by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor
Actor, singer, jazz musician, playwright, director, clutch pinch-hitter, theater student leader … all these are roles Adam Harbaneh has filled with aplomb at Elk River High School, especially the past two years.
The 2013 graduate’s resume includes 11 plays and all-conference recognition, plus the school’s Louis Armstrong award, but that just scratches the surface.
“Adam is a dream to work with. If we could clone Adam, that would be amazing,” said Michelle Brooks, who directed six of his plays. “He is humble, he is warm and welcoming, and the kids love him and look up to him. He has been a great leader for us.”
As an actor, Brooks says, Harbaneh has “amazing vision” in knowing how scenes should unfold and characters should develop, often taking the initiative to make suggestions that the director always tries out.
Harbeneh closed his ERHS theatrical career as Horton in “Seussical the Musical” April 26 through May 4. He lent both sweet sensitivity and strong stage presence to the elephant who helps everybody and is perhaps too kind for his own good.
A relatively late starter, his first theater venture was a one-act play in ninth grade that classmate Aggie Menkes talked him into. He got a role with eight lines in the spoof “Robin Hood and the Monster of Sherwood Forest” (playing the said monster) and was hooked on theater.
Harbeneh impressed in supporting roles such as Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Romeo’s buddy Mervio in the spoof “Romeo and Who’s Collette?” and as Mr. Laurence in “Little Women.” He was in the pit for “Grease” playing sax last spring.
His junior year, he was called upon to learn a primary role in the one-act competition drama “A Time to Go Home” just four days before it opened. Brooks had to dismiss the original lead because he was skipping practices but had enough confidence in Harbaneh (who had a smaller part) to ask him to pinch-hit.
“In that short time, he learned all his lines and all the blocking and did a great job,” Brooks said. “That was no small feat.”
Said Harbaneh: “At first I was pretty freaked out. I didn’t think I could do it. But once it happened, I had a lot of fun with it.”
This January, Harbaneh did triple duty during one-act-plays. While playing another deceased teen, Paul, in the competition entry, “The Puppet Show,” and earning all-conference honors, he also wrote and directed the non-competition play.
“The Music Box,” his tale of doomed teenage love, with dialogue alternately intense, humorous and poignant, was nicely done and well received. “It really kicked in, at the end; it worked out so nicely,” said Harbaneh, who’s working on a comedy now.
Harbaneh has played alto saxophone in band groups for four years and received ERHS’s Louis Armstrong Award this week. “That’s the award schools give to the person with the most impact on the jazz program,” director John Rosner said.
He helped the Black Elk Jazz Band attain superior ratings at regionals each year and teamed with Emily Meyer, Jordan Piasecki and Rosemary Hampton in a sax quartet that earned a perfect 40 score and got the Best in Site at regionals in Andover on April 4. (Music only has regionals, not state). “That’s a fantastic score,” Rosner said.
Haraneh plans to major in theater at Minnesota State-Moorhead and continue in music, too, as much as he can. “It seems like I’ve changed my mind every day: music or theater?” he said. “I’ve thought about a double major.”
He allows himself to dream he’ll perform at venues like Guthrie or Orpheum. His optimum role would be Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
About his high school years now ending, he reflects, “Two words come to mind. It’s been amazing, and it’s bittersweet.”