"A Little Potato and Hard to Peel" – An Interview with David Harrell

David Harrell’s off-off-Broadway show, “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel” is making its way around the country, and soon the world, and is getting ready to make its appearance at the Paper Lantern Theatre in Greensboro, NC April 10 – 13.  

Tickets to his performances in Greensboro can be purchased here.

Luckily, we got a chance to talk with him about his inspirational show!

M: How did you get interested in acting?

D:  That’s a good story.  I played a lot of sports when I was growing up, but I always did little performances in my church.  Although, I wasn’t really serious about acting until I was in high school.  One day, I was in the library with a girl, that I had a crush on.  She told me that I might be cute if I performed on stage.  She said that I was funny and might be good on stage.  So, I auditioned for the drama class – thinking she might go out with me.  I was in the class and fell in love with theatre and not so much with her.  She never became my girlfriend, but the impulse to get into acting led to something that I felt like I was good at.

His show “A Little Potato Hard to Peel” is based off of a story his ‘grandfather used to tell the story of his little league baseball team, “The Little Potatoes and Hard to Peel.” He said they were smaller than the other boys 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 they were tough…and hard to peel. David was born without his right hand and his journey of discovering what is normal will inspire, entertain and hopefully answer the question, “Are we truly more than the sum of our parts?”’

S: How did you get started working on “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel”?

D:  I worked in a children’s theatre, when I had just finished undergraduate school.  The artistic director suggested that I write a play, having heard some of my stories about growing up.  He said that he thought audiences would really respond to them and find them funny and interesting.  I had this idea and would tell everybody that I was going to write one, but I had this in mind for four years.  I had a friend in North Carolina, who worked with the Raleigh Ensemble Players Theatre Company, and he worked with me to get a solo show started.  This resulted in The Quest, which was my first solo show.  I performed it in Raleigh and took it to a festival.  Once I finished graduate school, at UNC-Greensboro, I knew that I wanted to develop my show more and make some changes.  I moved to New York and took a workshop at the PIT, or People’s Improv Theatre, on solo performance.  Using that workshop, I was able to develop the show and begin to make it what it is today.  I produced it in New York in 2009 and I’ve been doing festivals and touring the show in schools, churches and universities.  So, it’s has really grown and developed.

S: Do you think audiences are surprised by your humor and lax discussion of your disability in your show?

D:  I like to think that people are pleasantly suprised by the humor.  I wanted the show to be funny.  My personality – I like to laugh and make people laugh.  It’s not meant to be a funny show.  There are moments of humor, but there are also moments that are poignant.  

S: Do you think that your humor is a way to communicate advocacy for people wth disabilities?

D:  I think so.  You know, people say that when you make people laugh, they are more receptive and open to new ideas that they may not have considered before.  And I don’t think it is just the humor that does this.  I, also, think it is the idea of the universality of our shared humanity that communicates with the audience.

Through my specific story, people can see that we all face circumstances and limitations, whether they are put on by other people or by ourselves.  However, it’s the idea that those circumstances, whatever they may be, do not define who we are.  People could look at my circumstances and I can look at other circumstances, and we wonder how we would deal.  But what makes us the same is that we are all on this earth now and we are together.  We don’t let those circumstances take control, we see ourselves as valuable individuals and the differences should be celebrated.   My hand is just one small difference in a larger collection of differences and that’s a good thing. 

M: What’s your most popular anecdote in the show that people respond most to?

D: Probably my mother’s character.  Everyone loves her tag-line, “I’ll show you how we do it South-Georgia-style.”  It seems to be the most popularly quoted line after the show.

M: Do you have other upcoming projects?

D:  Next month, I’ll be taking “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel” to Toronto for the Canadian Premiere.  I am really excited to do that.  I’ve only ever been to Canada when I crossed Niagra Falls, so to actually go for a performance is very exciting.  I will also be taking the show to a festival in Eastern Europe over the summer, which is exciting – for the show to be taken outside the States.  

Last summer, I did an off-Broadway play for a festival written by Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale and A Bright New Boise).  He wrote this play for me and a friend.  He has adapted the play into a screenplay for us to do a short film. So, that is another project that I will be working on.  

David was a pleasure to talk to.  If you are in the Greensboro and Wiston-Salem areas, please go see David and his amazing one-man-show, “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel.”

Follow David on Twitter.

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