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From MCLA to the Tonys

07/03/2013

Back when he was a theater student at MCLA, little did Patrick Harris '08 know that his job soon would take him to the Tonys, where he'd be seated just down the aisle from Tom Hanks and Signourney Weaver.  But that's exactly what happened earlier this year, when he traveled to New York City with Boston's Huntington Theatre Company to join his co-workers as they accepted the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall.

"I would never, ever have believed it. I just loved being in theater at MCLA, and here I was at the pinnacle of the theater world. It's huge," Harris said.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience - but I hope it's not once in a lifetime," Harris quickly added. "I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd actually be able to be at the Tony Awards. I'd never been to Radio City Music Hall. We got to sit behind the sound booths. Seeing how they were directing the show for television was amazing.

"And seeing all these celebrities, I was so overwhelmed. I'm pretty sure my mouth was open the whole night because it was all so unbelievable," he said.

The award was presented during a commercial break of the television show.

"We were cheering and screaming. I thought we were going to be in the nosebleed seats, but we were right there. We were sitting right behind the cast of one of the musicals that was nominated for best musical. It was pretty cool."

After the awards ceremony, the group attended an after party sponsored by the Huntington -Boston's leading professional theatre, that brings together world-class theatre artists from Boston and Broadway. The party was held in a restaurant that overlooks Times Square.

"Walking into the room to see a panorama of Times Square, was incredible," Harris said. "It was a very out-of-body experience."

Harris, who's originally from Pittsfield, Mass., has been a box office associate at Huntington's Calderwood Pavilion for the past two years. He graduated from MCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine and Performing Arts, with a concentration in theater.

While at MCLA, he acted in Main Stage shows, and was heavily involved with the Dance Company and the Harlequin club, which produces musicals. In addition to his work with the Huntington, Harris continues to act. He's presently in a musical produced by the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company, Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, where he plays President Nixon's would-be assassin, Sam Byck.

MCLA, Harris said, is a great place to study theater.

"The liberal arts education gave me a wide range of things that I learned and applied toward my theater major," he explained. "And I loved the smallness of the school. If you go to one of these big conservatories, you're going to be like a small fish in a big pond. But at MCLA, you're going to thrive."

The clubs Harris joined while at MCLA allowed him to add to his theater experience as they provided a way for him to put what he learned about directing and producing shows into practice.

"I was hands-on in a lot of areas. I worked with the costume department and with set design, along with classes I took on those things. Any area of theater that I wanted to go into, it gave me that preparation.

"My professors taught me a lot," he continued. "I didn't know how much I appreciated the technical side of theatre until I took classes in that. That really helped me think as an actor and a director to take those types of classes. Within my theater major, I had to study all aspects of it. When I'm acting now, I can appreciate costumes and lighting design and set design because I took classes in it. It all fits together."

Photo credit: Peter Lau Photography