BWW Interview: LINDA VISTA's Ian Barford Muses on Tracy Letts & Steppenwolf
A re-occurring staple of Tracy Letts' plays, Ian Barford heads the cast of LINDA VISTA, already in previews at the Mark Taper Forum. Ian allocated some of his down time between shows to answer a few of my queries.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ian!
Your character 'Wheeler' in LINDA VISTA is the fourth Tracy Letts role you've originated. What does your fellow Steppenwolfer Tracy see in you that has him cast you so frequently?
You'd have to ask Tracy whether there is something particular about me as an actor that has caused me to originate four of his plays. I think the honest answer is that it's somewhat accidental. Tracy is very dedicated to Steppenwolf. I am very fortunate to be in a theater company with such a gifted and prolific playwright. Relevant to 'Wheeler,' Tracy and I are very close in age and have been friends for 30 years, and have collaborated many times as fellow actors and playwright/actor. We have shared a lot in each other's lives. We have a shorthand on many subjects.
When did you first come to Steppenwolf?
I started at Steppenwolf as an acting intern in 1988, began working main stage shows there in the early 90's.
Is this production at the Mark Taper Forum the second time you've played Wheeler since its world premiere at the Downstairs Theatre in 2017?
Yes, this is the second production of LINDA VISTA.
What changes in your portrayal of Wheeler have you noticed/have you incorporated since the original world premiere?
The rewrites for this iteration of the play are extensive. It doesn't feel like a remount, but rather a new production. The archetype of the 'anti-hero' is somewhat new for me. It presents many joys and many challenges.
How great is it to revisit Wheeler with some of your original castmates (Tim, Sally, Caroline) after all of you doing your own respective projects?
I feel extraordinarily lucky to be able to work on this role with this company. Hugely interesting and challenging.
What hypothetical situation would you find your four Tracy Letts characters (Little Charles in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, Ray in MARY PAGE MARLOWE, Mr. Carp in THE MINUTES and Wheeler in LINDA VISTA) interacting in? (A union rally? During a happy hour? At a high school reunion? In a line at the DMV?)? Who would take charge of this situation?
That's an interesting question. Little Charles, Ray, Mr. Carp and Wheeler... Hmmm? I could see them crossing paths at a small privately-owned diner somewhere in the Midwest. Mr. Carp is the most mature.
You've done theatre in Chicago, Broadway, London, Los Angeles and countless other cities. Any audience traits you can identify with any particular city? (more boisterous, more contemplative, more supportive)
Geography is definitely an interesting component of doing plays. When we did AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, we were very aware of what distinguished Chicago from New York from London. So far, L.A. has been loving LINDA VISTA. We're having a great time.
Is there another Tracy Letts project or other prospective gigs in your near future?
I'm not able to share future projects as of now because they have not been announced.
What else of your experience in LINDA VISTA can you share with us?
In LINDA VISTA, Tracy has written something hugely entertaining, but also complex. There is a breath-taking unconsciousness to the motivations and behavior of Wheeler. In this current time, when men are finally being held to account on age-old disrespectful behavior, the play offers a beautiful view of the myriad impulses that connect men and women. One of the revelations most interesting to me is how many WOMEN identify with Wheeler. On the surface, he seems to typify a traditional male-narcissist, and certainly many of the women who see the show respond accordingly. But I'm so fascinated and astounded at how many women have come away from the play saying that they identify with Wheeler. We are all subject to pain.
Thank you again for doing this interview, Ian! I look forward to meeting your Wheeler.
For ticket availability and show schedule through February 17, 2019; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org