I interviewed Julie Harris several times over the years but one of my favorites was for a piece I did for The Hartford Courant in 1990 in advance of a tour of "Driving Miss Daisy" at New Haven's Shubert Theater.


"Don't call Julie Harris a grand lady of the theater.

Though that accolade is hers for the taking, with a 45-year career that includes some of the most memorable performances on Broadway, such talk makes the actress blush.

"I don;t feel anything like an institution or that I'm a grand lady of anything," says the 64-year-old actress. "When I have enough rest, like today, I feel part of me is convinced I'm still 16. So I have a lot of energy and excitement and curiosity about life."

Harris smiles sweetly, her blue eyes brighten and her voice engages with charm and care. So when she says, "I just feel like I'm still a kid in this wonderful business," you believe every word.

Harris is starring in Alfred Uhry' "Driving Miss Daisy," which is ending its 16-month tour in New Haven.

Though the story of a little old lady from Atlanta and the black driver hired for her by her son could be obvious and sentimental, the writing is spare, gentle and brilliant, Harris says.

"Somebody said to me the other day, 'I love the things that are unspoken in the play. They are so eloquent.' And although the play is very funny and beautifully written, it vibrates with undercurrents. Vividly. It's like Chekhov. All the unspoken things you hear just as loudly as the spoken."

"Daisy" is enjoying a high profile with the national release of the movie of the same name, starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman. Harris says she has not yet seen the film.

The end of the tour is a bittersweet time for Harris and co-stars Brock Peters and Stephen Root.

"It seems very hard to believe that we won't have this in our lives anymore," she says. "It's been a very special play for me and it's been a very happy time for us. We've been a family for a year and a half."

After playing the part for such a long time, will she have post-touring depression?

"Yes," she says. "Absolutely. It will be very strange. I spoke to Wendy Hiller who played Daisy in London and she said, 'Oh, yes, it's a very curious play for missing. It really wraps itself around one. It digs right in.' She said, 'Oh, I'm so lonely without it,' and I said, 'I know exactly what you mean because I'm going to go through that, too, and it will be a sad time."

Connecticut audiences won't have to wait long afterward to see Harris.

After a respite at her Cape Cod home, where she lives alone, Harris will star in "Is He Still Dead?" by Donald Freed, about Nora and James Joyce, which will be the last main stage production for the season at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. The specially commissioned play to celebrate the theater's 25th anniversary will run from May 8 to June 24. It will be directed by Harris' friend, Hartford native Charles Nelson Reilly, who also staged "The Belle of Amherst."

Harris' last Long Wharf appearance was in "Under the Ilex," about the relationship between the Bloomsbury luminaries Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey.

Harris loves her "literary ladies."

She won her fifth Tony Award in the outstanding actress category (the most by any actress) in "The Belle of Amherst" in the late '70s. She has since starred in one-woman shows based on the lives of Charlotte Bronte in "Bronte, A Solo Portrait of Charlotte Bronte," Fanny Stevenson, the American wife of Scottish author Robert Lewis Stevenson in "Tusitula" and Sofya Tolstoy in "The Countess."

She has also commissioned a play by Bill Luce (who wrote "The Belle of Amherst") about author Isak Dinesen, tentativey titled "Lucifer's Child."