BWW Interviews: Tony Nominee, Sam Harris, Celebrates Release of New Book, HAM: SLICES OF A LIFE
Celebrating the release of his new book, HAM: Slices of a Life, (a collection of stories and essays - Simon & Schuster), Tony Award nominee, Sam Harris, will make his San Francisco, Feinstein's at the Nikko, debut in a show of the same name on Friday, January 24 at 8 PM. and Saturday, January 25 at 7 PM. BroadwayWorld fans won't want to miss it! And, just to give you taste of what's to come, the following is an extended interview that Sam Harris most graciously did with BWW's Linda Hodges.
LINDA: Sam Harris, as I live and breathe! What a thrill to be interviewing you for BroadwayWorld. 30 years ago this month you were the hit sensation on television's first talent competition, Star Search and have gone on to have an amazing career. And now you're an author with a collection of essays and stories in your debut book called, "Ham: Slices of a Life."
SAM: So happy to be chatting with you! Yes, 30 years. I can't believe that's true. Of course I was only 5 years old at the time.... Okay, not five, but I was young. This new venture with the book is so exciting for me. I've written for the stage and TV but the idea of a book was something I always wanted to do but it seemed so large.
LINDA: I have to give a shout-out to your publisher, Gallery Books, (Simon & Schuster) for sending me an advance copy. But fans won't have to wait long to get their own copy. "Ham: Slices of a Life" is scheduled for release on January 14th but can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now. I highly recommend it. It's a fabulous and funny, tasty treat of a read; sweet and savory with just right touch of tang. How's that for a one sentence review? Take that, Esquire Magazine, LOL. But we both agree that your book is a hit.
SAM: That's a GREAT once sentence review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book and agree with Esquire. It's an exciting time for me.
LINDA: In celebration of the release, you're touring the country with your new show which is a feast of stories and songs based on "Ham." (You can catch Sam at Feinstein's at the Nikko for two performances only, January 24-25; see below for details). BroadwayWorld fans, you won't want to miss Sam's "Liter-Usical" - a theatrical hybrid of excerpts from the book artfully interspersed with Broadway and pop songs.
SAM: It's a real theatre piece. In most cities we're in theatres, but in San Francisco we're doing it at Feinstein's and I am really looking forward to it. I love SF audiences. The best. And this show is something very different - as you said, a hybrid piece I call a "liter-usical" cause it's literary AND musical. But it's not just readings and songs. It's something we've crafted as show. It was a challenge to choose which stories I would tell. I'd love to read the whole thing, but we'd be there for days and I'd have to feed everybody. So we structured different elements to create a more theatrical arc.
LINDA: I know that your shows all have an element of the personal, but this one is totally based on your life growing up gay in Oklahoma at a time when it wasn't safe to be out (and maybe still isn't), the early years of playing every awful club in LA, your big break on Star Search and all that that brought - to getting married and having a baby. What are the challenges of doing a show about your own life? What are you having the most fun with?
SAM: I've always been one who kind of tells it all on stage, but this is a whole 'nother animal. Much more out there. More raw. The book and the show are mostly humorous, but I do hit on many very personal elements of my life, including growing up gay in the Bible belt when there were NO role models or examples of anyone gay, especially gay and happy. The book and show covers so many different aspects of my life. The book is non-chronological, but there is a sense of through line, even out of order. There is a sense of triumph and discovery. And a lot of absurdity.
LINDA: You write that at seven years old, you knew what you wanted to do. Did you ever waver from that? I mean, were there ever thoughts of going into dentistry or perhaps archeology?
SAM: Dentistry nearly drew me away and yes, archeology is still an option... But no, I was lucky that I always knew. I knew before 7, but that's when circumstances illuminated a conscious choice. I've never waivered, but I've tried to explore all aspects within, well, storytelling I guess. Performing my own stuff, being in shows and plays and TV shows, directing - whatever calls to me at the time. And now the book. It's been a great ride so far. Up and down and sideways. But it's all variations of storytelling. That's what I am, I guess. A storyteller.