Burlesque and adult gay film star Chris Harder first came onto my radar in 2013 when I saw Chris perform in The Robin Byrd Show at The Cutting Room. I remember being quite taken by Chris' performance. I spoke with Chris after that show and we were going to try to do an interview at some point, but our schedules did not gel.
Well, when I found out that Chris was presenting the world premiere of his one-man show, #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre this spring, and that David Drake was directing, I knew the stars were aligning. Quicker than a premature ejaculation, I called and both Chris and David answered! I'm thrilled that, like Batman, I get to slide down their poles, peel back the sheets and reveal all that Chris and David have to offer!
Using theatre, burlesque, and like, so many #instagood emojis, #BigBrightStar relives Harders' defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped his career. But as he delves further between the sheets, Harder may just discover that a life on camera is ironically, "harder" than he thought. Trust, you'll never tweet #OMFG the same way again.
#BigBrightStar will The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of The West Bank Cafe) from May 27-June 15! Click here for tickets!
1. This May/June, Chris, you wrote/are starring in and David, you are directing, #BigBrightStar, which relives the defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped Chris' career. First, off, how did the two of you come to work together on this project?
Chris Harder: It's funny because even though David and I have a lot of friends in common we had never actually met. I had just finished a private reading of #BigBrightStar a few months ago and was looking for a
director. I needed someone who not only felt comfortable with the subject matter but who also had a sense of humor and play that is so much apart of #BigBrightStar. David was at the top of several of my friends' lists and after a phone call with him, I felt like he was the perfect match for the show. And luckily he said yes!
David Drake: I’d seen Chris perform at the Slipper Room last year and was very impressed. So, when our mutual friend Lola Rocknrolla recommended me to Chris as a director for his show, I didn’t hesitate to jump right into the process. And since then we’ve been having a great time working together on the script and characters. He’s such a good writer! He really has a terrific sense of humor about himself and others, while also being very disciplined about keeping it all grounded in truth. I love that. Plus, I’m a laugh whore -- and Chris is just so damn funny!
David Drake: Even though all of it comes from truth, Chris is a wonderful satirist. So, the challenge for me in directing #BigBrightStar has been in finding the line we walk between the burlequse-ery of the characters
and their heart-beating reality. There’s a constant duality at play here, just like Chris himself -- he’s both a serious theater artist and a joyous exhibitionist. That he can act, write, and strip makes Chris a daunting showbiz triple-threat.
3. What do you relate to most about Chris' story?
David Drake: The courageous gayness of his childhood, I think. We both had an early awakening to the charms of Barbie dolls. But I also identify with his constant struggle of maintaining a successful showbiz career, and the endless amount of work and energy one must pour into that lifestyle -- if only, in the end of the day, to entertain folks. Which, of course, can mean everything to a performer.
4. You are a burlesque dancer and a gay adult film star. How did you decide to get into this line of work? I mean, with your body, I can see why you would want to show it off, but what was it about both industries that appealed to you?
Chris Harder: It was an accident! At least burlesque was an accident. I moved to NYC from North Dakota to be a "serious" actor and I had no idea that any of these nightlife scenes existed. I was very "Johnny off the farm" but through a series of events involving me working as a children's theatre actor and then losing my job as a waiter, I found myself dancing at the Cock and from there I met all these wonderful nightlife
performers and creators. What I love about burlesque and also writing this show is that YOU are the producer of your work. That's something that wasn't emphasized to me in my "traditional" acting training.
And even though I was loving working in burlesque, I also was barely making any money at the time. Porn opened me up to even more exposure (sorry, I love puns). Plus, I felt comfortable enough in my body and
there is a quality of being seen in porn that is similar but still very different from being seen onstage. It's a different arousal for me. Also, the fact that you mention my body in your question also reminds me that I was genuinely so surprised after moving to New York that I could utilize my body in those ways, whether it was burlesque or go-go dancing or porn. I was just never "seen" like that growing up. I was always "sweet," or "nerdy" or "that weird theatre guy." The idea that I could be "the sexy guy" and make money for it, blew my mind. For starters.
5. I bet over the course of your career a lot of guys have wanted to play with you. So, let's give them that opportunity. The show's description has you peeling back the sheets to reveal even more than the defining moments you speak of. What does it take to get you into bed for an evening of unbridled passion and what happens from there? How does one win your heart should it be available?
Chris Harder: Well it's kind of like RuPaul's Drag Race where I make everyone do a catwalk and then play "Snatch Game" and the best Carol Channing gets to top me. But seriously folks...just like my scenes, I really am attracted to a variety of guys, ages, even hairiness. The "man-bun" really stretches my limits, but, I'm flexible. Ultimately I want to be with a guy who can make me laugh, who is passionate about his own work
and has his own purpose, and who's weirdo qualities are compatible with mine.
Chris Harder: I had a moment writing the show where I was tallying up past scenes and partners and studios I've worked with and I suddenly thought, "Wow, I really have done a lot." I try to be objective about what "stardom" means both in my life and in #BigBrightStar, but that realization gave me a sudden lift in my confidence because whether I'm performing on stage or in front of a camera, there's always a part of me that thinks, "No one is going to like me." It's a very "They're all going to laugh at you" kind of mentality. I think most, if not all, performers deal with some version of that voice in their own work. But writing this show was a reminder to me that, "Yeah, I actually did do all that...plus all those guys."
7. What was the "hardest" moment of the show to write? What was the most fun?
Chris Harder: The hardest moment of the show is and has been writing about what I learned from the adult industry that 1) doesn't make me sound like a victim or criminalize the industry and 2) still allows for
vulnerability and perspective to shine through at the show's conclusion. I am truly #grateful for my experiences in porn, even if they weren't always what I thought or hoped they'd be.
The most FUN parts though are creating these broad characters from my imagination and my past that reflect different perspectives about gay porn. Without giving away too much, I may or may not play (a version of) my mom, my childhood pastor, and a slightly demented, beloved American cartoon.
Chris Harder: One of the nicest, most "real" moments I had with a fan was a person who told me that my films gave them much needed relief after dealing with some major family issues, including having to put their mother in a nursing home. I am very close with my mom and to have all those worlds kind of collide in that conversation was really mind blowing. Porn can be sexy and kinky but it can also just make the viewer feel
"good." And sometimes that is enough.
I haven't had a superior creepy moment, BUT, I was getting checked into a flight once and the steward double and then triple checked my boarding pass. Finally he blurted out, "It really is you! And you really are Harder!" I still didn't get an upgrade.
9. Since the show is called #BIGBRIGHTSTAR, what do you consider to be your "Big Bright Star" that keeps you going towards what you want?
Chris Harder: No matter what stage (or bed) I'm on, I ultimately consider myself an entertainer. I think what helps get me out of bed each day especially now is knowing that I get to create work on my own terms that can entertain but also elevate. That's my purpose with #BigBrightStar.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day?
Chris Harder: Here's a "Top-Secret-Porn-Star Tip": practice patience. Both with yourself and others. One of the ideas I explore in #BigBrightStar is always running, always pushing to get what you want. But "good" work doesn't happen overnight, and even porn scenes can take a while to reach their climax. Sometimes you just need to take a moment and breath. And, you know, wait for your scene partner to get his erection back.
David Drake: Since mental fitness is of importance to me as well as physical fitness, I would pledge to doing more meditation. Five minutes a day can make a world of difference in my outlook for the day. With the political nightmare our country's in right now, I need that center more than ever. We all do.
Chris Harder is a NYC burlesque performer, writer, and yes, an "adult film star." Chris has traveled the US and the world with his beefcake burlesque shows, including headlining the 2017 Helsinki Burlesque Festival as well as performances in New Zealand, Vienna, London and...Fargo, North Dakota. Chris is also the writer and creator of the Nasty Drew and That Harder Boy Series, a burlesque/drag parody of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels running at The Laurie Beechman Theatre.
David Drake is an actor-writer-director best known as the Obie Award-winning playwright/performer of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, one of the longest-running solo shows in Off-Broadway history. David also starred in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (succeeding Charles Busch for 856 performances), originated the role of "Miss Deep South" in the hit Pageant, as well as co-starring with Jim J. Bullock in End of the World Party at the 47th St. Theater, and with B.D. Wong in A Language of Their Own at The Public. His TV credits: The Good Wife, Law & Order, The Beat, NY Undercover. Feature films: Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, as well as It’s Pat, Naked in New York, David Searching, Bear City, Longtime Companion, and his own adaptation of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. As a stage director, David has twice been a Directing Fellow at the Sundance Theater Lab, and has directed new works at The Public’s Under the Radar Festival, Joe’s Pub, and Rattlestick, among others. Most notably, David directed the 2009 world premiere of Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge, which made the "10 Best Lists" in The New Yorker, NY Post, The Advocate, Paper Magazine, and won a 2010 Village Voice Obie Award.