BWW Interviews: Barry Honold, A Life in the Theater

By: Jul. 12, 2010
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Most recently the audience development intern at Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Arkansas-born Barry Honold's next theatrical adventure is as production dramaturg for Nashville Shakespeare Festival's upcoming production of Love's Labour's Lost, the company's 2010 Shakespeare-in-the-Park presentation. Directed by company artistic director Denice Hicks, the production stars Tom Angland, Jeff Boyet, Shannon Hoppe, Nettie Kraft, R. Alex Murray, Eric Pasto-Crosby, Ricardo Puerta, Joseph Robinson and Brenda Sparks.

Clearly, Barry keeps good company. A graduate of Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas (he has both BA and MLA degrees from there) and he earned his MFA in theater dramaturgy from Brooklyn College in 2009. While at Henderson State University, he was the production dramaturg for Fiddler on the Roof, Same Time, Next Year, Hedda Gabler and Dancing at Lughnasa. After a summer internship spent writing grants at Hippodrome State Theatre, he was the Literary Fellow for Philadelphia's Wilma Theater for the 2006-2007 season, where he worked on The Pillowman, My Children! My Africa!, Enemies: A Love Story and The Life of Galileo.

He was accepted into Brooklyn College's Dramaturgy MFA program in 2007, and graduated in 2009. While at BC, he was the production dramaturg for Iphigenia, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, The House of Bernarda Alba and A Piece of My Heart. In the summer of 2008, he was the apprentice/resident dramaturg for Kentucky Repertory Theater's Amadeus, Abraham Lincoln, Private Lives, King Lear and The Drawer Boy.

While at Kentucky Rep, he met became friends with two Nashville-based actors, Brian Russell and Kevin Haggard, who told him about Tennessee Rep. He applied for and was hired as the Professional Audience Development Intern for the 2009 -2010 season. While at Tennessee Rep, he was the production dramaturg for A Christmas Story, Proof and Volpone, and assisted with the historical research for David Auburn's new play The Columnist, about cold warrior Joseph Alsop.

What was your first taste of theatre?
When I was in high school, I played electric guitar for the senior production of Little Shop of Horrors. A couple of my frat brothers in college were involved in theater. The plays that first grabbed my attention there were Medea, J.B. by Archibald MacLeish, and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

What was your first real job or responsibility in the theatre?
I was the stage manager for Crimes of the Heart. I flirted briefly with pursuing stage management or directing. However, I don't have what it takes to be a good director. I'm quite content to be in the middle of a seven-year streak of not-directing. I look forward to many more years of not-directing. I tried my hand at acting a couple of times, but my acting chops extend only to "Two-Dimensional Bad Guy." I think it's important to recognize my limitations.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in theatre?
My undergraduate degree was in psychology and criminal justice. I originally wanted to go into federal law enforcement. I was in an MLA (Master of Liberal Arts) program which encouraged multi-disciplinary study and took an introductory theater course. On the first day, my professor discussed theatrical jobs. When she went into detail about dramaturgy, it was my "Road to Damascus" moment. I took a dramaturgy class the next semester and was hooked. I started acting as the production dramaturg the next semester and I loved it.

I'm fascinated with studying the world of the play as put forth by the playwright. Every playwright has a worldview that will manifest itself in their writing. Consider Eric Bentley's take on Mother Courage and Her Children. It is not an anti-war play; it is an anti-business play. Viewed through the lens of Brecht's Marxism, the inequalities of capitalism nurture the conditions necessary for war. My decision to pursue dramaturgy is validated every time I help an actor or audience member better grasp the play world they are about to enter.

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? What are the best parts of working here?
Why Nashville? It's like Manhattan with more trees and no pollution.

Working with the staff at Tennessee Rep during my internship was phenomenal. Ditto for the actors, the Ingram New Works Festival playwrights, and the volunteers. I didn't realize when I got here how vibrant and widespread the theatrical community was. Everyone is totally supportive of each other. It's immensely gratifying to see your friends come out routinely to support your work.

My personal favorite Nashville discovery? Doyle and Debbie [Bruce Arntson and Jenny Littleton's acclaimed take on country music stardom]. Sheer, unadulterated genius.

If you could play any role, direct any work, design any production, mount any production...what would it be and why?
David Edgar's Continental Divide - it's really two plays (Mothers Against and Daughters of the Revolution) depicting the Republican and Democratic candidates in a gubernatorial campaign. The production is almost five hours long, but it would be worth it for the serious political junkies. I think it's a perfect play for an election year. If I was the dramaturg for it, I'd want to spend a few months before rehearsal began on the campaign trail with two opposing candidates.

Who would play you in the film version of your life story?
Jack Black or Stone Cold Steve Austin.

What's your favorite play/musical?
Play: Copenhagen or Arcadia. Musical: Toxic Avenger: The Musical.

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the theater, who would you choose and why?
Jan Kott: My most Machiavellian choice, just because he'd be a great resource for Love's Labour's Lost. He was a Polish theater theoritician and the author for the vastly influential Shakespeare, Our Contemporary. My dramaturgy professor at BC recommended it to me prior to researching King Lear. He makes some interesting points about the variations of "Rosaline" that appear in Shakespeare's plays. Eric Bentley: the man most responsible for the popularity of Brecht in America. He was a theater critic who started out writing for The New Republic before authoring The Playwright as Thinker. I had the chance to watch him, Robert Brustein and Stanley Kauffmann at a roundtable discussion on the role of the critic in modern American theater. And Macbeth. Sorry: in-joke.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own theatrical dream...what would you say?
Pick what you want to do and bust your tail at it.


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