Chris Harder is known for his work on the PornHub screen, but now he is looking to establish himself somewhere else: the stage. His work as a burlesque performer has already earned some rave reviews, but it’s his new one-man show that aims to establish him as an actor and writer.
#BigBrightStar follows Harder (his real name) on a journey, exploring the path that led him to working in gay porn. From embodying himself as a child playing with Barbies to portraying his own mother dishing about Thanksgiving politics, Harder does a great job stepping into a myriad of roles and making each one distinct from one another.
Harder playfully interacts with the audience, filled with gay men who are probably used to lusting over his portfolio of work with a bottle of Lubriderm in one hand. This time, he wins them over not with just his good looks and chest hair, but also with some wit and raw emotion.
The piece isn’t perfect, but for its first time up on stage, it’s a refreshing, enlightening and empowering look at the gay porn industry and one of its shining stars. There are two more opportunities for New Yorkers to catch #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in Midtown Manhattan.
We had the opportunity to ask Chris Harder some questions about the show, porn and pride. Here is what he told us.
What inspired you to do this show?
I’ve wanted to write a show about the adult industry that a took a step away from the usual “I got into porn and it ruined my life” narrative. I also wanted to create a show for myself that allowed me to get back into writing and acting and combine those loves with my burlesque career.
Tell us about the process. You wrote the entire show yourself, correct?
Correct, no ghost writers or stunt dicks here, folks! I started writing #BigBrightStar a little over a year ago. I just tried to sneak time in whenever I could — flights to porn shoots, trips on the subway, Sunday mornings after a show weekend. I also did several private readings for peers and friends at Abrons Art Center, which graciously gave me performance and writing space. Finally, two months ago, I started working with the absolutely incredible writer/performer/director David Drake. David helped me further shape and quite frankly edit my script and get to the, uh, meat of my material.
The scene where you play your mom is probably the most touching moment in the piece. What was her reaction when she found out you started to do porn?
Absolute disappointment. But also, I think fear, and I feel like those are understandable reactions that any parent might have if their child told them they decided to try a career in porn. But I am also very fortunate because in the very least, I can have an open dialogue with both my parents about my life. I came out to my family when I was fifteen and that pretty much set into place a pattern of quarreling and reconciling that has ultimately made my relationships with all my family so much stronger. My dad even just saw me perform for the first time in a burlesque competition this past weekend.
Putting that mom character into the show (because like every character she has “parts” of my mother with a little magic added in) was important to me because again, while I think #BigBrightStar is ultimately hopeful and sex positive, there is the reality of having to deal with how my career can (and does) affect the people that I love most in my life. It’s not a “the prodigal son returns because porn is bad” kind of show, but I don’t think it’s truthful to put some kind of “porn utopia” onstage either.
Will she see the show?
I don’t know, I hope to tour it so we’ll see! If so, I need to get a better wig!
What is the biggest misconception about artists who work in porn?
I think the biggest misconception is that porn stars (and sex workers) can only be valued for their bodies. In general, we are skeptical of anyone who aspires to become the next “thing” on his or her career path–I catch myself being guilty of this, too, at times. But I think people can be especially resistant to allowing the professionally naked to be seen as anything but a literal work tool.
How does your piece attempt to break down those misconceptions about porn and about yourself?
Not to be all Mary Sunshine, but I’ve really tried to imbue #BigBrightStar with my personality and especially my sense of humor. I learned early on as a stripper that if you can make your audience believe you’re smart and/or funny, they will remember you more than any other performer no matter how sexy the next person onstage may be. Whether people come to #BigBrightStar with low expectations or just really loving porn and sex, my goal is to give them something they did not see, well… coming.
What is your favorite thing about being a person who works in the porn industry?
I learned a lot about my sexuality and the power of my body through doing porn, specifically, that I could capably use my body to support myself and do so in a way that didn’t make me feel disrespected or used. I learned to separate “work sex” from “personal sex” and I also discovered the simple joy of living in the moment on camera and being as equally uninhibited and unapologetic as possible.
Where does your pride as a gay man come from?
My pride as a gay man comes from the queer “elders” and role models I’ve met throughout my life in the queer community. Some of them are the solid, strong and gloriously fabulous queers of the Midwest who befriended me right away and gave me courage to be myself in rural America. And many of my role models are the performers and weirdos of New York City who remind me to be proud but also to be present and that being a gay man is just a slice in the big queer pie. Everyone deserves a piece, and I’m happy to serve it up.
For tickets to Chris Harder’s show #BigBrightStar, visit here.
Featured image by Richard Burrowes. #BigBrightStar images by WilsonModels.