Harris Banks On Beverly! With Eric and Andy!
Ricky Harris is new to the scene. He is hard to miss because he is about 6'3" and the laugh of someone twice his size. This bodes well for his career choice as a musician and actor, because once you hear this guy's voice, you will never forget it. We ran into the generally jovial Ricky Harris on the CTA Green Line at 3 AM while we were going to another "party". At first he didn't know who we were and called for help, but then, he gave in to our interview.
Ricky! Thanks for meeting us here on the Green Line at 3am! Please keep your scalding hot water handy in case of CTA mutants!
The Green Line is known for the best CTA mutants in the City!
The Green Line is known for lots of things. So what were you doing tonight before you met us here?
I was actually in a tech rehearsal for my upcoming show!
Well, what is it? All these riddles, Ricky. It's too late for riddles.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee! Being performed at the Beverly Arts Center the first two weekends in May!
The Beverly Arts Center, eh? That's in Beverly. Tell us a little bit about why you chose this show, who it's for and all that stuff. Are you the director? Ricky?
RICKY!? Oh good, I thought you were turning into a Green Line mutant for a second, but you aren't. You just stopped paying attention.
Yes, now that you have my full attention I chose this show because it's an awesome piece to perform and super fun. I am serving as music director for the show and also acting in it. I play the character William Barfee. We have a great cast of Chicago actors who really bring a fresh style to this show. Freda Humble, Warren Levon, David Boyle, Chris Galvan, Grace Lethiot, Lauren Omelson, Nathan Scheetz and Arya Daire. Shellee Frazee is our wonderful director/choreographer.
Lauren Omelson, eh? I hear she's the kind of girl who's gonna go places! That does sound like a great cast. Do you have to whip them into shape? They probably are pretty drunk most of the time, you know?
Lauren is a force to be reckoned with!
Do you think she would like us?
Yes just as much as the next pretty girl you see walking down the street! The cast was great to work with, though I found it easier to deal with them if they were high instead of drunk. They would be in a much calmer place and not as loud and kray kray.
Now Ricky, you are a Roosevelt grad, and a new face to the theatre scene in town. You are a member of The Barrel Of Monkeys and have done a few shows here and there. You are also a black man. How does being a black actor in this town work? Because, we have all traditionally heard that being a black singer/actor is essentially a free pass to an Equity card, but I don't see you taking that route.
It's not that easy. Being sort of a new face, there are other, better known black actors who are still taking all the roles. Once I can break in and get an opportunity I will jump at the chance for my Equity card. Being able to sing does help, but it is still no easy ride. Either I'm looked at for roles just for African Americans or ensemble parts. But in this production, I do get a chance to shine with my very own tap routine I do!
That sounds great! We can't get enough of that Ol' Soft Shoe. Do you think that going Equity will lead to better opportunities? Being that we are white dudes in the storefront scene, we hear common complaints all the time that there just aren't enough people of color in Chicago storefront, simply because they get their Equity cards and move up in the ranks. Do you think you'd like to do some work at some of the storefronts in town?
Yes I would definitely work at some of the storefronts around. I think Chicago is famous for it's black box and storefront theatres. I've done work the Stage Left and some others and have really enjoyed it but what you find with Equity is that it's better paying opportunities! This is my job my craft and I survive off of doing Artistic work.
How did get involved with the Barrel Of Monkeys and what do they mean to you artistically?
The old fashioned way. I saw a listing for the auditions, I went and wowed them and now I've been with them for 3 years. Barrel of Monkeys is great because I get to act and create with an awesome group of artists from this city. Currently with the company, I serve as the Music Director and am also a lead teacher. It's fun to bring the kids stories to life, to give them a voice that they have never heard and it's great that we do it through fun theatre stuff! You can really grow as an artist within this company.
We wish we were Barrel Of Monkeys people. Can you get us an audition?
I'm pretty sure if we do our two man "Sunday In The Park With George" they will have to let us in. Will you play piano for us?
Definitely and I won't even charge you!
Ricky, we hope you are around for a lot of years in the future. You are a great person and an incredible talent to have here in Chicago. Is there anything you would like our readers to know before we throw you off the Green Line train in the most dangerous section of town?
Please come check out my show www.beverlyartcenter.org for ticket info and all of that and continue to support and love all theatre! Chicago is a great place to be and before I go equity and become famous I'll do any storefront show you guys have for me.
Spelling Bee Forever! Tell Lauren Omelson that we love her!
I'm sure she will be happy to hear from you!
Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
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