Olivia Harris is a young performer who has been onstage since she was a child. With many acting credits under her belt in the region, she has more recently moved into directing, and is spearheading the latest production in the pipeline at Camelot Theatre, "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance." I spent some time with Harris to hear about her evolution from child stardom to the director's chair.
JG: Olivia, What made you want to work in the theater?
OH: I was 5 years old when I began working in theater and it was around that age that I chose it as my career. So, my original affinity probably derived from the fact that it’s fun, you get to build a family and tell a story with them, and it allows you to be someone else in an environment full of unique circumstances. My current interest in the work is most certainly how it allows you to dig into why people do the things they do. I think people are utterly fascinating and I find theater to be such a wonderful way to take regular people, put them under extreme circumstances, and discover what would happen through a collaborative process with actors, directors, designers, and technicians.
JG: How did you become involved with Camelot?
OH: I began working at Camelot as a young college student seeking professional opportunities in theater. I started as a stage manager and quickly found myself working on every show at the theater in one capacity or another. Eventually, I was able to apply for the part-time production assistant position which I took on whilst continuing to stage manage as many productions as I could. This all led to my current position at the theater as (at least according to my pay stub) 60 percent office manager and 40 percent production assistant. I have been fortunate in my (nearly) four years at Camelot to have had the opportunity to also direct and perform in shows here and there, which has helped keep my artistic itch satisfied enough to get by.
JG: Tell us a bit about the show you're currently working on.
OH: I am currently directing "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" at Camelot, a unique and exciting morality play set in the Wild West. The overall plot is quite simple — there are good guys and there are bad guys — but the struggles that the characters face and the relationships they form have been incredibly fun and at times quite challenging to dig into with the actors. It has also been an opportunity to utilize the talents of some wonderful designers as the script has allowed us to indulge a little and really have fun with the memory play aspects of the production. Essentially, with a fabulous cast and a design team who came ready and willing to play, the show has been a joy to work on.
JG: What are your upcoming professional plans for 2018?
OH: Well, after a good long nap, a margarita, and another long nap, my current plan is to start actively seeking more projects that I am passionate about. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years working primarily in the technical theater world, which I have enjoyed and has been very helpful in my development as a theater artist, but I am finally ready to turn my attentions to the things that interest me most. In more specific terms, the master plan is to direct a little more, sing a little more, dance a little more and, of course, more naps and margaritas. Working my way into a freelance directing career wouldn’t be so bad either!
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.