BWW Interview: STRANGER THINGS' Cynthia Barrett Talks Aurora's BE HERE NOW, Finding Artistic Home in Atlanta, and More
"BE HERE NOW is about the fragility of happiness. We're all striving for that. We have a constitutional right to strive for that, but how do we get there, and what are the things that get in our way, and how do we get around it?" -Cynthia Barrett
You may remember her as Barb's mom from STRANGER THINGS, but while we're waiting for the next chapter in that series, Cynthia Barrett is appearing live at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. Check out our conversation about Aurora's BE HERE NOW below, where this incredibly gracious and insightful actress gives her take on her role of Bari, why she loves the ATLANTA theatre family, and more!
How has BE HERE NOW been so far for you?
Oh, it's great! I love the play, and I've wanted to work at Aurora for a long time, so the fact that I get to do this play at this theatre is really exciting! We're having a blast in rehearsal. It's a very, very, very fun cast! There's just four of us, so we get a lot of time playing with each other which is always fun.
What can you tell my readers about the show?
The playwright has taken very big themes, things that all humans have to deal with, and put them into a very specific situation that is very funny. So she's able to hit on all kinds of levels of things while giving people a really good time. I play Bari, who has come back to her small town and is working a mind-numbing job and just wants to get back to her life in New York City.
So what brings her back?
She has to finish her dissertation- she's ADD, and she's lost her job because she hasn't finished it. So she's out of money, and she has to come back to this little town in upstate New York. She's working in a fulfillment center, packing up tchotchkes and mailing them. So she's gone from a philosophy professor to packing things up all day. Then she also has some weird headaches that are coming up that have some side-effects. And she's working with these two crazy women, Patty and Luanne who are played by Joselin Rayes and Falashay Pearson, and they've stayed in the little town their whole life.
Things happen in this small town, and to her, that allow her to have what you might call a perception shift... But I don't want to give too much away! It's about the fragility of happiness. We're all striving for that. We have a constitutional right to strive for that, but how do we get there, and what are the things that get in our way, and how do we get around it? I'm thinking of it kind of like A CHRISTMAS CAROL- there's no ghosts or anything-but someone who starts in one place and then has a turnaround.
It's described as a "wonderfully weird comedy." How would you say that plays out?
It's kind of wacky. It's all people that you know. It's not crazy to be crazy- no, you're gonna recognize yourself, you're gonna recognize your family members, people you grew up with. That's part of the beauty of this play, that it kind of touches on all different types of ways that we cope with the world that we're in. And I'm the straight guy, pretty much.
So what's it like being the straight man in this situation?
It's fun! It's really fun! I get to kind of, not just sit back, but I get to watch and I get to watch these other beautiful actors and all these wonderful things that they're doing. I think that's what's most fun, especially with the other two women. It's a blast, especially when you're watching people that are as skilled as these two are!
So what has getting into the character Barrie been like for you?
It's still a process. She has a pretty big arc of change that she goes through, so it's finding the truth in all of those different levels from where she starts and go through what she goes through and then where she ends up. There's all kinds of different levels and things that are really, really fun to explore.
The theme is about happiness and how we find it, but she's dealing with some other elements that make this play very unique and make the themes of the play come out in a way that is unique, that I hope will really grab audiences and engage them and then leave them thinking about, "How do I deal with this stuff? What's my perception like?" Not like it's a sit down, and do your list, kind of thing. You're gonna leave the theatre having laughed and hopefully having a really good time. So that's the thing about it, it's a comedy, but it's not just a comedy. It's doing more than that.
And I think comedy is such a great way to approach deep themes too.
I completely agree. Yeah, sometimes it's like a spoonful sugar! If you're laughing through something, sometimes then you become open, and then ideas can get their hooks in you. If you go to see something you know is supposed to tear at your heart, you can say, "No, I don't want to do that today," you're gonna sit there closed off.
I'm excited to see it! It sounds like it's going to be great!
I certainly hope so! The first time I read the play, I was like, "This is something really special!" So I knew I was going to come see it, and I was just over the moon to actually be in it and be a part of it, getting to tell that story. It's a really really really good play!
We are so excited to have you in our ATLANTA theatre family!
You're exactly right. I came down to work with Georgia Shakes in 2002, and I knew at the end of that summer that I wanted to live here because of the ATLANTA theatre community. So I moved here full-time in 2004 to do theatre, and then all the television and film started coming too, which has been great! But yeah, it's the theatre community that brought me to Atlanta. People move to LA, but I don't need to. I have found my artistic home, and it is because of THE FAMILY group that is ATLANTA theatre, and you're included in that! It's all of us that are keeping ATLANTA theatre going and writing about it, talking about it, doing it, it's all part of THE SOUP that is ATLANTA theatre. And then in the bigger arts community as well. I think it's wonderful. I just love it here!
Be Here Now will play at Aurora Theatre September 20 - October 21. Tickets are currently on sale; single ticket prices start at $20 and may be purchased online at bit.ly/ATBeHereNow or by calling the Box Office at 678-226-6222. For more information on this production or other programming, please visit auroratheatre.com.
Cynthia Barrett (Bari) is thrilled to be making her Aurora Theatre debut! Theater credits include Silent Sky, Godspell, The Chase (Theatrical Outfit), Appropriate, Burn This (Actor's Express) Black Pearl Sings (Horizon), Brooklyn Boy (Jewish Theatre of the South) and productions at Theatre Emory, Springer Opera House, Triad Stage, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, Georgia and North Carolina Shakespeare Festivals. You can catch her work in the films INSURGENT and 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN. On television she plays Marsha Holland (Barb's Mom) on the Netflix hit "Stranger Things" and appears on "Halt and Catch Fire", "Kevin probably Saves the World", "Ozark", "Homeland", "Vice Principals" among others. She earned her MFA in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Thank you for supporting live theatre!