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Life at Pace University: From Dublin High’s Little Theatre to the Manhattan Stage

January 24, 2013

Chris Harral

OneDublin.org recently met with Chris Harral (Dublin High School Class of 2012 and Pace University freshman) to talk about his first few months in college and the transition from Dublin to New York City. Chris was in town visiting with family and friends, and catching his peers perform in the Dublin High Drama Club Student-Directed One Acts. Chris had a busy senior year before heading off to college – performing in the Contra Costa Civic Theatre production of “Rabbit Hole”, the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre production of “Hairspray”, winning first place at the Ohlone College Theatre Festival for an excerpt from “The Merchant of Venice” and directing fellow students in the Dublin High Student-Directed One Acts 2012.

OneDublin.org: Why did you end up selecting Pace University in New York City to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting?

Chris Harral: “I chose Pace University out of the colleges I was accepted into, including Ithaca College and the University of Michigan, for several reasons. Pace offered me good scholarship money and I felt like they wanted me the most. They kept calling me, asking me if they could help with the application process, and when I started to research the program and the location (lower Manhattan) I felt it was going to be the right school for me. Pace also allows students to audition outside of the school, if you have time in-between your classes; they want you to start your career before you graduate. They want you to get the experience of auditioning, hopefully getting some roles and maybe failing (since that’s good experience as well) – experiencing the whole process of auditioning in a professional setting.”

OneDublin.org: Describe the process of getting accepted into an acting program. Did you have to audition?

Harral: “I went down to L.A. because a lot of schools will hold unified auditions where 19-20 schools go to one location, in 5-6 different cities, and stay for 4-5 days to audition applicants. The schools usually ask you to prepare two contrasting monologues, some will have you perform both, some one, usually followed by an interview. One of the things most schools say is that it’s just as much an audition for them as it is for you, because they are also trying to sell the school and their program to you. That part of the process made me feel more empowered than just going into an audition hoping they will choose me. If the school representatives liked what they saw in the audition then during the interview they are really trying to get you to go to the school.”

OneDublin.org: What was your first semester like?

Chris Harral in New York City 4

Harral: “What I really like about Pace University is the program provides a conservatory-style training, meaning Pace offers a more intense combination of theatre arts classes focused on my major,  along with the general ed classes you expect in a 4-year university program. I have two general ed class and 4-5 arts classes. Pace’s curriculum provides many different tools to build a character including Stanislavski-based classes that approach acting from the inside out. This last semester I had Acting I for BFA freshmen, Movement (which is how to create stage presence), Vocal Production (how to have a stage voice), Production Crew (I focused on sound and acoustics), and standard general ed courses.

OneDublin.org: How did your experiences in the Dublin High School Drama Club and roles with the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre and Contra Costa Civic Theatre prepare you for college?

Harral: “Dublin High School really prepared me for being comfortable on stage and sparked my interest in theatre. While I was taking Dublin High’s Advanced Drama class we read “Respect for Acting” by Uta Hagen and it really gave me new insights on keeping acting fresh and interesting. Dublin High also offered me a diverse portfolio of roles over the years. The community theatre I did gave me the experience of auditioning with a monologue in front of people I don’t know, and it gave me experience working with different directors. The experience of working with other people allowed me to see what I like and don’t like about certain aspects of theatre.”

OneDublin.org: Moving from the City of Dublin to lower Manhattan is a major change. How have you handled the transition?

Chris Harral in New York City

Harral: “Sleeping was a nightmare the first month and a half I was there. It’s hard to explain, New York has a continuous excitement and high energy setting where you just want to be going all the time. That took me a while to get used to. What I’ve really enjoyed is the convenience of everything – being able to walk outside of my school building and having everything I need within a couple of blocks. The city is right there for you, the subway gets you anywhere you need to go and it’s relatively cheap – $2.50 gets you as far as you want to go. It’s been an adjustment getting used to all the people around me all the time, not really having much privacy. I have found some places where I can go and have some peace. It was a bit frustrating at first not having any privacy, except for in my dorm. Other than that, I’ve really enjoyed the experience.”

OneDublin.org: You were in school when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast. What was that like?

Damage in NYC (Chris Harral)

Damage from Hurricane Sandy

Harral: “From the time I woke up in the morning I could hear this really loud, eerie humming sound from the wind passing through the buildings. I watched the Channel 7 News from about 1pm – 8pm, trying to keep myself updated on the storm that had already flooded Battery Park and was close to flooding most of the shores along Jersey, when our power went out. To be honest I was glued to the TV watching the news because I was sort of excited as terrible as that might sound. We obviously don’t get things like this in California.

“The storm really started to hit at around 8 or 9pm and the loud pounding and humming against the common room window in my dorm woke me up from a short nap. That kept up all night and we thought the window was going to break. In fact, windows of the Gehry Building on Spruce, which is right across the street to our building, fell and shattered on the sidewalk.

“At about 1am, I ventured with a few friends to walk to the South Street Seaport, 3 or 4 blocks away. On our way we saw trees uprooted, scaffolding torn halfway off of buildings, and leaves and trash scattered all over the streets. It was pitch black as the power to lower Manhattan had been turned off to avoid fires. When we got to the Seaport it was shocking how much flooding had occurred. We saw a few cars that were up to their hoods in water and trash floating in the water. We somehow worked our way around a few of the buildings on a wooden porch that had not yet been submerged and noticed that a jewelry store and a few others had been robbed. The wind and rain got too heavy and so we walked back to One Pace Plaza. By that time all of the students in other dorms had been evacuated and moved into the theatre and student union of our building to sleep.”

OneDublin.org: One final question – any advice for students considering the theatre in high school?

Harral: “Don’t be afraid to go for it. Don’t be afraid to put everything you possibly can give into a role or an audition. I didn’t know this was what I wanted to do until my junior year, after I’d had some experience. I remember my first play that I attempted to audition for at Dublin High was “Lend Me a Tenor”. I walked in, got the audition form, looked at it, put it back down and walked out. I know what it’s like to be afraid to do it, but you have to just go for it, and good things will come.”

Related articles:

Dublin High School Drama Director Bryant Hoex and Class of 2012 Graduate Chris Harral

Dublin High School Drama Director Bryant Hoex and Class of 2012 Graduate Chris Harral

Chris Harral (left) in Hairspray

Chris Harral (left) in Hairspray

Chris Harral in New York City with Paul Rudd

Chris Harral in New York City with Paul Rudd

Chris Harral in New York City 2

Chris Harral in New York City

At the Dublin High School 2012 Senior Awards Night Chris was recognized with a Gael Achievement Award – Drama. Chris was also the Dublin High School Drama Club President and won first place at the Ohlone College Theatre Festival 2012 for his performance of an excerpt from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”.

Other articles in the Life in College series:

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