Atlanta Performing Arts Examiner
The road to becoming a performing artist is truly a journey. It takes a special calling and tenacity to fully immerge oneself on the stage. In an email interview recently, Irvine, California native Kyle Harris is Tony in the musical production of West Side Story appearing at the Fabulous Fox Theatre this week took time out to answer a few questions, giving insight to his calling.
EXAMINER: What age did you realize you wanted a career in the arts?
HARRIS: It wasn't until my senior of high school. I realized that I wanted to possibly make a living out of this after being suckered into doing the schools musical that year, Into The Woods. I grew up as a soccer player, and devoted every hour of my life to that sport from club teams to the high school team. Theatre was never an option or a consideration at that point. I did the choir at my school for fun and some art credits, but never imagined it'd take me here.
EXAMINER: I noticed you were on Guiding Light. What character did you play?
HARRIS: I had a guest spot on the show. It was the easiest job I ever had. Getting paid to eat and play basketball on camera was something I definitely could have gotten used to.
EXAMINER: Could tell me a little about the characters you played in Hair, Dream a Little Dream, Tommy, and Urinetown?
HARRIS: The characters I got to play in Tommy, Urinetwon, Hair and Dream a Little Dream have all been some of my favorites.
Getting to sing the role of Tommy to the score of a rock musical written by The Who? Doesn't get much better than that.
Urinetownis such a well written musical comedy. The character of Bobby, the unsung hero of the show, has amazing show stopping numbers and golden one-liners that any actor would look forward to saying each night.
Hair and Dream a Little Dream threw me into the hippie life style as they were back to back shows in my career. Playing the youngest hippie tribe member, Claude, who battles the choice of running away from the draft or fight for his country without reasonable cause to playing Denny Doherty, one of the lead singers of the acclaimed 1960's folk-rock group, The Mamas and The Papas, really made me realize I was meant to be a flower child. Out of all of these amazing roles and varied shows, playing Claude in Hair is the one I could have done forever. The power behind the piece and the message it brings to the audience is something that sadly still rings true in our world. But getting to let the sun shine in and spread that message of hope every night was an experience I'll never forget.
EXAMINER: How does the role of Tony differ from other characters you played?
HARRIS: Going off of Hair and its message, another timeless piece that still rings true is indeed, West Side Story. The other role I’ve been fortunate enough to play have all been great in their own way. However, getting to play one of the most iconic male roles of American musical theatre history, every night is an honor and a privilege. Though some audiences come to theatre every night expecting to see the movie on stage, my hope is to leave them with a more honest taste of the reality that these kids were dealing with. These are real teenagers with real problems. Love cannot survive in a world of bigotry and hate, and in this world, Tony and Maria are the only ones brave enough who are willing to challenge it.
EXAMINER: Do you have any parting advice for aspiring performing artists? Example: I noticed you have a B.F.A. Some young people seem to think college is not necessary for a career in the arts. What are your thoughts about this?
HARRIS: Don't compare yourself to anyone else. You are enough. Ninety percent of the time getting the job comes down to if they like YOU or not. Not who's more talented. It’s what you bring to the role and the more of yourself you can throw in there the more personalized and honest your performance will be. As far as getting a degree in theatre...It helped me immensely. I didn't come from that kind of background at all. I was a ball of raw talent that had to be shaped and molded through experience over my four years at college. The best way to learn is by doing. Some colleges offer more extensive programs with more "doing" right away. Others make you wait until your senior year to experiment. College isn't for everybody. But training and taking class is, and you'll never be too old to learn.
EXAMINER: Do you have a favorite quote or words of inspiration you live by?
HARRIS: "Never say never!" -Justin Beiber in 3D
EXAMINER: Are national tours more difficult than Broadway?
HARRIS: National tours vs. Broadway...It all depends on your lifestyle. In New York, a Broadway show or "work" is just a walk down the street or a quick stop on the train. You get to go home to a comfortable environment every night and be in your element. On the road, for me personally, is more of a challenge. You’re flying on your day off and opening the next, with a brand new orchestra, for critics of a new city each week. As well as dealing with climate change and allergies, you're looking out into a whole new house while on stage at the theatre. It’s thrilling getting to travel and play different theaters across the country, but it’s also very taxing on the performer. Traveling the country for a year, with this massive production will consistently be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life thus far.
EXAMINER: With that said, we have gained more of an understanding and appreciation for touring artists. Thank you Kyle for giving us an idea of what life is like for artists on tour.