For David Harris, coming home to the Hunter has meant returning to a “Utopia”.
“It’s a world apart here,” he told Newcastle Weekly.
“I tell my friends and family this really is another world – in comparison to what other places are experiencing [during the pandemic], it is like a Utopia here.
“The freedoms that we have here are a testament to the sense of community in Australia.
“We really do have a good thing going, we are the envy of a lot of the world right now.
“But it is not by chance. Yes, geography has a bit to do with it, but we have a government and community who want to do the right thing.
“I have seen and experienced [in New York] the opposite.”
The Australian actor, who grew up in Rutherford, says that, while he has lived in places all over the world, Maitland and the Hunter is home.
He adds that life in the US has been “crazy” amid the pandemic and election.
“I relate it to a sporting event where people have their sides and you just root for your team, but it got quite vicious and nasty and it became very tiring and disheartening,” he said.
“Part of the appeal of coming home was to just unplug from all that. Coming here is very different and something that we should be proud of and hold dear not to lose.”
David’s love of the performing arts is all thanks to a high school musical.
“It all started at a school in Rutherford,” he said.
“There was an English/ Drama teacher who wanted to put on a musical and no one really wanted to do it so I put my hand up.
“I never thought I would do it professionally; at the time, I didn’t know you could.
“It was just little experiences that ended up being markers for what the rest of my life was going to be.”
When it comes to his career highlights, David says it’s difficult to choose.
“Every show I do teaches me something,” he said.
“Each has its value to me, and I grow from every performance so, in that sense, they are all highlights for me.”
One right at the top of the list though is his latest show, Chess: The Musical.
Directed by Erin James, The Very Popular Theatre Company was set to open the show in March last year, but it was postponed due to COVID-19.
With musical direction from Dan Wilson, David says people can expect a show full of “brilliant music” amid a political landscape.
For David, playing the lead role is extra special this time round because he is performing on his home ground and will be joined by his two older sisters.
“To be honest, Chess is going to be a highlight because I’m coming back to my country and performing,” he said.
“Also, for the first time ever, I am getting to perform with my two sisters in the show – it has never happened before, and it may never happen again.
“This is very special to me to have that opportunity on the stage together. I am really looking forward to it.”
He adds there will be an “electric” atmosphere during the performances.
“There will be a wonderful synergy between everyone because we’ve been starved of [live theatre] for a good 12 months,” David said.
“[Everyone] will be swept away into a story with beautiful music.”
The musical will be staged over three days at the Civic Theatre. It opens tomorrow (Friday 26 February) and closes on Sunday 28 February.
Go to Civic Theatre website for more information.