Patdro Harris


There is no argument for excellence.

It was a brisk Fall Saturday morning, when Patdro and I decided to meet for a reunion of sorts and for an interview. We met on the west side of Atlanta at the 640 West Café. I had not seen Patdro in over twenty years. I’ve always known him to be a fantastic dancer and choreographer, but since that time, Patdro has evolved into a multi-faceted, wise, and brilliant creative.

Patdro was recently awarded the 2019 Suzi Bass Award for Outstanding Director of a play, The Royale.  He has been heralded by the Houston Chronicle for his ” excellent and energetic direction and choreography”; by the Washington Post as a “superb choreographer”; by the New York Times proclaiming his craft to be “praiseworthy” and by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “dynamic” and “brilliant”.

Patdro is currently an Artistic Associate at the Theatrical Outfit located in Atlanta, Georgia and has accomplished quite a lot in his life.  This includes choreographing the Tony award-winning Broadway hit A Raisin in the Sun starring Phylicia Rashad and Sean Combs.

He has worked with such greats as Yolanda Adams, Stevie Wonder and India Arie.

It is truly an honor to know such an outstanding person and a privilege to be able to sit down with Patdro and glean from his wisdom and to hear his story.

GJ: Thank you Patdro for agreeing to meet me for this interview. I am truly honored, and I count myself grateful. In my reading, I see that you went to Alabama State University. Are you from Alabama?

PH: Yes, that is correct. I am from Montgomery, Alabama.

GJ: Ok, great. Tell me about your childhood.

PH: My mom owned a club as I was growing up as a child.   My mom went to Tuskegee and she wanted to major in Business, but her mother told her women did not major in Business, so she minored in Business and majored in Cosmetology.  The year after her mom passed, she opened a club.  She was very active in the community.  As a result of my being in the club with my mother, every night I heard music.   I played the saxophone.  I got a music scholarship to go to Alabama State University.  I have always had an affiliation with music but hearing music every night and playing music at school, it all meshed.  I knew growing up that I was either going to be a band director or a music therapist.  I had some great teachers in high school and college.   Growing up in Alabama was interesting and different; and racial.   I have a great brother, Garleis.  He told me a story every night.  This is where I got my storytelling.  My junior year in college is where I decided that I wanted to be an artist.   I changed my major and moved to Atlanta.  Growing up in Alabama gave me a great foundation. It was a wonderful place that nourished me as an artist.

GJ: Patdro, when did you realize that you were the creative that you are today? When did it hit you that this is what I am purposed to do?

PH: While in high school at Sidney Lanier in Montgomery. The theatre instructor decided to do Oklahoma. At that point I knew creativity was in me, but I did not realize that I could do it as a profession.

GJ: You wear many hats as a dancer, choreographer, writer and director. What came first?

PH: It was my love for music. That is what came first. Everything spun out of my love for music.

GJ: Patdro I know you as being a wonderful dancer and choreographer. When you are in the element of dance, what is your approach to an assignment or project where dance is involved?

PH: Usually these days, I am a director choreographer. The character always informs what the movement is going to be if I am doing a theatre piece. It’s a language. It is called the moving word. The reason why I am hired so many times as a director is because my movement makes sense to the story. It’s about storytelling, so that is my approach. It all comes from a directorial point of view. That is what I think has been the aid in my choreography.

GJ: Patdro, you have worked with some great entertainers and celebrities from Phylicia Rashad, to Yolanda Adams and Sean Combs. How do you maintain a sense of humility considering your accomplishments and the great host of people that you have worked with?

PH: I believe what you do can never be more important that who you are. I keep that near to me. My brother would tell me all the time that people put on their pants one leg at a time. I am in service to people. My resume is inside of me. I don’t have to proclaim what I’ve done. The proof is in the pudding. I am here to serve. God has blessed me to do some wonderful things in my life. I want to use my platform to make a difference and to make things better. There is no argument for excellence.

GJ: What do you attribute to your success?

PH: A lot of different things. Staying grounded and being faithful to what God has given me. Also, having some great people around me. I have a beautiful wife and some good friends as a support system; having an army of good people. We think differently, but we love the same. I have some of the best friends in the world. They encourage me.

GJ: I find that being a creative, from a spiritual standpoint, we encounter moments of depression, challenges and we give a lot emotionally. It is great to have a support system. Would you like to expound on that?

PH: Yes, I would. I realize that our job as an artist does not work without emotions. It is a part of being a creative. It is important to have a great support system. When you give so much energy, you need a safe place after you’ve given so much.

GJ: What do you do Patdro when the stage lights are off to enjoy yourself?

PH: Sports. Football is my favorite sport. I like the movies and I have a wonderful man cave at home. The entire upstairs is my man cave. I like people and I like being around people. They energize me.

GJ: Patdro you recently had the opportunity to work on the TV show, Dynasty.  Thank you for sending me a clip of the show.  How did you land this project?

PH: Kenny Leon.  Kenny has given me some major opportunities. It was a blessing that he offered the Dynasty job to me and I could step up and do what was required. I also gave him the name that he selected for his Atlanta company “True Colors Theatre Company.”

GJ: Patdro when you are approached by people with a project, whether its dance, directing, or theatre, what is your mode of operation or process to handle a project?

PH: When people talk to me about a project, I must see it. My first thing is sight. I must see it in the atmosphere. Then I go back and start writing ideas down. I prepare and I do my research. The script really tells me what to do. The research is like our encyclopedia. I then release it to the actors and then coordinate with set designers, and lighting techs. Theatre is one of the most collaborative forms of art.

GJ: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

PH: People. When I can make people’s lives better, behind the scenes and in the audience.  Give them conversations to think about.  We are all just people.  I speak to everyone.  Stevie Wonder referred to me one time as being very African.  I really did not know what he meant at that time, but I asked him later what he meant by saying that I was very African.  He explained that I was communal.  I grew up with a sense of community.   I work and do what I do from the people’s standpoint.

GJ: I do have one last question for you. How do you define yourself? And do you consider your life lived on purpose?

PH: Absolutely, I do.  Purpose.   Doing what God has called you to do and being your whole self everywhere you go.  I have this saying called PHD, being purposed, being honest and being detailed. I tell young artists all the time, that when you become confused to go back to your purpose.   I encourage them to perform with a message notjust for the money.  My purpose is to do the best art that is possible and honor the people that I am doing it for.  I don’t like being the elite.  I like being the enlightened.   I am going to give you the very best that I can!

GJ: Patdro, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I am honored.

PH: Thank you. It has been a pleasure.

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