Theater arts instructor Rich Harlow was in the original cast of “Upstream Toward Lethe” as lead character Robby. The play was written in 1975 by University of California, Los Angeles, student George Moran as a requisite to obtain a Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in Playwriting, and the play was originally directed by UCLA theater professor Dr. Gary Gardner.
In 1975, “Upstream Toward Lethe” was entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, a national competition among select universities, and the play won in the original playwriting division. Over the course of the next year and a half, Moran, Gardner, and the cast participated in various competitions. In April of 1976, the playwright, director, and cast performed at the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center and toured for a week. For his acting, Harlow received the Medallion of Excellence.
At the time, getting a part in a play as an underclassmen was rare. To not only be cast in a play but to be a part of such a successful play, Harlow says he is forever grateful to Gardner for the opportunity.
“[I] thank the director for giving me a chance,” Harlow said. “Look at what happens: the show wins a national competition, I go to Washington, D.C., I’m in Eisenhower Theater, and I win the Medallion of Excellence for my work. I’m on top of the world. This is the pinnacle of my acting career.”
In July of this year, Harlow went back to UCLA to visit Gardner and discovered that, three weeks prior, the professor had passed away.
“All I can think of is here’s the man who, 40 years ago, gives me my break, my start in collegiate university production, and [how there’s] this amazing play that has such depth and feeling,” Harlow said. “What better thing can I do than pull [the play] out of the closet and [direct] the play to say, in my own way, thank you to George Moran, Dr. Gary Gardner, and the fabulous people that I worked with.”