"De Lawd" of the Green Pastures Finds His Stage Part Forces Him to Act Always Dignified--"Degree Aids Stage Career"
"My advice to the college actor going on the professional stage is the same as I would give to any actor," says Richard B. Harrison, "de Lawd" of "The Green Pastures." "Play your part well. You have a debt to your audience. If you wish of permanent popularity, give the best in you. Rehearse your lines continually and you will never get state. Every show should be a perfect show and every night should be a first night. The Bachelor of Arts will find his degree no hindrance. Merit is the prime basis of ultimate success in the theatre as in other walks of life. Every actor will have moments when he is flustered when he forgets his lines. It is then that college training will help a man out. The best actor I ever knew, Frederick Ward, was an Oxford man."
Harrison practices what he preaches. For an hour before the curtain goes up he sits alone in his dressing room and reviews his script to recapture the spirit of his lines. Once on stage he never gives a second-race performance, because his part has such stature that it groups him and brigs out the best talent that he possesses.
For seven years he headed the dramatic department of the Agricultural and Technical College of Greensboro, North Carolina Summer School. Young men came from all over the South to take his course in acting. "I taught them anything from Mother Goose to Shakespeare" said the prominent actor. "They kept me busy morning to night. When I was willing they would cut their meals to keep on with the class. They were so eager to acquire knowledge and so sincere, that I really regretted leaving to take my part in "Green Pastures."
"My part restricts as off stage," Harrison continued. "The public expects me to uphold its dignity, so I can't do many things I might otherwise. For instance, I was invited to a Cambridge dance recently. Could the Lord go to dances? I think dancing is a very pleasant means of entertainment, but not for Richard B. Harrison."
He attributes the success of "The Green Pastures" to the moral influence, the human appeal, and the high quality of the directing and acting. "I am no playwright," Richard Harrison concluded, "but I can tell a good play, when I see it, and I have seen many plays ruined by inadequate acting. No play is foolproof all the way through, or actor proof.