Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Feb. 14: Remembering Garland Lee Thompson, Sr. with a Memorial at St. James Presbyterian Church; Presentation-Reception at Theater for the New City

Garland Lee Thompson, Sr.

Garland Lee Thompson, Sr.

A celebration of the life and legacy of Garland Lee Thompson, Sr., New York theatre producer, writer, director, actor, co-founder and Executive Director of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop, is scheduled for Saturday, February 14, 2015 in two “acts.”

Act 1: The Memorial will be held at 11:00AM at St. James Presbyterian Church, 409 West 141st Street at St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, NY.

Act 2: The Presentation – Reception 3:00PM at Theater at Theater for the New City (Johnson Theater), 155 First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. Garland Thompson, Jr. and Sean C. Turner will host an afternoon of readings, poetry, performances, birthday celebration and a reception in Thompson’s honor.

Born on February 14, 1938 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Garland Lee Thompson, Sr., passed away quickly and peacefully on November 18, 2014. He was 76 years old.

He is survived by his two children, Alexandria Dionne and Garland Lee Thompson, Jr.; his two grandchildren, Colson Oliver and Hazel Duncan; his sisters Shirley Thompson, and Addie Jean Haynes, his brother, Jim Thompson; his nephews Dr. Bryan Haynes DDS, and Oscar Haynes Jr., his niece Karen Haynes, and a host of other cousins and relatives.

His mother, Sylvia Thompson, owned a successful restaurant in Muskogee called Homey Foods, a tremendous feat at the time for an African ­American woman in the 1930s­-40s. His father, James Thompson, was in the Merchant Marines. When Thompson was 7­ years­ old, he moved with his family to Portland, Or. He attended Jefferson High School in Portland, where he discovered his love of theater and dance. Thompson was 20 when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and performing full­time. One of the first professional roles he landed was as a Firetender – Boar’s Tooth Ceremonial Dancer, in the 1958 Hollywood musical film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. South_pacific_02

Garland Lee Thompson as Transporter Technician Ensign Wilson in "THE ENEMY WITHIN" - STAR TREK: TOS - Episode #5

Garland Lee Thompson as Transporter Technician Ensign Wilson in “THE ENEMY WITHIN” – STAR TREK: TOS – Episode #5

In the 60’s, Thompson had roles on TV – “The Lieutenant,” “Perry Mason,” “Bewitched.” In 1964, Thompson’s turn as the title character in the short film, The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes, garnered the film’s director, Robert Clouse, a Golden Globe Award, an Edinburgh International Film Festival Award, a Best Live Action Short Film Oscar nomination, and a nomination for the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film. In 1966, Thompson was cast as Transporter Technician Wilson on Star Trek, in the episode, “The Enemy Within.” He also was a crewman in the “TOS: Charlie X” episode. During this time, Thompson worked as a stage manager for Ray Bradbury’s plays in Los Angeles. In 1971, Thompson moved to New York to be the original stage manager for Charles Gordone’s No Place to Be Somebody on its first national tour, and on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre. The cast starred Terry Alexander and Philip Thomas, and featured Mary Alice, Henry Baker, Julius W. Harris, Elaine Kerry and Ian Sander. He went on to direct two more national tours. Gordone was the first African­ American playwright to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Original Playbill for NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY, September 1, 1971. Photo courtesy of

Original Playbill for NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY, September 1, 1971. Photo courtesy of

Two years later Thompson went on to stage manage another historic Broadway production for the Negro Ensemble Company, Joseph A. Walker’s The River Niger at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Garland Lee Thompson Jr. at the “harlem is ...Theater” at The Interchurch Center in New York on December 17, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Garland Lee Thompson Jr. at the “harlem is …Theater” at The Interchurch Center in New York on December 17, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

He co-founded the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop, along with famed actor/director Morgan Freeman, director/actress Billie Allen Henderson, and journalist Clayton Riley, as a living memorial to the life, and work of his mentor, the late actor, director, teacher and producer, Frank Silvera.

The Workshop has been based in the heart of Harlem, New York, for the past 40 years, and has built a long, time honored and prestigious reputation as a nationally and internationally renowned playwrights’ development theatre for upcoming and established artists from all over the world.

Thompson created the Readers Theatre Series at the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival, and was recently honored at the “Harlem is…Theater” Exhibition at The Interchurch Center in New York, that was on view through January 6, 2015.

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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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