Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Daniel Harmon comes from a family of creative minds. His father attended The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and is one of the top professional graphic artists and Colorists in the United States. It comes as no surprise to us that Daniel, following his dad’s lead is on his way to becoming one of the well known actors of his time. We had the opportunity to speak to Daniel and we would like to share the interview with you. Please join us in congratulating him on his outstanding performance.
Q- Hi Daniel, Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
A- My name is Daniel Harmon. I’m 14 years old. I live in Pennsylvania from the United States. I’ve always been a natural actor, but in 2013, right before my 12th birthday, I started taking acting classes at Gemini Theatre. I took them for two semesters. In the middle of 2015, I auditioned for a role in Oliver Twist. I love playing card games, and my favorite pastime is beatboxing
Q- What was auditioning like? I know some people are terrified of the experience.
A- Auditioning was a bit nerve-wracking. The director of the play is a very intimidating-looking man, so when I walked into the studio and saw him, I was quaking in my boots. After I started reading the lines they gave me, though, the anxiety sort of melted away. I left the audition feeling pretty good about myself. I later got an email asking me to come back and read some more, and I knew that the entire audition hinged on how well I did. So I went back and started reading more lines for them, and they had me start over again and again. Finally the director just thumped his hands on the table and said “Alright, I’m satisfied” almost as if he were frustrated with me. I left the studio and I had the feeling that I knew I blew it. Later, they emailed me saying that I had done well and they would like me to be in the play.
Q- That’s wonderful Daniel! How long have you been acting and what inspired you to do it? Do you enjoy it?
A_ I’ve been acting pretty much since I was old enough to know how to lie. It comes to me naturally, pretty much. I was inspired to do it to professionally when I realized how much I loved it. I really really enjoy it. I took classes for about two years before I stopped. I replaced the acting classes with the actual production. Acting is one of the highlights of my life for several reasons. I like the ability to slip in and out of characters and become somebody different every time. I like pushing myself to become different people and to see how far I can stretch myself. It’s difficult to act as somebody with a personality that contrasts yours, so it’s an incredible challenge to play certain characters. On the other hand, it also lets you know more about yourself. If you have trouble playing a character, it can reveal parts of your personality you didn’t necessarily know about before.
Q- Could you please tell us a little about the play?
A- The play we did was “Oliver Twist”, based off of the famous classic novel of the same name written by Charles Dickens produced by PICT Theatre. One thing interesting about this play it how it stuck to the original message of the book. There’s a well-known adaptation of the story known as “Oliver!”, which is a rather light-hearted musical. As I like to say, in this play, we skipped the singing and dancing and went straight to the child abuse and murder. It was definitely a grittier version than a lot of others. The characters, rather than being people, are more like symbolism. They’re archetypes, they symbolize different aspects of society. Although the play is very dark and gritty, it still manages to remain humorous. A lot of the scenes are devoted almost entirely to comic relief, but they still carry a lot of the plot with them. That’s another thing, the story was all plot. The director cut out any scenes that were unnecessary. We told a story, we told it fast, we told it hard, and we got the message across. None of the characters in the play are silent, they all have at least one line that other characters rely on. Every single character is important: if they weren’t, they definitely would not be there. The whole play was gritty, hard, fast-paced, and with a smooth flow. It really packed a punch and it really told the important story behind it.
Q- We’ve heard some wonderful stories about the people at the Gemini Theatre, could you please elaborate on that?
A- Gemini Theatre is a fantastic place. Everybody there is very professional when they need to be, but they know how to interact with and connect with the kids and students. Rather than making it seem educational, they make it fun. Instead of trying to drill things into our heads, they put it into a game. When teaching us to remain alert on stage and to keep our ears open for our cues, we played games that involved passing things from one person to the next. Throwing a ball around the room to your classmates, games where you have to pay close attention to their actions, games where you had to improvise based on a small prompt. It taught a lot of useful skills that can be used on every stage. The teachers were incredibly nice and managed the students incredibly well. If you couldn’t make it to a class, they didn’t care, they just let you come to the next one. They taught a plethora of skills that really stuck with all of the students, and I’ll remember all the Gemini Theatre teachers I had for the rest of my life.
Q- What role did you play? Did you enjoy it?
A- I played a very small part, I was technically credited as “Boy #2”. I played a boy in a workhouse and I also played a pickpocket. I was never technically given a name, but amongst the other boys and the cast members, they referred to my character by the name of “Edward Meriweather”, which I created myself. Did I enjoy it? Immensely! I spent six days a week, a few hours a day hanging out with other actors my age that I went on stage with. My parts were incredibly fun to play. I got to have the honor of helping to bully the character of Oliver Twist, which was very fun. The entire cast was filled with some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Any time you made a mistake it was quickly forgiven and forgotten, or quickly corrected. It was some of the most fun I’ve had in my life.
Q- We always wondered about the makeup part of a play, we would love to hear your side on the process.
A- Hehe, well, my makeup process was a bit different from the others. The other boys and I had to look grimy, greasy, and dirty onstage. So the stage managers burnt a bunch of corks and put the ashes in a container. We had to rub ash all over our faces and arms and legs, pretty much every inch of exposed skin. They also gave us pomade, or hair grease. We had to rub it in our hair and make it look greasy and make it sort of stick out. Our characters didn’t wash very often. All in all, it was very fun! Except when we ran out of ash and we had to wait like 20 minutes for the managers to burn more, so we were wandering around backstage half-filthy, half freshly-showered.
Q- Very funny! Anyone you would like to thank for the whole experience?
A- Absolutely! I would love to thank my two acting teachers, Lani and Steph, the director for the play, Alan Stanford, the company manager, Cassidy Atkins. I would also love to thank my father, who inspired my natural love for acting, as well as the entire cast of “Oliver Twist”! Particularly the other kids I worked with: Elliot Pullen, Simon Colker, Justin Bees, Jacob Epstein, Lance Wilhelm, Carolyn Jerz, Charity Hipple, and William Sendera.
Q- Any humorous stories you want to share with our readers?
A- Oh man, there are a lot. A lot of times we would stand above one another on the spiral stairway and play what we called “4D Frisbee”, where we threw our hats up and down and left and right and had to catch them. We had up to five players once, and of course we each had a hat, so there were hats flying in every direction. There was also a repeated humorous joke wherein we would imitate voices cracking, as one of the actors had repeated voice cracks onstage. Even now, the name “Anne Hathaway” is guaranteed to make the entirety of the kids laugh.
Q- What do you think of Human Diaries?
A- I think Human Diaries is a very fun and interesting way to learn about other experiences. It’s a great way to learn about the lives of other people and to learn life experience.
Photography: Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh