Theater Spotlight: Barbara Barkan

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    Barbara Barkan is a familiar face to local theater audiences.

  • Barbara Barkan is a familiar face to local theater audiences.
    Barbara Barkan is a familiar face to local theater audiences.

    This is the first of an occasional series about members of the Toledo area theater community.

    Barbara Barkan began her association with Toledo theater in 1970, when she auditioned for a show at the Rep; that was the start of a stellar career here, both on stage and off.

    In addition to acting and directing, she has held positions with local educational institutions. In the early 1990s she joined the staff of the former Lourdes College, Franciscan Theater and Conference Center, and served there for 12 years, eventually becoming the executive artist director. In 2000 she became Owens Community College Center for Fine and Performing Arts' director of programming, retiring about a year ago.

    “My theatrical life is and has been rich and varied,” Barkan said in an email conversation. She has worked with the Rep, the Village Players, the former Westgate Dinner Theater, and the Collingwood Arts Center. “I have been involved in or on well over 100 shows as an actor, and over a dozen or more as a director,” she added. “My most treasured production has been my daughter, Thea, who like me was bitten by the theater bug at an early age. She admits to starting her theater career in utero.”

    Q: When did you get your start in theater as an actress and as a director? What were the shows?

    My theater career started [when I was] very young. I was cast as Mrs. Santa in our first-grade Christmas pageant, the rest is history. All through high school and college (State University of New York) I pursued the dream. My start as a director came later. While I did direct student works in college, directing in the Toledo community theater arena came along about six years ago. I directed one of the first Edgy Rep shows.

    Q: What drew you to a career in theater?

    I was smitten with theater at a very early age, I was fortunate to have family members who took me to shows and concerts both locally and nationally. My fascination and interest grew each time I was in some way moved, touched, transported by a play or performance. The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd captivated me.

    Q: Do you prefer acting over directing, or do they both have their charms?

    I have been asked this question several times most recently. Until lately (a year or so) I would have answered “acting.” The years and experiences I have had have led me now to favor directing. I am process-oriented and find the rehearsal process invigorating, exciting, and fulfilling. Opening night is a fait accompli — it’s what leads up to it that drives my creative engine.

    Q: What role or roles have you enjoyed most?

    A: Amanda in Private Lives, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Billie in Born Yesterday, Kendall in Impossible Marriage.

    Q: What role or roles are you looking forward to performing someday?

    At this point I actually look forward to opportunities to direct. This March I will be directing The Liar at the Village Players. It is a period comedy done in verse, lavish, naughty, and very funny.

    Q: What would you consider your best performance in Toledo area theater?

    My best performance I would hope would be the show I would currently be in. Each show, each performance gets my best, at least my best attempt.

    Q: What are the strengths of the Toledo theater scene?

    The scene is growing, offering variety and continuous theater performances throughout the year at many venues. Contributing to this rich scene is the Toledo School for the Arts. I have worked with many of the students and am encouraged by the interest and integrity of the up-and-coming young talent who need to carry on and strengthen the theater scene in Toledo. This town produces exciting and challenging theater, testing the talents of actors, directors, technicians, and designers. This makes for a vibrant and fluid theatrical experience for theater-goers.

    Q: And the weaknesses?

    We need more collaborative and cooperative relationships, more open communication and less a feeling of competition. Share information leading to less conflict both in scheduling and season-selecting.

    Q: Who is your favorite stage actor, nationally or internationally?

    Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Densch, and Jennifer Lawrence.

    Q: What is your favorite drama or musical?

    Wicked. I saw Wicked on Broadway with Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, loved their work, the story line, and I am all about “defying gravity!”

    Contact Sue Brickey at: