CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 1, 2003 ᾰ Helen Harrelson and Michael Landrum, who will receive Distinguished Service Awards during Homecoming festivities this weekend at Southeast Missouri State University, will answer questions about their acting careers and experiences at noon on Friday in the lobby of Rose Theatre. The question and answer session will be followed by a small reception.
Harrelson and Landrum, both professional actors who once were affiliated with Southeast’s theatre program, will participate in the question and answer session in hopes of motivating Southeast’s current group of aspiring thespians. Harrelson, Landrum and two other individuals will receive Distinguished Service Awards Saturday morning at an All-Alumni Breakfast.
Dr. Kenn Stilson, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, said that while the University is certainly honoring them, the opportunity for students to meet such distinguished alumni as Harrelson and Landrum is the most important reason for bringing them to Southeast.
“Our students are going to get the opportunity to meet and talk to two people who started right here in Cape Girardeau, who’ve gotten to work with some of the greatest theater and film artists of the 20th century,” Stilson said. “And if you’re working with some of the greatest theater and film artists of the 20th century, your own work has to be pretty solid.
“This is about inspiring the next generation of theater artists,” Stilson said.
Both Harrelson and Landrum embarked upon long, prosperous careers in theater and film after leaving Southeast.
Harrelson attended Southeast from the fall of 1940 through the spring of 1942. Her father was a Cape Girardeau dentist. While at Southeast, she was a member of the drama club Black Mask, the Clio Society (Tri Delta), and a columnist for the Capaha Arrow. Her most important undertaking was a collaborative effort with two other students to change the name of the University, which at the time was Southeast Missouri State Teachers College, to the more inclusive Southeast Missouri State College.
Harrelson went on to receive a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Goodman School of the Theatre in Chicago. However, she had already become a professional actress as a result of a summer stock engagement, through which she became a member of the Actor’s Equity Association, the craft union for actors.
At different times, she has lived in London and Rome, studying repertory theatre. Some of her most rewarding work was at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, which was founded by her husband, Peter Zeisler; Tyrone Guthrie; and Oliver Rea. Playing in repertory at the Guthrie, Harrelson performed in “Richard III” with Hume Cronyn and with his wife Jessica Tandy in “Way of the World,” as well as other classics.
During her extensive and notable career, Harrelson has worked from coast to coast touring with Broadway plays and later in regional theatres. She was heard on radio in the days of cliff hanger serials.
She has also appeared on television, both daytime and primetime. She has had several roles on both “Law and Order” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.” Her film work includes “The Deep Well,” a Venice Festival prize winner. Her most recent appearance has been in a Kodak commercial in which a boy enlarges a photo of his grandmother as a young ballplayer.
Landrum, formerly of Farmington, Mo., entered Southeast in the fall of 1960 and attended until the spring of 1963. During his time at Southeast, he was a member of A cappella Choir and was very active in drama, appearing as the lead in several productions, including “Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” “Paint Your Wagon” and “A Sleep of Prisoners.” He also performed as a supporting actor in several other productions, and served as stage manager. Landrum was recognized for his talent with the Davis Barnett award for Best Actor of 1961-1962.
Since his time at Southeast, Landrum has distinguished himself in the field of theatre. He has been a professional actor for more than 35 years, appearing in films and soap operas, on and off Broadway, and as a commercial spokesperson on television and radio. Landrum also has served as a spokesman for numerous Fortune 500 companies during his career.
Both Harrelson and Landrum will receive the Distinguished Service Award at the All Alumni Breakfast scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Saturday in the Student Recreation Center-South Campus, formerly the Activities Center of First Baptist Church, which recently was purchased by the University. Tickets are $9 per person. To purchase a ticket or for more information on the awards, call the Alumni Association at (573) 651-2259.
For more information on the question and answer session with Harrelson and Landrum, contact Stilson at (573) 651-2149.