5 Questions I’ve Never Been Asked: Bruce Robert Harris
Producer Bruce Robert Harris is having a great month. He didn’t communicate that in quite so many words to the Clyde Fitch Report, but one can readily conclude it by a fast survey of what he’s up to.
For example, Harris is a lead producer of My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, Leslie Jordan’s solo show (based on his same-name memoir) running Off-Broadway. The production, featuring the dreamily impish 4-foot-11 actor-comic waxing gaily about his show business exploits, sports Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner as co-producers along with Jack W. Batman, Harris’ longtime producing partner, and others. The show, which opened Apr. 19, will run for 12 weeks.
And it’s teamed with the delightfully named Batman that Harris is also presenting the fourth annual Gayfest NYC, a five-week look at new LGBT-themed plays, with all proceeds benefiting Harvey Milk High School. The festival runs May 6 to June 6 at the Abingdon Theatre (312 W. 36th St.). The line-up is: R. Jonathan Chapman and Kevin Stefan’s Romeo and Hamlet, F.J. Hartland’s Mother Tongue, Adam Siegel’s The Legacy, and a musical called This One Girl’s Story, with book by Bil Wright, score by Dionne McClain-Freeney and direction by Devanand Janki.
In this year’s Gayfest there is also a special event: veteran gay character actor, classic movie lover and previous CFR guest Steve Hayes stars in the world premiere of Steve Hayes: Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Live!, based on Hayes’ popular YouTube show.
Here’s a little more on Harris:
He is the Associate Producer at the White Plains Performing Arts Center of the Main Stage Performances and Director of Marketing and Advertising.
Mr. Harris holds a BFA from The Juilliard School of Music and is a graduate of the Commercial Theater Institute.
And he is going to be one of the next major Broadway commercial producers. Which is good, because we need more of the good ones!
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
People have asked both my co-producer, Jack W. Batman, and I how a play came to us or why we have chosen to produce a particular piece. Our passion and skills as producers have always found our way to plays that rise to the top of the pile to give us a chance to discover and visualize this for our audiences.
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“Why always gay-themed plays?” We laugh — the festival is called Gayfest NYC.
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“Why don’t you get paid, are you crazy?” Well, maybe, but both Jack and I believe the work is important to us and the small team we assemble each year believes, as we do, that it is important to speak and be heard — and these plays this year are as entertaining as they are educational. I hope everyone comes to see them. Plus, we are a not-for-profit organization raising money to help the Harvey Milk High School. We think that is important enough!
4) Not only as a commercial producer but as an American man, what does a show like My Trip Down the Pink Carpet really mean to you? What is, in your view, the most affecting moment in the show? What’s the hardest moment to watch?
My Trip Down The Pink Carpet crosses many barriers. It does not only deal with one man struggling to find his identity and accept himself. I personally think it speaks to everyone in the audience, gay and straight, about issues we constantly deal with in our our lives. It makes us stand up and “own” who we are and what we are — and this, in my opinion, is the heart and soul of the show.
The most defining moments of the show is its message, which comes across and hits you in the face like a smack just about 10 minutes before the end of the show.
There isn’t a hard moment to watch. I find education, learning, growing and interior thoughts the hardest. When you truly have to look at yourself in comparison to others and what they have gone through. The brilliance of Leslie Jordan is his own writing is how he teaches us all to look deep inside a most unusual and touching way.
5) You’ve co-produced Gayfest for four years. Why are gay plays still important? As gay life becomes integrated with American life, how do you respond to the argument that the theater needs less and less gay-themed writing?
We are a playwrights’ organization that once a year presents an annual festival of new works. We think it is vitally important to encourage the writing of plays that address the issues that our community struggles with every day. As we’ve said in the past, it takes many years, huge talent and a lot of luck to become a Terrence McNally, a Charles Busch or a Douglas Carter Beane (all of whom are on our advisory board, by the way). So, we encourage emerging writers to take up the pen and follow their lead. We develop new work so that LGBT plays can be seen on other stages around the world. We are thrilled that so many new works are coming to Broadway and Off-Broadway, but we realize that this is still New York City, and there are thousands of places both in this country and around the world where LGBT plays have never been seen. So our mission hasn’t changed over our four-year existence. In fact, our resolve has been strengthened. We know we’re doing the right thing.
6) Thematically and dramatically, what do the pieces selected for this year’s Gayfest NYC offer to straight audiences? How do you make sure they’ll know it?
Very interesting question. Jack and I have always felt there should be something for everyone in the festival. We try to keep it well-rounded. We have a play, a musical, a drama with an unhappy ending and a Shakespearean play about marriage equality this year, for example. Both Jack and I have a mission to educate and entertain. You would be surprised to know most people who see one show come back to see all the shows or buys a festival pass. Straight audiences have found the value in the work and often these are the people buying tickets. It constantly surprises us all the wonderful comments we receive on the plays we produce.