Monday, October 14, 2013

Spotlight On...David Harrell

Name: David Harrell

Hometown: Brunswick, GA

Education: B.F.A University of Southern Mississippi, M.F.A. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Favorite Credits: Handicapped People in Their Formal Attire (Actors' Studio & Premiere Stages), The Merchant of Venice, Good Beer (TBTB), The GIMP Project: IF (La Mama), Richard III (NY Classical Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (NC Shakespeare Festival), Julius Caesar (GA Shakespeare Festival), Tobacco Road (Triad Stage), Ruffian on the Stair (PushPush Theatre)

Why theater?: Quite honestly because of a girl named Julie Fender.  In high school I had a huge crush on her and one day in the library she told me she saw a flyer for auditions for the new drama club and she thought I should do it.  I thought, awesome, I'll audition and Julie Fender will go out with me.  I auditioned and was cast in the play The Butler Did It and fell in love, not with Julie Fender but with the theater.  It's what I've been doing ever since.

Tell us about A Little Potato and Hard to Peel and The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook?: A Little Potato and Hard to Peel is an autobiographical solo play about my life growing up.  I was born without my right hand and the play is about my journey to define "normal".  The title comes from a story my grandfather used to tell me about his little league baseball team.  He said they were called the Little Potatoes and Hard to Peel because they were smaller than the other kids and maybe not as talented but they always played with their hearts.  So no matter if they won or lost, they never got down because on the inside they were tough, and hard to peel.  He died when I was 12 so I grew up thinking this was a true story, as I became an adult I realized it was a metaphor for life.  We can choose to not let circumstances, no matter what they are, peel away the core of our humanity. The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook is an adaptation of my story that I created for younger audiences.  A Little Potato and Hard to Peel is certainly a family show but I wanted to create something that explored the joy of play and my journey to fit in as a kid.  The play is still an autobiographical piece but revolves around my inability to be included on the playground at school until the game becomes PETER PAN.  I am perfect for Captain Hook because of the prosthetic hook I wore as a child.  At first it is fantastic to be included but I grow tired of always being Captain Hook, I wanted to be a hero.  So the story is my journey finding the hero within and teaching the other kids that you can be a hero even if you don't look like everybody else.

What inspired you to create A Little Potato and Hard to Peel and The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook?: I worked for a children's theatre in Columbus, OH right after undergrad.  It was my first time out of the South and I would tell these stories about my family and my crazy one-handed adventures.  The artistic director told me I should use these stories and create a show about my life.  I walked around for like four years telling anybody who would listen that I had this great idea for a show.  One night I was back home visiting and went to dinner with a high school friend whom I of course had a big crush on.  I told her about my idea for a show and she told me that she had thought I was always so confident in high school and she believed that if she could have only had blonde hair she would be pretty.  I was stunned, she was so pretty but it made me realize that lots of us feel like we are missing something and I think that made me want to create a show with my specific journey and hopefully it would have a universal resonance.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I enjoy theatre that is fierce and real.  I am inspired when I see truth on stage and love the actors who make it look easy. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Philip Seymour Hoffman

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
Recently recommended Don Juan in Hell at the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble to friends.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would really like another performer with a disability play to me but since there are not many one-handed actors, I will say Ralph Macchio and the movie would be called "The Greatest Nub of All"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Gummy Bears.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I have no idea, maybe a high school football coach or a gummy bears salesman.

What’s up next?: I am working with my good friend Shannon DeVido to make a play we did this summer, Good Beer by Sam Hunter, into a film. I am bringing A Little Potato and Hard to Peel down to North Carolina with the Paper Lantern Theatre Company in April and have several school performances of both shows throughout the fall and winter.

For more on A Little Potato and Hard to Peel and The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook, visit and