Sunday, September 29, 2013

Harvey Tavel

The late Harvey Tavel  holds many memories in my theatrical life.  He was probably not just the most severe critic of his peers, but also of himself.  He had an almost tragic love of theater, elevating his adoration beyond the tiny rooms of dismay, transforming them in the mind into the grand palaces of the opera and, if possible, beyond, knowing that it is but the imagination that determines the glory of the moment.

Harvey was the brother, in any sense of the word, to Ronald Tavel.  They were revolutionaries in the 1960s with the Warhol machine, giving a great amount of soul and receiving but a wave of recognition.  The “theatre of the ridiculous” and such owe a great debt to Harvey and Ronald Tavel.   Alas, in the end, even though the Tavels maintained their individuality, the  philosophy of the Tavels by others was abandoned in the search for recognition and “success”.

At  the advent of the 1970s, the Tavels established a theater by the name of “Theater of the Lost Continent”  (TLC) that crossed paths with my shenanigans at the time and I came to know Harvey Tavel.  I had met Ronald Tavel earlier while I made midnight love to the bronze statue of Peter Stuyvesant.

While I may have at times mistakenly regarded Harvey as Ronald’s brother in a minor sense, Harvey was very much his own man.  I knew little of his personal life and came to know only of late that Norman Glick was his dedicated and avowed love.  In theater, Norman’s role was as the technician for everything that the Tavels needed in regard to same. 

Harvey was in the my TLC production of “The Trojan Women” and subsequently in a half dozen plays with myself, as director or actor, “Vinyl,” “In Search of the Cobra Jewels,” “Flatbush Tosca,” “Freaky Pussy,” “Infinity,” “The Life of Juanita Castro,” “Kitchenette,” “Line Birth/Play Birth.”  Through those productions, he became a good friend of our mutual associate Harvey Fierstein, and remained so, even though successful Fierstein never gave the highly talented Tavel  the moment or the break that he so richly deserved. 

It should be noted that Harvey Tavel was overt in his criticism and exercised it equally to that which he adored or disdained.  There was little in the middle both ends of the spectrum were no less than devastating or exultant.  He was talented and passionate in his likes and dislikes.  We shall all miss him, but heaven help heaven, heaven had best have the best opera in the business!

Donald L. Brooks 

1 comment:

MSSRPh said...

I only knew Harvey for three years. He was my French instructor. And from the get go I knew there was something different about him.
I was just 15 and artistic in my own right. Maybe thats why I found him so fascinating. Teaching with his cowboy boots on the desk, eating raw hamburger meat in front of all of us, and explaining how the French ate it this way and how much he loved French culture. How we Americans were barbarians with our food and our politics.
It was only years later that I understood what "The Life of Juanita Castro" really was. At 15 I just didn't know.
But now I do….I had Harvey as a teacher starting in 1965. I have remembered him on and off in all the years since. ………….. and now my daughter is an actor, and I will tell her all about my French teacher…..Mr. Tavel And, in that way they all live on.