Today we’re joined by Zach Barr. Zach’s passion is the theater: he’s a director, writer, and critic. He attended my panel at C2E2 and I’m so glad he did, because he’s an incredibly enthusiastic artist. If his interview is anything to go by, Zach has an incredibly bright future ahead of him in the theater. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a theatre director, writer, and critic. My mission is to use theatre to surprise audiences – whether that be through plays and stories with unusual content or source material, or through bold and inventive reinterpretations of existent works. The world today is seen too often in a binary “good/bad” or “right/wrong” lens. By taking subjects or stories that audiences already have some conception of and presenting them in a new and inventive way, the world will look at those stories in a new light, and hopefully I’ll open a few minds along the way. This comes through in the plays I choose to direct, the subject matter I choose to write about, and the way that I structure the reviews I write.
What inspires you?
What the hell doesn’t? I don’t like putting a line between “low” art and “high” art, so even really simple things are inspiring to me. One of my favorite plays (right now) is Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: a post-electric play, which is all based on The Simpsons. But it puts it through this crazy futuristic lens that makes the audience look at the story in a different way. Oh, and the website Zen Pencils keeps me from slacking off in my art by reminding me how easy and tragic it would be to stop working at it.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I took some classes at a youth theatre in Kirkland, WA when I was younger, and got hooked then. Naturally, I started out as an actor before I jumped more into the other three fields. But yeah, I can’t imagine not being an artist. Someone said once that theatre is such a hard business to succeed in that you should only do it if you literally would not be fulfilled by anything else. So here I am.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I don’t usually include romantic relationships in my work. Or if they’re there, they’re not the focus. That’s probably significant for the purposes of this blog. But nothing else really.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Two songs from musicals that all artists should listen to: “Die, Vampire, Die!” from [title of show] and “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. Both fantastic songs about what it’s like to be an artist, how it’s so hard to put your art before everything else, and why you have to do it. Also: become an interesting person. The best artists are also the most interesting people. Go to abstract art shows downtown. Attend a concert of an artist you’ve never heard of. Take a night class in pottery. Listen to a linguistics podcast. Read books by people you disagree with. Widen your mind so you can reflect a more diverse and detailed world in your work.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Asexual, Heteroromantic. I think. I’m still trying to figure out that romantic part. Maybe it’s Demi. I don’t know yet and I don’t need to pin it down.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
In theatre, not so much. I’ve certainly had the odd person who doesn’t know that asexuality is a thing, but once you explain it to people they generally shrug it off and just treat you normally. But that’s in the world of theatre. People are more open-minded there. In the real world the thing people usually have the most averse reaction to is my statement that I don’t want to get married. I’ve heard “you’ll meet the right person” a lot. And sure, maybe I’ll meet someone I really like spending time with and want to live with. But we’re not getting married.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The confusion between asexual and aromantic is a big one. I still have strong emotional connections with the people I work and live with – they’re just not sexual or “love-y” in nature. I love my family, my friends, my fellow theatre people, and so on. Just because I don’t have one person I can point to as “the strongest bond” doesn’t dilute the strength of the others.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Hm…I guess just know that it’s a viable option? And that there are probably more out there than you know of. I couldn’t name any before I announced I was Ace, and now that I’m out…well, I still can’t name that many, but there are still many, many more than I expected.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I’m at Northwestern University right now, so check on what the theatre groups on campus are doing and see if you see my name there. I’m directing a reading of a new musical, Last Exit, on campus (performances May 27-28, Evanston, IL), and I’ll be returning to my hometown of Eastside Seattle to direct a production of Urinetown for Studio East (performances Aug. 12-13, Kirkland, WA). After that, who knows? But I’m probably staying in the Chicagoland area after graduation.
Thank you, Zach, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.