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Artist Profile: Chris Rivers ’24 on his Transition from Musicals to Technical Theater

Christopher L. Rivers ’24 harmonizes the lighthearted and the serious in conversation with The Crimson.
Christopher L. Rivers ’24 harmonizes the lighthearted and the serious in conversation with The Crimson. By Christopher S. Li
By Azwayla F. Taylor, Contributing Writer

Christopher L. Rivers ’24 strode into the Quincy dining hall, emanating the frenzied and fatigued aura that accompanies his mid-semester life. A bright yellow bomber jacket dominated his look, immediately giving him a playful and lighthearted appearance upon first impression.

Under this friendly, laid-back, and almost cartoonish exterior, few people would expect to find years of hard work, dedication, and passion for theater.

A musical theater performer turned theater technician, Rivers began his theater journey in high school, singing in his school’s musicals. He remembers his first solo in his sophomore year of high school in the musical “Children of Eden.”

“Not to sound super self-absorbed, but it felt really nice getting an applause,” he said.

He laughs at himself, saying that he didn’t want to sound like a peaked in high school “type of guy.”

Despite his jest, Rivers spoke earnestly of his love for the people in the show and the feeling that came with his ability to communicate with the audience from the stage.

This dual-tone pattern was consistent throughout most of our conversation; Rivers alternated between humorous self-deprecation and sincere passion for his work.

His involvement in musical theater continued briefly into college, although it was greatly changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Like all classes and most extracurricular activities on Harvard’s campus in the 2020-21 year, his performance took place over Zoom.

After that year, Rivers moved away from musical theater and became involved in technical theater. While he still loves singing, he’s found a love for problem-solving and set-building through technical theater. When he said that seeing the final product of his hard work is “really special,” he smiled.

When I asked him if he misses anything about singing in musicals, he chuckled, jokingly admitting, “Yeah, I love attention.” Then, he quickly flipped back to genuine sincerity.

“No, in all seriousness, I love to sing as well,” he said. “It's something I think about sometimes.”

He notes that technical theater has its drawbacks. He mentioned that it can be a thankless place at times, but he assured me that he is not bitter despite his love for attention. Theater also requires a massive time commitment on his part. As a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Rivers and the rest of the tech crew returned to campus on Jan 9., two weeks before classes began.

In response to a question about how he balances school and theater, Rivers paused and then grinned, embracing both his playfulness and his earnesty.

“Um, poorly, I guess, would be the straight answer,” he said.

In addition to working over winter break, Rivers described his typical daily routine during the fall 2022 semester.

“My days usually ended up being like, go to class, work on theater stuff, go to sleep,” he said.

Eat, sleep, tech, repeat.

As a physics and philosophy concentrator, Rivers normally does research, though he has chosen to focus only on theater and school this semester. Despite the expected contrast between his academic and extracurricular interests, Rivers does not see any tension between the two.

“Honestly it’s the opposite. Those two things are kind of independent of each other,” Rivers said. “And I'm actually really grateful that I'm able to do both. There's not a lot of overlap, but, I don't know, I think it's honestly super lucky that I even am able to.”

It’s clear that Rivers also feels very fortunate to be part of the Hasty Pudding, describing the community and people as “super phenomenal.”

“We’re all a bunch of people who have the common goal of putting on this fun little comedy,” he said.

Due to the amount of time he spends on Pudding shows, he becomes close to the people he works with, as the club is also a social group. The community that theater provides isn’t unique to the Pudding, and it is something that has always drawn Rivers to theater.

Rivers is currently busy with a show for the Pudding, “Cosmic Relief!,” working “basically all day, every day.”

He clearly puts a lot of effort and passion into his shows, but he still managed to get in a funny, self-deprecating remark.

“There are a lot of people who are much better organized and much better than me at this,” Rivers said.

Though he constantly laughs at his involvement in theater, it is clear it is a serious interest of his. After graduation, he hopes to continue to pursue theater in his professional life.

“Not to philosophize about life,” he said, “but, ideally, I would love to work at what I love.”

“My post grad plans right now, if I could do anything, I would love to get an apprenticeship in theater carpentry,” he said. “And just kind of see where that goes. I just, I enjoy it.”

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