Daytonian of the Week: Chris Harmon, Town Hall Theatre

If you're an avid supporter of Dayton's theater scene, you've more than likely seen a set designed by Chris Harmon.

Over the past 15 years, Harmon, 41, has contributed a wonderful array of designs for Beavercreek Community Theatre, Dayton Playhouse, Sinclair Community College and Town Hall Theatre.

He recently added Dayton Theatre Guild to his roster. His beautiful designs for Sinclair’s “Intimate Apparel” and “Pride and Prejudice” were particularly striking.

In addition to a penchant for sets, Harmon is a sought-after director of musicals. His productions of “Legally Blonde” (BCT), “Spring Awakening” (BCT), “The Wiz” (Sinclair), “Bare: A Pop Opera” (Sinclair), and “The Producers” (DP) have been notable standouts.

His future directorial projects include the regional premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s race relations drama “Blood at the Root” for Sinclair in April and “Dreamgirls” for Beavercreek at the beginning of next season.

At the moment, in addition to fine-tuning the set for Beavercreek's upcoming production of "And Then There Were None," he is assessing his new position as Artistic Director of Town Hall Theatre in Centerville where he has routinely served as director and designer.

Here's your chance to get to know this talented Beavercreek native, who was inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame in 2013 and is the recipient of 45 DayTony Awards. He also happens to be our Daytonian of the Week.

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What fueled your love of the arts? 

When I was an elementary school student, I was very shy and quiet. I am an only child and would often play by myself. However, I was in the school chorus and was chosen to sing a solo at a school assembly. I was mortified. But somehow I overcame my stage fright and that year auditioned to be an ensemble member in the high school musical, which was “Fiddler on the Roof.” I was one of the sons in “Tradition” and held an end of the wedding canopy. I really caught the theater bug and have been involved ever since.

What are some of your favorite plays and/or musicals? 

“Chicago,” “Into the Woods,” “Falsettos,” “She Kills Monsters,” “The Little Mermaid.”

You are an actor, director and designer. Do you enjoy each discipline equally or do you have a special admiration for one over another? 

Sadly, I have not been on stage for about seven years. I love to act, but I am terrible at the discipline of memorizing lines. But somehow I don’t mind spending days painting bricks on a set. I think that is when you know that you have found your calling – when the tedious parts of the job are a joy. Designing and scene painting can be a lonely job though, so I think directing fits my needs to be interactive and creative at the same time.

What have been your favorite roles, directing assignments or scenic designs over the years? 

Two of my favorite roles are Orin the Dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Dayton Playhouse, and Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show” at Beavercreek Community Theatre. There is just something so fun about being able to play things over the top.

You are the youngest member of the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame and the record-holder for the most DayTonys. How does it feel to be a part of a theater community that embraces your work?

For me, theater is all about collaboration and a good work ethic. I have learned from every artist that I have worked with and owe my successes to them and a great deal of hours toiling away.

I think the DayTonys are a great way to bring all the theaters together, but can be problematic with who receives the recognition. Art is subjective and I think the organization does the best they can. I have had some of what I felt was my best work overlooked and received recognition for some that I thought were lacking. It’s just five evaluators opinions, often with the highest and lowest tossed out. I have been fortunate to have been recognized and it has really helped my visibility in town.

Being inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame among many other artists that I look up to was a great honor.

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You were recently chosen as Town Hall Theatre's new Artistic Director. What is your vision for the company and its programming? What do you hope to implement for future seasons? 

Town Hall Theatre currently has very full seasons with six Mainstage shows, four Showcase shows, and many theater class offerings. I hope to maintain this while possibly moving a show to summer to entice the older students back. Most often we lose high school age students to their own high school shows.

I would like to make the season more diverse with some shows that appeal to any age range. Town Hall also used to have a touring program that I would like to start back up, probably not next season, but maybe the following. I would also like to increase Town Hall’s visibility in the community to show the quality, professionally designed productions we have to offer. We are very fortunate to be a program supported by the Washington Township Recreation Center.

What do you love the most about Dayton's arts scene? 

It is always willing to share. I do work at many different venues and have been able to borrow furniture, costumes, props, anything really. It seems like budgets for productions are always tight, so being able to obtain resources from other theaters make for a better production.

In what ways would you like to see Dayton's arts scene improve? 

I would like to see more donors and sponsors give to local theaters. They are the ones producing and making art for affordable prices. People say they give to the arts, but often it is to a venue that brings touring shows to town. Even though they help the local audience, it is not helping local artists. If there were more donors, these smaller theaters would be able to offer newer, edgier, more cutting edge work they are passionate about instead of that one musical based on that one movie that always sells tickets.

What are some of your favorite Dayton locations/spots/venues? 

Theater-wise, I have always enjoyed working for Sinclair, Beavercreek Community Theatre and Town Hall. I most enjoy collaborating with the people at those venues. As for other places, I am a thrift store junky and love to look for chachki at Valley Thrift on Woodman Drive. I also like locally owned restaurants like Arepas, Taqueria Mixteca, Christopher’s and even a greasy spoon diner like Hasty Tasty. My favorite bar is The Right Corner, downtown.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Dayton? 

I am always stunned when someone says there is nothing to do in Dayton. You could see three different theater productions alone almost every weekend!

What inspires you the most about Dayton?

I think Dayton is the best big little town. I like that I can go anywhere and usually run into somebody I know. I am one who does not like to ignore coincidences, so I always have to go up to somebody and see what they have to say.

What are your hopes for the future of Dayton? 

Dayton has always been an innovative city that is rich in arts, culture and diversity. I would love to see more professional opportunities for the Dayton theater community.

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