David Harris during a rehearsal of "Lysistrata."
David Harris of Cabot was a sophomore studying international business at a neighboring university when he woke up one morning with a revelation.
“I realized that I absolutely hated what I was doing and I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” he said. “And I realized I’d rather make less and be happy than make six figures and be miserable.”
Instead, Harris decided to study theatre – a field he found much more rewarding – with the hopes of becoming “the next Martin Scorsese.” He enrolled in the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s theatre program in the spring of 2015, where he’s found plenty of opportunities to pursue his dream.
Most recently, Harris has been able to hone his talents as director for the theatre’s upcoming performances of “Lysistrata” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23-25 and 27-28 in the Breedlove Auditorium as part of the university’s Season of Entertainment 36.
Directing “Lysistrata” is the culmination of a year and a half’s worth of work in the theatre program for Harris, which began after he took a hiatus from school to join the National Guard. When he decided to return to school, he enrolled at UAFS after his grandparents, both Fort Smith area residents, recommended the school.
Harris didn’t know what to expect when he began the program and was pleasantly surprised at the opportunities he had to do more in theatre. When he first started classes, he met with Theatre @ UAFS Director Bob Stevenson and Pablo Guerra-Monje, associate professor of theatre arts and discussed his goals.
“It was much more student-focused and gave undergraduates the chance to actually build something,” he said. “I had never had a chance to sit down with a department head and talk about goals before. I hadn’t had that kind of interaction at my previous school.”
The program, which had 30-40 students all working towards the common goal of putting on shows, felt like a real theatre company to Harris.
“It’s so interactive. You’re not sitting in a classroom just staring at a PowerPoint learning theories of acting. You’re out there applying what you’re learning at an accelerated pace past what other schools are doing,” Harris said.
Harris thrived in the program, performing in numerous theatrical performances and even directing an award-winning short play at the Kennedy Center for American College Theater Regional Festival, in addition to winning a slew of other awards during his time at UAFS.
After whetting his appetite on a short play, Harris aspired to do something bigger. He spoke with Stevenson and Guerra-Monje about directing a full-length feature play, starting a dialogue that resulted in Stevenson handing Harris the reins to direct “Lysistrata.”
When the crew decided on performing the Greek comedy – which tells the story of Athens women’s efforts to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sex from their husbands and lovers – they wanted to put a twist on it by setting it in a more contemporary setting.
“[The UAFS theatre program] was much more student-focused and gave undergraduates the chance to actually build something. I had never had a chance to sit down with a department head and talk about goals before. I hadn’t had that kind of interaction at my previous school.”
They considered several settings – from the Civil War to the 1960’s – before Harris remembered a story his grandmother told him about Chicago in the Prohibition era.
“She told me about how in Chicago, gangsters were targeting the children and wives of rival gangsters, so the women from both sides actually banded together and didn’t sleep with the men until they promised they wouldn’t shoot women and children anymore,” Harris said. “Which is exactly the plot of ‘Lysistrata.’ It kind of blew my mind.”
With that in mind, the crew adapted the play to be set in Chicago during the Roaring ‘20s.
Harris hopes his work as director will help boost his resume for graduate school applications, as he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in directing. Three years after deciding to pursue his dream, Harris is confident he made the right decision.
“When I arrived at Fort Smith, Bob [Stevenson] was looking at ways for me to get involved immediately,” he said. “I learn well hands-on, and being able to get my hands dirty quickly has really helped me with my education. My education has significantly improved because of how interactive it is here.”
Tickets for “Lysistrata” are $6 for general admission and free to UAFS students, faculty and staff. For tickets, visit www.tickets.uafs.edu or contact the UAFS Box Office at 479-788-7300.
For more information about “Lysistrata,” contact Stevenson at 479-788-7303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.