Actor David Harrell, who was born missing his right hand, took the students and staff at Doherty Middle School on a “journey of humor and perseverance” last month during his inspirational visit to Andover.
Vice Principal Tracy Crowley said Harrell’s one-man performance depicting his life and how he learned not to let “circumstance and limitation define who you are” was the most powerful performance of her 16-year career as an administrator.
Crowley said Harrell received a standing ovation following the all-school show, which was presented to students in grades 6, 7 and 8 and their teachers.
“It truly speaks to the choices we make and the positive impact we can have on others,” said Crowley in describing Harrell’s performance in a press release. “The kids were on the edge of their seats the entire performance. His message truly inspired all of us not to be defined by limitations or circumstances.”
Raised by parents who offered the message that “life is really about perseverance and courage,” Harrell grew up playing sports and reaching the life goals he set for himself, including pitching for the varsity baseball team and serving as quarterback for the football team in high school and earning his much-coveted letterman jacket.
Harrell’s one-man show, titled “A Little Potato and Hard to Peel,” has been performed at numerous theaters, universities and schools throughout the country.
The New York performer has a master’s degree in fine arts/theater and has appeared on stage, film and TV. He was nominated for a 2010 New York Innovative Theatre award for Outstanding Solo Performance and was a 2012 selection to the United Solo Festival in New York City.
Harrell has said since he personally found middle school to be his most difficult years, he knew when he created the program that it would resonate with young people trying to find themselves and be recognized for who they are within.
Doherty health teacher Cheryl Todisco said of the performance, “David hit it out of the ball park, Boston style!”
The DMS Parent Advisory Committee sponsored the enrichment program as part of its volunteer effort to enhance arts education and support the school curriculum with live shows and demonstrations. Wyndham Andover provided Harrell with complimentary lodging during his visit.