If there is one phrase that describes Chance Harmon’s artistic journey, it would have to be “there and back again.”
Born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, Harmon’s path saw him move to Nashville, St. Louis, and New York City until, eventually, he found his way back to Texas. Now his journey brings him to Lawton as the new managing director of the Lawton Community Theatre.
Harmon’s love of theatre began in 1984 when his mother brought him to a showing of “Hello Dolly.”
“I did not want to go,” Harmon recalled, “it was so not cool.”
By the time the show was over, and the house lights came up, Harmon had changed his tune.
“That’s where I got hooked,” Harmon said.
His first major foray into the world of performing arts came in the form of a job at Six Flags Over Texas in the Crazy Horse Saloon. It was there that he got his first real taste for acting as a teenager. That job would eventually lead him to a job at another theme park, Opryland, in Nashville, Tenn.
But it wouldn’t be long before he would leave Tennessee behind to work in America’s largest, and oldest, outdoor musical theatre, The Muny theatre.
“Opryland brought a director in to ‘fix’ our show and he actually hired me to come to St. Louis to work at The Muny. That was my first real production. At the time, I didn’t know any better. If I had known what a big deal it was, I may have been freaked out,” Harmon said.
After his first show at The Muny, the same director hired him to serve as an associate producer. After The Muny, he worked in small theaters and eventually on cruise ships, which is how he found himself in New York City one day, where he just so happened to run into an old friend from the first job he had ever had.
“I was going through New York and I met someone that I had actually worked with at the Crazy Horse Saloon who was working at MTV. He needed help for one day, well, I ended up staying for 15 years,” Harmon said.
He began as a vocal coach on the MTV show “Say What Karaoke.” Eventually, Harmon worked as a casting director for the Viacom television networks, and during his many years in New York City he worked for MTV, VH-1 and the Food Network.
Harmon never lost his love for theatre during his time in the television industry, and he performed in NYC shows, including Radio City Christmas.
But the Big Apple wouldn’t be his home forever.
“It was like suddenly I was looking around my office in New York and just going ‘what happened,'” Harmon said.
After leaving New York, and spending a year in Colorado, Harmon was adrift and driving back through Texas where his brother and nieces still lived in Wichita Falls.
“My niece brought me to her pep rally, and she said to me ‘see, you’ve missed everything.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I stayed.”
Harmon spent nine years in Wichita Falls, where he worked at the Wichita Theatre Performing Arts Centre as the artistic director, directing and performing in over 30 productions.
“People ask me all the time ‘what do you do as an artistic director,’ and I’d say, ‘I clean toilets,’” Harmon joked.
Harmon had actually stepped away from his duties at the Wichita, and was prepared to take some time off, when his former assistant gave him a call and let him know about the opening for a managing director at the Lawton Community Theatre.
“I said 'we’ll talk about it tomorrow,' well, 20 minutes later I said 'I think I should send them my resume.' Something was calling me,” Harmon said.
He was plenty familiar with Lawton Community Theatre. Actors from Lawton would often audition for shows at The Wichita and vice-versa. Harmon himself had seen productions at LCT and frequented the local stores and restaurants.
He got the call to come interview for the position and found himself faced with two signs, literally.
“I pulled into the theater for the interview and saw a sign for Chance Realty and then a sign for Harmon Park. I thought, there’s my signs.”
Harmon is thrilled to have landed the job, and excited to be working in a town with a thriving arts community.
“I’m not here to change anything, yet. I’m here to value add to the organization because we are here to serve the arts. We’re a nonprofit. We serve the arts and the community,” Harmon said. “Art is the only way community survives.”