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100 Creatives: John Harvey

John Harvey
John Harvey

What he does: Playwright-poet John Harvey writes tales with haunted characters that are sure to make your skin squirm. "I'm drawn to the darkness, and part of that draw is that the dark stuff is forbidden, it's taboo, it's not supposed to happen," he says. As co-founder of the theater company Mildred's Umbrella, Harvey delivers plays to Houston that attract the inquisitive and the brave. His knack for the obscene isn't for everyone, "if I don't have at least one person walking away from one of my plays I'm just like what's wrong," he jokes, "have I gone mellow, do I need to kick it up a notch?"

When he's not tapping into the underbelly of the dark-side, Harvey teaches as an assistant professor at the University of Houston's Honors College where he serves as the Director of the Center for Creative Work.

Rot, 2007
Rot, 2007
Courtesy Mildred's Umbrella
Night of the Giant, 2009
Night of the Giant, 2009
Courtesy Mildred's Umbrella

What inspires him: Much of Harvey's work concentrates on darkness in family life. He cites Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night as an important influence. In the play a family struggles with feelings of love, bitterness, and agitation, which are propelled by their addictions to alcohol and morphine.

Harvey also enjoys the horrible family stories of Greek tragedy, and the fart, sex, and pissing jokes in Greek comedy. He says, "they are like Will Ferrell meets John Stuart."

If not this what: Cooking is Harvey's secret passion, and he loves to include his wife and six-year-old son in the experience he finds "very grounding." It may not strike anyone as a shock that both his taste in literature and food are similar. He says,"I like dark tastes, I like to get my rue as black as possible."

Under the Big Dark Sky, 2011
Under the Big Dark Sky, 2011
Courtesy Mildred's Umbrella

What's next: Harvey has started a novel. "I want to experiment on a narrative in a new way," he says.

A shout out: "To Jennifer Decker my accomplice in all the harm I've done at Mildred's, the Honors College students who put up with my brand of madness, and to Houston overall, try out one of our shows. I guarantee other places you might enjoy the show and forget about it. These plays you will not forget, you'll be waking up in the middle of the night."

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