David Harrell is an actor, speaker and disability advocate originally from Georgia; he now resides in New York City. His solo play, “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel” and his new adaptation “The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook” are both currently running as part of the All For One Festival in New York City. The All For One Festival presents outstanding solo shows that inform and inspire, together with workshops and panels, to enhance the development and appreciation of solo performances.
So tell us about your career as an actor... has this been a lifetime desire?
My mom would say I have been a performer since I came out of the womb but I don't think acting became a conscious desire for me until High School. I remember this girl telling me I should audition for the "drama" class because I was funny and would be cute on stage. So I auditioned and fell in love, not with the girl, but with the theatre. I earned a BFA in theatre performance from the University of Southern Mississippi and worked regionally for a few years; I lived and worked in Atlanta for about four years. I then moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and worked as the Accessibility and Outreach Director for a theatre, while I continued to act. After a few years, I went to UNC at Greensboro for graduate school and earned an MFA in 2008. I moved to NYC after grad school and have been here ever since.
Is your stage performance solely based on your life or from imagination?
Both of my solo shows are based on my life. I was born without my right hand and the plays are about my journey to define “normal.” In A LITTLE POTATO AND HARD TO PEEL, I might exaggerate slightly and combine stories or tell them out of order but all of it comes from a place of truth. THE BOY WHO WOULD BE CAPTAIN HOOK is an adaptation of my story that I created for young audiences. In THE BOY WHO WOULD BE CAPTAIN HOOK, I use more of a fictional account of my childhood experience. I was certainly picked on and I am sure I was called “Captain Hook” (because of the silver hook I wore as a child) on multiple occasions, but I was not excluded as much as I depict in the show.
What moves you most, either to inspire or upset you?
I am moved most by people who move past expectations or their circumstances to find success. I just met a seven year old boy who was also born without his right hand and I showed him how I tie my shoes. He had not figured out how to do it on his own. I watched him practice for a half hour while we had lunch; getting better each time. An hour or so later on my way to the airport, his dad sent me a text message photo of his shoes tied, saying, “It took another four or five times in the car, but he did it!” This kid not giving up and figuring how to do this simple task, inspires me to keep growing and learning.
What do you feel your performance can bring to society?
I hope my story can entertain first and foremost but also encourage people to not be defined by limitations or let circumstances, no matter what they are, peel away the core of their humanity.
What has been your greatest triumphs in your personal life and in your career?
My marriage is definitely my greatest personal triumph, and I think the courage to come to New York and stay on the journey with these solo shows as they find their voice, have been my greatest career triumph.
Giants or Jets?
Gotta go with the Giants!
Tell us about your on stage live performance. Is this the first public appearance, in the arts, that you have made?
I have been doing my solo performance for a while now; I created the piece while I was North Carolina about ten years ago and began developing A LITTLE POTATO AND HARD TO PEEL when I moved to NYC in 2008. The show was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance in 2010. Both shows are currently running at the All For One Festival in NYC and this is the first professional performance for THE BOY WHO WOULD BE CAPTAIN HOOK. I have performed it at several schools recently, but am very proud that it is the first children's show produced by the All For One Festival.
What is your favorite past-time?
Since I do not have the opportunity to play sports much anymore, I think my favorite past-time now is taking long walks. Walking through the city or walking through the woods or a long beach, I find it refreshing and rejuvenating.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to be a father. I would like to continue developing solo performances and performing them around the country. Maybe have a few more film and television credits. Mostly, I hope I am still doing what I love!
Where can the audience find you?
A Little Potato and Hard to Peel: http://www.afofest.org/shows/a-little-potato-hard-to-peel/
The Boy Who Would Be Captain Hook: http://www.afofest.org/the-boy-who-would-be-captain-hook/