Harvey Firari, the beloved teacher, coach, and theatre director, has died. He was 94. Memorial service arrangements are pending at this time. The family has created a special Harvey E Firari Memorial Facebook page so people may leave their condolences and favorite stories.
From 1952 to 1987, Firari was a member of the Culver faculty, teaching English, history, speech, and filling in as an adviser for the Roll Call, Vedette, and Quill. He also coached tennis for 15 years. He served as the chairman of the Fine Arts Department and the director of the theatre and concert series manager.
Firari is the author of 14 full-length plays and numerous one-act plays, including plays based on Indiana favorite sons James Whitcomb Riley and Ernie Pyle. He also had two books published: Ten Unusual Plays for Christian Youth, a collection of “sermon starters,” and a children’s book titled Big Scare in a Small Town.
Known for the original plays and musicals he authored while at Culver, many of which were performed on the Eppley stage by his students, Firari wrote in the 1980 summer issue of the Culver Alumnus that he was careful about his selections – especially the musicals.
“You tell me: Is there anything more excruciating for an audience to watch than an adolescent straining to reach the impossible note? If nothing else, let it be written on my tombstone: He Tried To Protect Audiences.”
But he was also known for his special style of directing, which reflected the teacher in him.
“I try to help the cast discover the core of the play we want to perform. What is it really about? Why was it written? Where is the author coming from?
“From the base of this fundamental understanding of work, I encourage them to explore the characterizations on their own, to try to establish for themselves the most effective tone, gesture, or bearing. We question each other: ‘Why did you do it that way?’”
Firari directed 90 plays during his tenure.
On campus, Firari was known for his love of baseball. One of his cherished possessions was a Yankees jacket when his team, the Ineppley Players, defeated a team from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The jacket was donated by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner ’48. He could also be seen riding his bicycle through campus.
Firari was inducted into the Culver Academies Arts & Letters Hall of Fame in 2008. Six years earlier, a bench in his honor was placed in the Batten Quadrangle near Eppley. The legend on the bench states:
“You taught. We listened.
“You made the difference.”
Off campus, he was known for his book reviews for the South Bend Tribune and the Small Town USA column in the Culver Citizen. An early adopter of technology, Firari started writing a blog in 1999, also called Small Town, that included posts about Culver and its history. When he moved to Casenovia, N.Y., in 2004 to be near his daughter Fairlie ’74 and her family, he started writing a blog called Smokytown.
Firari served in the Air Force from 1942-46, with overseas duty in North Africa and Italy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Carroll College, a master’s from Northwestern University, and master’s from Indiana University. He was also a William Morris Agency fellow for Excellence in Playwriting at the Yale Drama School in 1960.
He is survived by his daughter Fairlie ’74 and son Robert. He was preceded in death by his wife Nancy in 1985.
An archive of Firari’s works is available at the Huffington Library.