Chris Harder

When Chris Harder left North Dakota for New York City to pursue a career on the Broadway stage, he had no idea what twists and turns his career would follow. While taking auditions, he paid the rent as a go-go boy at gay clubs and later, by becoming a sex worker in the gay adult movie industry.

Harder’s story begins two decades ago in North Dakota, where he was the awkward queer boy who played with his sister’s dolls, proving the road to gay stardom is paved with Barbies. He doesn’t regret any of the choices he’s made since.

Porn to Be A Star is directed by David Drake, the writer and performer of the hit show, The Night I Kissed Larry Kramer.

It was a pleasure to sit down with Chris just a few weeks before he brings his show to Central Florida.

Were you always an actor, even as a kid?

Yes! I think my first role ever was playing a bunny doctor in kindergarten. I’m sure there was some kind of larger metaphor at work! I really fell in love with theater in high school though and was lucky to have several teachers who were amazingly supportive of me and my queer, queerness. In college I also started writing plays and as part of my senior thesis I wrote and directed a one act play called “Steel and Snow” which was about two young gay men coming out to each other and falling in love. It ran for two nights and sold out both shows and I remember just being thrilled that queer people were coming to see my show and that there was a need and a desire for that kind of work.

What was your first professional gig? 

I was really lucky when I first moved to NYC nine years ago. My first summer in the city I was cast in a re-staging of Amiri Baracka’s The Toilet, originally written during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s. We performed the show–which is a phenomenally written play with queer, interracial undertones–in a park and were continually heckled by teenagers. I loved every minute though. Then, shortly when that show ended, I was cast in the dazzling role of… the Old Sheep in a children’s theater production of Charlotte’s Web. I essentially left New York for three months to play some really beautiful theaters and some very brightly lit cafeteria auditoriums in a giant purple sheep costume. That’s show business!

How old were you when you left North Dakota to go to NYC, and how did you make that decision? 

I moved to New York when I was 22. I spent the summer before my senior year of college working as many jobs as my body and sleep schedule could handle and then bought a one-way ticket. I graduated in May and left in June. At the time, I actually was considering staying in North Dakota one more year because I was in love with my college boyfriend and part of me really wanted to stay and wait for him. One day during my shift as a barista, a regular customer who was a grungy, English ex-patriate artist who never combed his hair convinced me to seize the moment and move to New York. I’m really thankful I listened to him and I still have a thing for English accents.

How was it to Go-Go boy at Gay Clubs?

I loved go-go dancing. I did it all through my 20s in all kinds of clubs and gay bars. There’s really a whole other one man show just in those years. I think what dawned on me once I moved to New York was that I could actually be 1) valued for my looks and body and 2) potentially make a living from them as well. It had just never occurred to me that I was one of “those guys.” The idea that people would want me was so foreign, not because I felt ugly or hated in ND, but because I was actually really a late bloomer in terms of coming into my body.

How did you get into the Adult Male Entertainment Industry? 

By my late 20s–around 27–I had been go-go dancing and also working as a burlesque dancer non-stop for over four years. I loved both my nightlife worlds but I was also getting burnt out and really, just wasn’t making enough money. Through nightlife I had met all kind of sex workers both male and female as well as porn stars who would make appearances at clubs. Porn started to sound really enticing to me. Not just for the money but also because I was becoming more of an exhibitionist. I also became aware especially of Francois Sagat and his transformation from porn star to artist and actor, and I felt like I could combine my nightlife persona and work with the adult world and sort of become this ultimate “adult entertainer.”

What made you decide to write this show, and when did you write it?

I started writing Porn to be a Star shortly after I finished workshopping my first solo show (#Big Bright Star) in Ft. Lauderdale last August. I decided to take the parts and characters of my former show that I really loved and restructure them into a play that was more of a slice of life of the gay adult movie industry and not just my own story. Porn to be a Star now centers around five different stars, each trying to win the coveted Dirty Dish Best Porn Star of the Year Award. The show still has its sharp humor and also plenty of surprises (and skin), but I’m much happier with this current script. I just finished producing a five-show run in NYC, again directed by David Drake and the feedback and reviews have all commented on the growth and development of the work.

Are you excited to be making your regional premiere in Orlando?

Yes, especially because it’s freezing in NYC right now!

What should the Central Florida Audiences expect from Porn to be a Star? 

The main response I always get from audience members who are completely new to my work is that Porn to be a Star totally surprised them and exceeded their expectations. The show has as much heart as it does comedy—a lot of folks also tell me the moment I play my mother is one of their favorite parts. Ultimately, I think audiences will see the gay porn industry from a completely different point of view. Of course, it also helps that I’m in a jock strap!

Porn To Be A Star comes to the Footlight Theater at the Parliament House for one night only on Saturday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets which are $25 for VIP and $20 for general admission go to: PHouseOrlando.eventbrite.com.