As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Sydney James Harcourt, an original cast member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Hamilton, now available on Disney+. Harcourt originated the roles of James Reynolds, Philip Schuyler, and the Doctor in the Lin-Manuel Miranda hit and later took over the role of Aaron Burr, which he played for over 700 performances. His other theatrical credits include The Lion King, Bells Are Ringing, American Idiot, and the original Public Theater cast of Girl From the North Country. On screen Harcourt has been seen in Blue Bloods, NCIS: New Orleans, Elementary, Younger, The Good Wife, Law & Order, and Disney's Enchanted.
What is your typical day like now?
A typical day for me starts around 7 AM with coffee on the porch. I watch the Bird and Squirrel show with my cats while I do research and writing for a screenplay I’m working on. Around 10 AM I take a break and lift weights in my "pandemic gym," aka the garage. The cats watch. After that I start on the day’s work requirements, which can consist of interviews, tending to social media, video editing, recording vocals in my "pandemic studio" (aka the basement), answering emails, or working on one of the 14 home renovation projects that my husband started when we got here in March. If that doesn’t take all night, I finish out the day with a ride on my Onewheel, Drag Race, or video games. All three if I plan it right!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
TV Show: Legendary on HBO Max
Podcast: DragCast hosted by Nina West
Film: Sorry to Bother You
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding Black artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I encourage everyone in the industry to educate themselves on the systematic racism and sexism that is part of all facets of theatre. From the producers, to the writers, to the casts, to the musicians, and crew, it’s pervasive. We take so much of the bigoted behavior and inequities as "just the way it is" that it can be hard for people (of all colors) to even realize when they’re doing something awful—and most POC in theatre don’t feel the job security to complain about it, not wanting to be seen as a "problem" by the industry. It’ll take soul searching, and it won’t be easy.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
This is a time of fear and anger, understandably—but it’s also this incredible time of social change and artistic opportunity. Nothing worth having was ever easily obtained. This unrest and struggle will lead to a new golden era for society, so I encourage people to choose hope and positivity over fear or despair. We are stronger than we think.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I’ve been doing digital collaborations with my artist friends! My bestie Nina West and I just made a video cover of "A Safe Place to Land" for the #blacktranslivesmatter movement, René Goldsberry Johnson and I are producing a mash up of "Rise Up" and "My Shot" with the cast, and I just used a pop-up green screen for the first time and guested with Six Appeal on an a cappella cover of "History Has Its Eyes on You" in honor of the protests in Minnesota and around the country. Getting lost in collaboration is my saving grace during what can feel like the end times. There is beautiful art being made.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I did digital presentations of the musicals Cubamor and PopStar last month, both works in development I’ve been with for years. Otherwise the only other theatre I participate in is the Bird and Squirrel Show in the mornings, which is riveting.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I encourage people to remember our Native American population. Some of them have the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, and the highest poverty rate of all minority groups. They are forgotten. In the popular imagination, they only exist historically. Wherever you are, find a local charity or a tribe that has personal significance and donate. If you can’t donate, spread the word. The silence is genocidal.