Elizabeth Harris, AKA "Lisa Mayo"( Kuna/Rappahannock ) an actress, playwright and activist passed away at her home, in New York City, on Sunday at the age of 89.
Lisa was born Elizabeth Miguel in Red Hook, an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was Kuna from Kuna Yala, Panama and her mother was Rappahannock from Virginia. Growing up, she sang in the Methodist Church and also participated in folk dancing, with her sister, Gloria Miguel.
She later studied singing at the New York School of Music and was a classically trained mezzo soprano. Lisa studied with Uta Hagen at HB Studios and Robert Lewis at Actors Studio. She performed in summer stock and had a nightclub act which she took to the summer resorts of the 1950's Poconos. She then joined Walt Witcover at Masterworks Laboratory Theatre.
In 1976, along with sisters, Gloria Miguel and Muriel Miguel, she founded Spiderwoman Theater, currently the longest running Indigenous women's theater in North America. With Spiderwoman, she toured throughout Canada and the United States and to Europe, Australia and New Zealand and attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
During her life, Ms. Mayo wrote and performed in at least 20 original works for the theatre, including one-woman shows, The Pause That Refreshes, which won an Obie Award for Outstanding Production; My Sister Ate Dirt and in 2011 at the age of 87, Among the Living, a show about her short term memory loss and dementia. In addition to her large body of work with Spiderwoman Theater, Lisa was also a featured actor in the Conway and Pratt production of A Woman's Work is Never Done in 1999.
A force to be reckoned with, as a prominent member of the Native American community in New York City she was a staunch advocate for Indigenous performers to tell and perform their own stories in their own way. The Native American community recognized her contributions and honored her. with an award for "Outstanding Service to the Community" from the SilverCloud Singers, NY and was she was named "Indian of the Year " by the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Lisa Mayo served on the Board of Directors of The American Indian Community House, 1998-2007 and on the Board of Directors of AMERINDA Inc. from 1997-2007 where she was Chairperson of the Board.
Her work was recognized broadly when Lisa received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Miami University for her life's work in theater and as a member of Spiderwoman Theater was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art.
She will be missed by her husband of 41 years David Harris; stepson Frank Harris (Nicki Harris); sisters Gloria Miguel and Muriel Miguel (Deborah Ratelle); brother Francisco Mojica; nieces Murielle Borst-Tarrant (Kevin Tarrant), Racael Borst, Monique Mojica and Armenia Forster; nephews Raphael Szykowski (Janice Command), Rev. Robert J. Forster, Clarence Forster, Christopher Forster and Daryl Forster; great niece Josephine Tarrant; great nephew Bear (Witness) Thomas.