He was Jack Wild, the Artful Dodger, a preteen with a Cockney accent and a predilection for mischief.
But, replace the accent with mid-American and the mischief with a love of adventure, and you’ll find the young man underneath the character, Justus-Tiawah eighth grader Harrison Quellar.
Harrison fell in love with acting around 6 years old, when he went with his family to see a production of “The Little Mermaid” in St. Louis.
His first role, which he performed while in second grade at Westside Elementary, was as one of the von Trapp children from “The Sound of Music.”
In the years following, he auditioned had a role in nearly every community theater production put on by the Robson PAC, as well as “Will in the Wind,” at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.
Harrison’s biggest role to date was as the loveable bad influence the Artful Dodger in the Claremore Community Theater’s production of Oliver! in December, 2018.
“It was so much fun to learn the accent and everything,” Harrison said. “We worked so hard for that, it was like a whole new version of work ethic.”
“We were so annoyed with that Cockney accent,” Harrison’s mother Barbie said, adding that Harrison and his friend Campbell Crum, who played Oliver Twist, would stay in character on the car rides to and from campus .
Shortly after wrapping production on that role, the Quellar family moved to Benton, Arkansas for a year and a half.
It was there Harrison got to lend a hand in the biggest production he’d ever been a part of “The Wizard of Oz,” with The Royal Players.
Harrison was part of the ensemble cast, playing a munchkin, a tree, a flying monkey, and other background parts that help build the world on stage.
Barbie said the Arkansas community theatre was different because every member of the troupe had to pitch in to paint sets, make costumes, and raise funds for production, which wasn’t necessary in Claremore thanks to the PAC’s benefactor.
“I was really glad we got to see that side of it,” Barbie said. “I think you buy into the project a lot more when you have to work your butt off to make it happen.”
Itching from a forced hiatus due to COVID-19, Harrison said, “I want to audition whatever role shows up next. We’re not really doing any shows right now, but once they open the world back up, I’ll audition for anything.”
Acting on the stage is his long-term career goal, and although he is entering the eighth grade this fall, he already has dreams to attend the University of Arkansas musical theatre program, or hopefully the musical theatre program at Julliard in New York City.
“I prefer musical theater, but I’ll audition for anything,” Harrison said. “I would rather be a stage actor than a movie or TV actor. It’s very prepared, you have to get it right, and I like the stress of it all.”
His dream role is “Chicago” lawyer Billy Flynn.
Outside of acting, Harrison’s favorite pastime is hiking, camping and kayaking with his mom. The best spot, he said, is Lake Catherine in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
“I like seeing everything that’s out there,” Harrison said.
Harrison also regularly goes with Barbie to the gym, where they do spin classes, kickboxing, kettle bell exercises and various boot camps.
For kids and kids at heart watching Harrison pursue his dream and thinking, ‘I want to do that,’ Harrison said, “It’s a lot of stress, but you have to put yourself out there and be confident about yourself and the stuff you’re doing.”
Barbie said she is proud of her son for finding his passion, taking an active role in his chosen community, and finding opportunities to grow as a person. But it’s not just what he’s accomplished at a young age, but who he is as a person.
“He has always had a song in his heart,” Barbie said.