Dr. Harriton, Explained


Scott Blender, Staff Writer

Dr. Harriton has been an essential part to the Harriton community throughout the years, despite its recent name change. Started back in 2006, the annual fundraiser has raised thousands of dollars for numerous charities and local foundations including the Ronald McDonald House and the Lower Merion Scholarship Fund.

Dr. Harriton has been a “twist” on a talent show, in addition to a satire of beauty pageants. Ten contestants practice for months learning group dances and perfecting individual talents, culminating in a sold out show put on in Harriton’s auditorium.  

Contestants pick a subtopic of that year’s show theme: past themes have included TV shows, road trip around the world, and fairytales. Traditionally, the show has contained just male contestants, though female contestants have always been able to audition.

Starting in November of each school year, juniors and seniors are permitted to sign up to audition for the show. Registrants submit a Google form containing questions based on their potential talent (which can be subject to change), their potential partner for the show, and other information regarding their experience with show production and comfort on stage.

Auditions are held in the middle November and span for one week. Contestants are scored based on a rubric, scoring their potential in the show, and their survey responses are reviewed to determine if they would be a good fit.

The following week, contestants are notified of whether or not they are in the show. Traditionally, there are two junior contestants in the show and eight senior contestants, though this number occasionally shifts.

After auditions and decisions are announced, practices are held from November until the show, which is always on the last Friday in February. They have been held at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in recent years for two hours after school each day, following a similar schedule to school sports.

No formal dancing experience is required, as Harriton Student Council elects choreographers to help the contestants learn all four dances featured in the show. These dances include the opening dance, the soul train dance, the post-intermission or halftime dance, and the partner dance.

The contestants are also responsible for performing a dance in the winter pep rally to encourage students to attend the show.

Practices require maximum effort and attention each day to ensure a successful show. Snacks, funded by the contestants are purchased for each practice, and every one is slightly different, ensuring a constant element of enjoyment.

The show builds off of the bonds and connections made during these practices, run-throughs, and rehearsals, and helping to connect all the contestants and those working on the show behind the scenes. Dr. Harriton feels like a family to most contestants due to the time spent working together, and the dedication of contestants and Student Council to ensure a successful show.

In recent years, the show has followed a format containing the following segments: an intro/opening dance, five contestant talents, soul train, intermission, post-intermission dance, five more contestant talents, a partner dance, Q+A session, and finally, the crowning of the winner.

In recent years, a “pickup line” segment has been added before the Q and A session to help introduce the contestants’ respective themes. This segment consists of contestants sharing a funny or corny pickup line with their partner, as the audience spectates. The show typically runs for three hours and is filmed by the Harriton High School Television crew.

Though it has followed a somewhat consistent format since its debut in 2006, the new traditions put in place by Student Council officers keeps the magic of the show alive.

Recently, tradition was broken in a big way due to the name change of the show. The name was formally changed from Mr. Harriton to Dr. Harriton in response to administration and parental pleas. The former name “discouraged” female participants from auditioning for the show, and the new name is supposed to represent a more gender neutral cast.

Despite controversy surrounding this name change, this year’s show broke previous fundraising records while continuing to engage Harriton’s students.

However, the most notable aspect of the show is its positive impact on local and national charities. Dr. Harriton pledges to give to the community and does charitable events such as reading to elementary school children and volunteering at local charities. Each year, the Harriton Student Council officers seek to fundraise more than the previous year. All money raised by the show (nearly $36,000 this year, breaking previous records) goes to charities selected by Student Council.

This year, those charities were the American Heart Association, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Lower Merion Township Scholarship Fund.

Dr. Harriton has been an immense part of school culture at Harriton High School and allows the school to give to the community. The show is in large part successful due to the commitment of everyone involved. It is the most widely attended school event and no one leaves the show displeased. Dr. Harriton is an essential part to the Harriton community and will always be a cherished tradition of our school.