Harry T. Newman-Plotnick ’18 spends "egregious amounts of time in the Kirkland dining hall." The warm fluorescent light of the Monday evening dinner rush does, in fact, seem to be his element. He points out the table—two away from the servery, against the wall—that he considers the best location. His record for time spent in the dining hall stands at just over 12 hours. To his knowledge, it has yet to be beaten.
"I like doing that, just holding court, people cycle through," he says. "I do that for—that sounds really lame to say I do that for fun. Wow, okay, I don’t do that for—yeah, I do that for fun."
While Newman-Plotnick is a "very big proponent of just sitting around doing absolutely nothing for extended periods of time," this philosophy does not accurately reflect his time on campus.
Newman-Plotnick almost compulsively picks up talents—"weird, dextrous quirks"—to stave off boredom, whenever sitting in the Kirkland dining hall becomes too monotonous.
"I get bored very easily, so I always try to learn new things," Newman-Plotnick says. As a result, he’s become a multi-hyphenate: musician-magician-juggler-comedian.
"I very much embrace jack of all trades, master of none," he says. A self-described dabbler, Newman-Plotnick began playing piano at an early age (which, he’s quick to note, "does not accurately reflect my quality of piano,") picked up violin in elementary school, and has accrued an assortment of other musical talents in the years since.
The most recent acquisition? This semester, he joined the Harvard University Band, playing trumpet. "If I just say that without a qualification, everyone in band will be mad," he adds. "I have yet to show up to anything, but… I’m still learning."
Aside from technically being involved with the band, Newman-Plotnick most often puts his musical talents to use in pit orchestras. He performs with the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players and in friends’ shows.
He may spend considerable time tucked away in an orchestra pit, but Newman-Plotnick’s other interests put him directly onstage.
Around age nine, Newman-Plotnick received a magic kit. He got hooked, "mainly because my parents didn’t know how I did the stuff I did, and that just made me really happy." He largely stopped studying magic until his sophomore year of high school, when he began practicing more regularly.
In college, Newman-Plotnick kept the magic alive as a member of the Harvard Magician’s Society, a group so relaxed that he was the only official member during his sophomore fall, and thus president by default.
His need to collect "slightly less common talents" also led Newman-Plotnick to comedy via the Harvard College Stand-Up Comics Society. He says he’s always enjoyed making people laugh, even if he didn’t formally pursue comedy in high school. "I wasn’t the class clown, [but] I always tried to be funny, I suppose," he says. "Once you do [stand-up] once and someone laughs, it’s kind of hard to not come back."
The theatrical nature of his hobbies aside, Newman-Plotnick is also a neurobiology concentrator and is currently applying to MD/PhD programs. "People are surprised when I say I’m neuro. They normally think I’m VES or something, which I think is a compliment, maybe?" he says. "I think it’s the glasses and the hair."
Or is it the socks? Newman-Plotnick boasts what he believes to be the best sock collection on campus—over 50 pairs, "only fun ones," he says as he shows off off his Grumpy Cat socks for reference.
"For a while, I pitched my interest in magic as the way it interacts with the brain," Newman-Plotnick says. He even toyed with the idea of writing his thesis about the relationship between the two. That "didn’t end up happening, so take that as you will." He is instead writing his thesis on how non-invasive electrical currents applied to people’s brains affect their visual memory.
Amidst the anticipated insanity of medical school, Newman-Plotnick says he doesn’t think he will give up his hobbies. "If I didn’t have some other non-academic release, I’d go crazy," he says. "I don’t want to be a professional stand-up comedian, but I don’t want to stop doing comedy. I hope."