Allen was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas, to a dress shop manager mother and a carpenter father. In 1961, she married artist and singer Terry Allen and moved to Los Angeles, California where she walked away from a BFA degree from the Woodbury College of Design over a disputed sixty dollar fee. She studied with poets, Philip Levine and Kenneth Rexroth and staged her first poetry performance for an audience of one, mentor, dancer, filmmaker, Yvonne Rainer.
In the 1960s, she was a pioneer of women in radio hosting Los Angeles' Rawhide & Roses, music and talk show, on the early underground rock station, KPPC-FM in Pasadena, California, produced by her husband of 45 years, artist/songwriter, Terry Allen. In the 1970s, she was one of the first performance artists performing throughout the U.S. in alternative spaces, cafes, art galleries and museums including 80 Langton Street, San Francisco, The New Museum, New School, N.Y.C., and the Chick-N-Burger Café in Anchorage, Alaska.
Jo Harvey Allen is best known, however, for her work in film and for her one woman plays which she has toured extensively including off-Broadway productions written and performed by Allen of A Moment's Hesitation, (director Allen), As It Is in Texas, (director Ellen Sabastian), and Counter Angel, (director Joan Tewkesbury), (CD of audio available), (play was filmed by Alan Landsbury). Counter Angel was first performed in truck stops and cafes and based on Allen’s book of photographs and interviews titled The Beautiful Waitress, (unpublished).
Other plays written and performed by Allen include: Hally Lou, (director Allen), first performed on the back of a flatbed truck, (Aspen Museum, Aspen, Colorado), (Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles, (MOCA)/Japan American Center, Los Angeles), (The Palace of Fine Art, San Francisco), DUCKBLIND, (director Jo Harvey Allen), (Cornet Theater, LA.), and Homerun, (director Jill Parker Jones), (Remembrance Through The Performing Arts, Austin, Texas/McKinny Avenue Contemporary, Dallas, Texas).
Allen co-wrote the radio play, Every Three Minutes, (National Public Radio) with her son, Bukka Allen and collaborated with Terry Allen and their sons Bukka and Bale Allen on the play, Do You Know what Your Children are Tonight?, (Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.), (Theater Artand, San Francisco). She toured, starred, and co-wrote with Terry Allen and Rinde Eckert the opera, Pioneer (director, Robert Woodruff), (Spoleto, U.S.A.) music by Paul Dresher Ensemble, and starred as, Chippy, in Diaries of a West Texas Hooker co-written with Terry Allen, music co-written by the Allens, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jo Carol Pierce, (American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lincoln Center, New York), (CD, Hollywood Records, L.A. Times Pick of the Year).
Allen co-starred in Böchener's, Leon & Lena (and lenz), (director, Joan Akalaiatis), (Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota). She starred in Terry Allen’s radio plays, Bleeder, Dougout, and Reunion (all NPR productions) and in Pedal Steel, (NPR), (winner of the Bessie and the Isadora Duncan awards). She has also starred in Terry Allen’s musical theater works including Warboy and the Backboard Blues, (L.A. Theater Works at Skirball Theater, L.A. The Play Is The Thing (NPR), (director, Rosalind Ayers). Other performances of Warboy and the Backboard Blues (director, Terry Allen), Red Cat-Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, LA.), (Wortham Theater, Houston, Texas), (Austin Museum of Art, State Theater, Austin, Texas), (Santa Monica Art Museum). JUAREZ (director, Terry Allen), (Brattle Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts), The Embrace . . . Advanced to Fury, (director, Terry Allen) (Houston Museum of Contemporary Art), (University of California at Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA), (National Gallery of American Art, Washington, DC), play toured U.S., Australia and Europe. Anti-Rabbit Bleeder: A Biography, (director, Terry Allen), (La Jolla Museum of Art, La Jolla, California) and the current work-in-progress, Ghost Ship Rodez, (director Terry Allen), (Les Subsistences, Lyon, France) and (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)).
Jo Harvey Allen’s film credits include starring roles as The Lying Woman, in David Byrne’s cult classic, True Stories, Mama in the short, "Why is the Dog Howlin' Mama?", (Cannes), (director, Rosalind Rosen). Allen also stars as Mama in the feature of Rosen’s film, Elysian Fields, CBS-pilot, (director, Joan Tewkesbury), and co-starring roles in The Client (1994 film), (director, Joel Schumacher), and as Women's Awareness Teacher in Fried Green Tomatoes (director, Jon Avnet). Other co-starring credits include made- for-T.V. films, Cold Sassy Tree and Scattering Dad, (director, Joan Tewkesbury), Floating Away, (director, John Badham).
Allen’s character roles in numerous films include Secondhand Lions, (director, Tim McCanlies); The Wendell Baker Story with Owen Wilson, (directors, Luke Wilson and Andrew Wilson) and the acclaimed In the Valley of Elah, (directed by Oscar Winner, Paul Haggis).
Poetry and art
She is the author of a collection of poetry, Cheek to Cheek, (Duckdown Press). Traveling exhibitions (catalogues available) of her photographs and drawings include, The Beautiful Waitress, (curator, Ree Schanlau), (Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, Nebraska), 100 Artists See Satan, (curator, Mike McGee), (Cal State, Fullerton, CA), and 100 Artists See God, (curators, John Baldessari and Meg Cranston), (Independent Curators International). She is currently in group shows at The National Museum of Peru in Lima and at Museo de Arte Moderno in Trujillo, Peru (curator, Gus Kapriva).
Allen has been a visiting professor at San Diego State University and visiting artist and lecturer at many universities including The San Francisco Art Institute, UCLA, NYU, The Art Institute of Chicago, University of Texas and The Architectural Institute of London. She co-hosted with Governor Ann Richards, The First Texas Funny Women’s Symposium.
Jo Harvey and her husband Terry have two grandsons, and live with their dogs in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Marfa, Texas.
She is the recipient of The National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, ART MATTERS grants and has received wide critical acclaim.
- The Other Kind
- The Homesman
- In the Valley of Elah
- The Wendell Baker Story
- Secondhand Lions
- Screen Door Jesus
- All the Pretty Horses
- Why Is The Dog Howlin' Mama? (Cannes 2001)
- Waking Up In Reno
- True Stories
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- The Client
- Checking Out
- Mi Amigo
- The Outfitters (Sundance 1999)
- Fool’s Gold (Sundance 1999)
Cold Sassy Tree
The Lazarus Man
Ghost Ship Rodez*
Warboy and the Backboard Blues*
An Evening with Terry and Jo Harvey Allen
The Embrace ...Advance To Fury*
Anti-Rabbit Bleeder/A Biography*
Do You Know Where Your Children Are Tonight?*
Leon, Lena & Lenz
A Moment’s Hesitation
As it is in Texas*
* Denotes, Original Production and National Tour
Rawhide & Roses
Every Three Minutes
- Jo Harvey Allen at the Internet Movie Database
- Oral history interview with Jo Harvey Allen, 1998 Apr. 21 from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
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