, honored cameleon and joyous pioneer of the American Stage and Black Theatre, was revered for his virtuosity, immaculate sense of style and ability to play many different roles with flawless precision and mastery in plays spanding many periods.  His humility, professional integrity and team spirit made him a joy to work with and an inspiration.  Numbered among other greats like, Frances Foster, William Jay, Arthur French and Rosalind Cash, Graham Brown’s persornal  elegance and clear diction  often encouraged  directors to cast him in professional, highly educated, opulent or wise roles.  He also played opposite actors like Rosalind Cash, Hattie Winston, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Helmar Augustus Cooper, Clarice Taylor and The NEC founder, director, actor, writer, Douglas Turner Ward.

One of his best remembered roles was as “Jared Philibert,” the 50-year-old patriarch of a Caribbean-American family in Steve Carter’s critically acclaimed play, Nevis Mountain Dew. He originated the role in NEC’s Off-Broadway production and reprised the role in the West Coast premiere of the play. For the latter he received a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his performance.[2]

The Negro Ensemble Company National Tour 1968 Hattie Winston Graham Brown Douglas Turner Ward (Right)

Selected Credits

Theatre

Year Production Role Theatre(s) Notes
1963 Hamlet[3] Horatio Minnesota Theater Company  
1968 Weekend[4] Dr. Hampton Broadhurst Theatre  
The Man in the Glass Booth[5] Sam Royale Theatre  
1971 Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellans[6][7] Dr. Vanderkellans Theatre de Lys  
1972 The River Niger[8][9][10] Dr. Dudley Stanton St. Mark’s Playhouse[8]
Brooks Atkinson Theatre[9][10]
Originally an Off-Broadway production that was transferred to Broadway.[8][9][10]
1975 Black Picture Show[11] Norman Vivian Beaumont Theatre  
1976 Eden[12] Joseph Barton St. Mark’s Playhouse
Theatre de Lys
Transferred to Theatre de Lys on May 14, 1976.
Kings[13] Tiresias in “Oedipus Alvin Theatre  
1978 Nevis Mountain Dew[14] Jared Philibert St. Mark’s Playhouse  
1980 Lagrima del Diablo[15] Archbishop Stephen Emmanuel Pontiflax St. Mark’s Playhouse  
1981 Nevis Mountain Dew[2] Jared Philibert Los Angeles Actors Theatre Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Lead Performance[2]
1985 Ceremonies in Dark Old Men[16] William Jenkins Theatre Four  
1989 The Talented Tenth[17] Father/
Sam Griggs
Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I  

Film

Year Film Role Notes
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Mr. Wrightson  
1989 Bloodhounds of Broadway Dr. Frischer  
1992 Malcolm X Dr. Payson  
1994 Blues in C Bucky Webb  
1995 Clockers Mr. Herman Brown  

 References

  1. ^ Associated Press. “‘Sanford & Son’ actor Graham Brown dies in NJ”. Tdn.com. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  2. ^ a b c “1980-1989 Awards”. United States: Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
  3. ^ Johnson, John H., ed. (February 21, 1963) “New york beat” Jet (Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.) 23 (18): 63–64
  4. ^ “Weekend”. United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  5. ^ “The Man in the Glass Booth”. United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  6. ^ “Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellans”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  7. ^ “Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellans”. United States: Internet Theatre Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  8. ^ a b c “The River Niger”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  9. ^ a b c “The River Niger”. United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  10. ^ a b c “The River Niger”. United States: Internet Theatre Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  11. ^ “Black Picture Show”. United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  12. ^ “Eden”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  13. ^ “Kings”. United States: Internet Theatre Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  14. ^ “Nevis Mountain Dew”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  15. ^ “Lagrima del Diablo”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  16. ^ “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  17. ^ “The Talented Tenth”. New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  18. Rosalind Cash video Sister Sister 3 with Diahann Carroll
  19. Rao Rampilla inerview with  Arthur French video
  20. Reading with Arthur French

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