Inaugural Niblack Event a Huge Hit; Chan Harris enchants
“Who’s your favorite witch?” he asked Catesby '07, who plays the Witch in the chorale production. “The one from the Wizard of Oz
? Margaret Hamilton. Well, do an imitation of Margaret Hamilton playing the Wicked Witch of the North. Slow down your delivery and gnarl up your hands. Give it that ‘heh, heh, heh’ sound.”
Whether they realized it or not, the students were getting advice from a real professional. Harris has appeared in Big River, Radiant Child Off-Broadway, and countless regional, national touring and overseas productions. He was the first foreign actor to work in Korean language theater in South Korea and the first to win a Best Actor Award there for his role in Jesus Christ, Superstar.
Not bad for a kid from a one-stoplight town in east Texas who started out studying to become a doctor at Baylor University.
“You have to have a passion for show business because chances are you’re never going to make a lot of money at it,” Harris said. “It’s not a profession you go in to thinking you’re going to get rich.”
Harris, who studied opera at the Juilliard School and acting at New York University’s Tisch School, said he had lots of help along the way from teachers, including his parents who were both educators, and from his musical instructors – although it wasn’t always a smooth ride. “At one point, my voice teacher at Juilliard told me ‘If you don’t get some therapy I’m going to throw you out of school.’ And my mother once dragged me by my long hair down the aisle of the Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, and announced to the minister, ‘The Devil is in my child!’ ”
Harris’s one-man show on Monday night was based on personal journals that date back to when he was in the 10th grade. Using a multi-media mix of video, photography, and live singing and acting, Strange Voyage follows his adventures performing on four continents and in several languages (including German and Korean) and on stages from Juilliard’s audition room to the National Theater in Seoul.
The show was a tremendous hit with the audience of 400-plus from Foxcroft, Middleburg and environs. Of particular delight was a section Harris wrote, shot and edited earlier that day just for this audience. Among other things, it showed him being frisked by Foxcroft Security Chief John Rowe at the front gate (never happens!), warming up by leaping over show jumps in the riding ring and trying to discern whether he is a Fox or a Hound.
The two-day visit by Harris did exactly what Austi Brown, who established the Niblack Arts Lecture Series in honor of her mother, sought to do with this exciting new series – engage the School and community in the creative process.
“This evening’s performance will, I believe, exemplify many of my mother’s most endearing characteristics: love of adventure, curiosity, fearlessness and a sense of humor about herself and the world we live in,” said Brown, who graduated from Foxcroft in 1973. (Her mother was a member of the Class of 1942.)
Brown’s generous gift will bring a variety of literary, performing and fine artists, artisans and designers to Foxcroft to share their work and experience – much as the Alison Harrison Goodyear Lectures have brought intriguing intellectual and political individuals to campus over the past 35+ years. For more information about either lecture series, or Foxcroft School, please contact Cathrine Wolf, Director of Communications, at 540.687.4511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
--by Fred McMane