March 05, 2013
During his time at Georgia Southern University Theatre, James Harbour has taken on the parts of many pivotal characters.
He has played the curate in “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It,” Robert in “Proof,” Thomas Cromwell in “A Man for All Seasons,” Giles Corey in “The Crucible” and Gloucester in “King Lear.”
His role as Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” will be his last at Georgia Southern, though, because he has announced his retirement.
Harbour, an associate theater professor, has taught at Georgia Southern for 18 years. In that time, he has directed and acted in many of the school’s performances. But the role of Willy Loman in particular is one that Harbour says he has always wanted to take on.
“Willy is everyman,” Harbour said. “Willy is a man with dreams; however, every one of those dreams seems to get squashed. He is someone who I believe everyone can relate with because of the way in which the vagaries of life seem to pile on.”
“Salesman” originally opened at the Morosco Theatre on Feb. 10, 1949. The play brought Miller the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award, the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize. It has become a milestone of American theater, and the character of Willy Loman on his quest for the American dream has been known by audiences worldwide.
Harbour said he has performed the role of Willy Loman in acting classes, but he was a bit nervous to take the role to the stage for the first time.
“Willy’s world is a tough world to inhabit,” Harbour said. “I knew it would be a tough road, but I am grateful to play this role. This is one of the greatest plays ever written by an American. Miller is truly a genius with words, and it is a pleasure to try and bring his words to life.”
Directing the production will be Professor Lisa Abbott, who has known Harbour for more than five years and directed him twice in the past. Abbott said Harbour has always been a pleasure to work with, both professionally and on the stage.
“He is one of the rare actors who gives to the other actors on the stage,” Abbott said. “He is the most giving actor that I have ever had on-stage. He helps the young actors by giving them something to feed off of while they are on-stage, which is the best way to learn.”
Harbour said that, besides Willy Loman, he most enjoyed playing Gloucester in “King Lear” and the curate in “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It.”
“I also really enjoyed playing Toby in ‘Twelfth Night’ because it was the first performance that we ever put on at the Performing Arts Center,” he said. “It was really nice being able to perform on a new stage, and it seemed to make everything more exciting.”
Harbour added that he has enjoyed being part of the theater department.
“It is so nice that everyone gets along,” he said. “There are certain pressures that go along with the territory of being in the theater business, and it is nice to enjoy the time spent at work. Another thing is that the faculty has always been so professional. They have given me the opportunity to enjoy what it is like to work professionally.”
When asked what one thing he believed students could learn from theater, Harbour said everyone could always learn to listen.
“Everything comes from listening,” he said. “I have learned that in any situation I have been in, listening is key. Theater teaches you to listen to others so that you can excel.”
Julianne Norkins, a junior theater major at Georgia Southern who will play Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” said working with Harbour has been a rewarding experience.
“He knows how to study his role, and he isn’t afraid to try things,” Norkins said. “It makes you less nervous to also try things when you are in a show with him. It is so apparent that he loves acting, and it has been great to have him as encouragement.”
Harbour will continue to teach classes this semester and will direct his last show, “On the Razzle” by Tom Stoppard, after his performance as Willy Loman in “Salesman.” “Razzle” will be staged at the Performing Arts Center on April 10–14.
Garrett Tucker, a senior general studies major, said Harbour helped him learn how to succeed both on the stage and in class.
“I’ve had him in class before, so it has been really cool to see him talk the talk and now walk the walk,” Tucker said.