A Little Potato and Hard to Peel
nytheatre.com q&a preview by David Harrell
September 21, 2012
What is your job on this show?
playwright and actor.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I grew up in South Georgia and would perform in musicals at my church as a kid but I never thought about theatre, I was too much into sports. Until one day a girl I had a crush on told me she saw a flyer inviting people to audition for the drama class! "You'd be really cute on stage" she said. I went directly to audition for the class! I got in and was cast in THE BUTLER DID IT that fall. I never found love with the girl I had a crush on but I totally fell in love with the theatre that year and we've been together ever since!
If you are performing in the piece you wrote, do you think another actor could also play this role?
Ha ha! People always tease me that since my play is about growing up with only one hand I'll never have to worry about another actor playing the role! But there are more and more kids out there with limb differences that are doing amazing things so maybe there will be another actor out there one day but I think their story will be just as interesting as mine.
In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
I think this show is about a human journey. The silly title comes from a story my grandfather would tell me as a child. He told me that his little league baseball team was called the LITTLE POTATOES AND HARD TO PEEL. They were smaller than the other kids and maybe not as talented but they always played with their hearts, so no matter if they won or lost, they never got down because on the inside they were tough and hard to peel! I always thought he was serious. As I grew up I understood that it was really a metaphor for life, we have to be true to who we are and not let circumstances peel away the core of our humanity. I think audiences will take away a sense of the universality of my personal experience and how we are all truly connected.
Which famous solo performer has been most inspirational to you: Spalding Gray, John Leguizamo, Lily Tomlin, or Whoopi Goldberg?
I would say John Leguizamo has been the most influential. I was inspired by the way he used his family and would go from one character to another with such ease. I also like the energy and pace in his work.
How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is very important to me and plays a huge role in my work. I think the theatre can play a large role in helping our understanding of different cultures and different experiences. I never thought about disability for much of my life but now I realize it will always be a part of my work. In this show, obviously my disability plays a large role in the story. In my other work as an actor, I used to say I'd give the audience 5 minutes to notice my hand and then it was my responsibility to be doing something so much more interesting they would forget about it. I've changed my thought on this recently, I don't want the audience to forget. I want to be interesting but I want my hand to be part of the tapestry of the character. The audience can be moved by a person who is maybe a little different living in the given circumstances of the play and that is something they can take out of the theatre and begin to see in their daily lives.