Sunday Jul 14

EricBarr Eric Barr taught acting and directing at UC, Riverside from 1975 until 2013. He has directed over 100 productions including The Rocky Horror Show, The Sea Gull, Much Ado About Nothing, Metamorphosis, and Detained in the Desert. He was the Chairman of the Theatre Department for over 30 years and was one of the architects of UCR’s MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. He was the Founding Director of the UCR Palm Desert MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. Barr was a co-writer, along with Charles Evered and Marty James, on the movie A Thousand Cuts. His screenplay Hole in the Sky was a finalist at Sundance, and the screenplay Cirque Berserk was a winner at the Telluride Indiefest. Two of his earlier stories have appeared in Connotation Press. In addition to his writing, Eric has worked as a theatre director and acting coach for many years. He was the Artistic Director of the Porthouse Theatre in Cleveland, taught acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in Los Angeles, and worked as an acting coach with the National Theatre of the Deaf. Barr’s weekly podcasts on acting, “Notes on Acting”, can be found at the website Acting Is... iTunes, and on Stitcher on Demand Radio.

Eric Barr interview with Meg Tuite

Your story, “Saturday Mourning” brings to mind the quote of Thoreau that “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” What was your inspiration for this and yes, it does have that feeling entrenched in it, that we end up somewhat like our parents?

I think this particular character ends up like his father and only just realizes who/what he has become. The inspiration came in several small pieces; first was the newspaper announcement for the puppet show and then there was the drip, drip, drip of the Mr. Coffee. Those two true things got the story going.

Here are a few quotes from “Saturday Mourning”:

“In the light, the toys developed sharp, dangerous edges meant for his feet and the clothes laid scattered around the room as if shed by a dozen participants in an orgiastic frenzy.”

“What he didn’t know was how much his wife identified with those little wooden people controlled by unseen giants.”

“...he ran his hand through his hair to check his hairline. No new movement. It was, he thought, like checking his parent’s beachfront property for signs of erosion, finding new areas of sand that had, in the night, slipped away into the ocean. The image of a green seaweed toupee brought a smile to his face and in that tightening of muscles he saw the hard-edged face of his youth.”

“How often had he sat in court, his penis nosed against wet underwear, watching a small dark patch grow in the crotch of his suit?”

‘“I’m an adult,” he said and he realized that he had already passed through his childhood and his manhood to adulthood, a transition without ceremony, to be faced alone when the holy trinity of family, work, and money was not there to protect you on a lonely Saturday morning or deep in a sleepless night.”

Is this part of collection that you’re working on, Eric? What do you have in the works?

No. This story is not currently part of a collection. But I suppose it could be. Right now I am rewriting the script for my one-man show about my surgery, stroke rehab, and recovery. It is called “A Piece Of my Mind.” I performed it in May and am looking forward to taking it on the road.

That sounds absolutely amazing! Let me know if your show comes anywhere near NM, please?
I love how you capture the beauty of family and also the exquisite moments we find, when we realize we are alone and can light up that cigarette and reflect. Many people have a hard time with solitude. What would you say to them?

If you can’t be alone with yourself, how can you be alone with someone else?

Beautiful and so damn true! Theater and film have been HUGE in your life. Do you find in your work that you write things more visually or do you utilize the other senses in those first few drafts? 

As an actor I feel like I experience what my characters are going through which gives me a sense of their inner lives and as a director I try to carefully stage moments in my writing that reveal the characters’ thoughts and emotions. I am captivated by details and try to make them as clear and real as I can.

Can you speak of how your life has changed since you’ve had a stroke? How has it changed the way you see things creatively and approach them? 

Prior to my stroke I typed as fast as I thought. So I wrote in words, sentences and paragraphs. My left hand is still not functional so I do my typing with my right hand only. This means that I write one letter at a time. This challenge is exacerbated by the problems with my short-term memory loss. Writing one letter at a time makes it hard to remember the end of the sentence I am trying to write and even harder to remember the plot structure; sometimes I can’t even remember the ending. Since my stroke, reading and writing exhaust me. If I do either for an hour I am completely wiped out, as if I had been moving rocks.

EricBarr-onKona Here I am on Kona. Before my stroke I was a pretty good rider, but now it is a therapeutic exercise for strength, coordination and balance.

I cannot thank you enough for sending CP a story of yours and this interview, Eric! What music speaks to you, makes you feel sadness or elation, or both?

I am a huge Leonard Cohen fan. I love his poetry, his voice, and his arrangements. I am also currently listening to a lot of Jeff bridges and the Abiders. 

Who have been the most essential influences in your life?

I had the opportunity to work with master teachers in acting, martial arts, and horsemanship.   I learned incredible lessons from them all. And their work influences everything I do. The other important role models are many of the people I met in rehab who were not about to be stopped by a stroke, an accident, or some other medical problem. It is their guts and determination that make me keep working even when my mind and spirit are tired.

What are reading right now? Do you read poetry, and if so, who are some of your favorites?

I don’t read much poetry. But I do like Billy Collins. And I have been reading Leonard Cohen’s writing. I am currently reading Elia Kazan’s, A Life. And Tod Goldberg’s, Gangsterland.I also recently read and enjoyed The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman.

I know you and Ken worked together on at least one film. He is quite a force of love and emotion! Do you have any great story you’d like to share from that time working together?

I know we laughed a lot, but I am sorry to say I don’t have many memories from that time.

Thank you so much, Eric, for being a featured writer at Connotation Press once again! You are pure brilliance, beauty and inspiration!


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