Get to Know Your Theatre People: Barry Beach (director of The Lyons)
Barry Beach joins our team from Jefferson City, where he keeps himself busy both on- and offstage. His parents were founding members of The Little Theater of Jefferson City (TLT) in the late 1960s, and he’s been a part of the mid-Missouri theatre scene ever since. He began appearing on the TLT stage as a high schooler, and since then, he has performed in venues such as TLT, Capital City Productions (CCP), and Scene One Theatre, as well as in TV spots for area businesses.
As for many people in the local arts, theatre is a family affair. Barry has been married to his wife Paula, the House Manager and Ticket Sales Manager for CCP, for 31 years. Their daughter Jordan choreographs many CCP productions, and makes her way onstage for bigger dance numbers; currently, you can see Jordan onstage with her fiancé Patrick and their son Adrian—along with her sister Madelyn—in Beauty and the Beast at CCP. Barry and Paula’s daughter Margaret is “a wizard with makeup” who has worked backstage for TLT's The Little Mermaid, and is the make-up artist for CCP's Beauty and the Beast. In October, Madelyn and Barry will star together in CCP’s production of Sweeney Todd: Madelyn will play Johanna, and Barry will portray “the deeply unsettling asylum director” Jonas Fogg.
In Columbia, you may recognize Barry from his job at Roots and Blues as 2016 stage security, a role he’ll reprise this year. He remarks, “the arts community in Columbia is very vibrant and active with a great many extremely talented people who populate it and help it to thrive. It's also very diverse: throughout the year, you can find every type of performance art, from theatre to live music to film festivals. Columbia also has extremely talented visual artists. Columbia has always had an extraordinary pool of talent, and I am very happy to now make my small contribution to it.”
We’re thrilled to have Barry join the Columbia arts scene as the director of The Lyons. Read on for his views on directing this intimate play, and his thoughts on the world of the theatre.
What was the first play you remember seeing? What was memorable about it?
I remember watching rehearsals for Little Mary Sunshine when I was seven years old. It was 1969, and the group that would soon become TLT performed it for the St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary as a fundraiser. My parents were in it; I remember laughing at my Dad as he sang and marched around the stage dressed as a Royal Canadian Mountie!
I also remember thinking that it looked really, really fun, and I wanted to do it, too. I'm glad I kept the spark!
What is your favorite thing about the rehearsal process for The Lyons?
As a director, I like seeing the cast develop their characters from ideas in their minds into actual, physical beings on the stage. Although I do suggest where I see their characters moving, how they should say certain lines, and how they might perform certain actions, it is ultimately the actors who bring the character to life, and that is always enjoyable for me to watch.
Amy favorite part of the rehearsal process for The Lyons has been getting to know my new Columbia theatre friends and gaining their trust and acceptance as a director.
Why is it important to stage this play, now?
Well, as with any dark comedy, The Lyons deals with many subjects that are normally very difficult to talk about in general. And while The Lyons does not make fun of them, per se, it does present them in a way that is both humorous and serious. The Lyons deals with many sensitive subjects that are relevant for any generation, but some of the subjects dealt with in the play—such as homosexuality and homophobia—are currently in the national spotlight. While there is humor interspersed throughout the play, it is not my intention, nor that of the playwright, to make fun of or denigrate these subjects. On the contrary, I believe the intent of this play is to help the audience come to some level of understanding and recognition about all of them. To make the audience think and, hopefully, more fully accept the fact that these often-sensitive topics are a real, inescapable part of our society as a whole. And that, on a certain level, they should be talked about. Throwing in a bit of humor simply makes it easier to deliver the message.
As a director, how do you approach the "small room" drama, where a family (or realtor/client) is forced to confront each other without places to escape to?
That is an interesting question. Dysfunctional family stories always have a lot of dynamics, and with The Lyons there is an added dynamic in that the family members at times almost relish being hateful to each other.
As a director, putting all of those dynamics together is a challenge. In real life, when put in the situations that you will see in The Lyons, a person would naturally become hurt or offended, or lash out, or try to find other ways to escape. So my challenge was to get the actors to convey all of those dynamics and emotions and actions like they would in real life: to emphasize the tension that's in the air at any given moment in the play, without getting them lost in the crossfire.
One thing I like to do with my actors in a play like this, where real emotions and real situations are the focus, is to sit down with them very early in the rehearsal process and ask them do talk about their characters. Not just who they are in the time frame(s) of the play, but also other details about them, like what their childhood was like, where they work (if it isn't mentioned in the script), what their life is like outside of the play's setting, etc. I find that it really helps the actors develop their characters into those whom the audience could see as being real people, not just characters in a story.
What do you hope the audience comes away from this play thinking about, talking about, or asking themselves?
Dark comedies are often designed to make audiences think. They present extremely sensitive subject matter in a way that is both humorous and serious at the same time. The Lyons is no exception.
While there will be patrons who leave the theater thinking or saying "I'm glad my family isn't like that," I hope that everyone who attends the play leaves with a new appreciation for people and families who are already affected by any of these issues; that they leave thinking about and talking about how much better our society would be if these issues didn't exist; that they ask themselves what they can do to contribute to the well-being of our society so that someday these issues will no longer exist.
No matter what their family dynamic is, I hope that audiences leave with a new (or greater) appreciation, respect and love for the relationships they have with all of their family members.
What is your #1 karaoke song?
I love karaoke! I have a half-dozen songs that I usually rotate, and I'll try a new one from time to time, but I think my favorite so far is "Amie" by Pure Prairie League.