The Cumberland Theatre sequestered in picturesque Cumberland; Maryland will be presenting Tennessee Williams “Streetcar Named Desire. This American classic follows the seemingly proper Blanche DuBois after she has been forced to live with her sister, Stella, and her brutish, but sexually attractive, husband Stanley Kowalski. We see Blanche’s façade crumble over the hot New Orleans’ summer. The play won Pulitzers in 1948 and a Tony Award for Jessica Tandy as Blanche. In 1951 it was an Academy Award winning movie with Vivian Leigh (Best Actress) as Blanche and Marlon Brando who reprised his Broadway role.
The Cumberland Theatre is celebrated its 30th year in 2018. It originally a project of Frostburg State University becoming independent in its 4th Season. In 1991 Dr. and Mrs. Nicholas Giarritta purchased and renovated an old church, it’s current home. In appreciation, the auditorium was christened The Nicholas and Shirley Giarritta Playhouse. The theatre has also been nominated for 33 Broadway World Regional Awards for a variety of categories.
John Barker will be playing Stanley Kowalski in the present production of “Streetcar Named Desire.” A graduate of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, John is known for originating the role of Charlie in the world premiere of “AGNES” by Catya McMullen which was awarded the NY Times critics pick. Raised in Sweden in an American household, John is fluent in several languages and served in the US Army as a translator. Prior to moving to New York to pursue acting, John worked in the intelligence community until a car accident changed his life. He credits his faith for getting him through dark times and being the guiding light that pushes him to be a better person. He would like to thank his family for supporting him and Imogen for being the Yin to his Yang. This is his first time working with the Cumberland Theatre, and he is honored to don the greasy tank top of a legendary character which has been a long-held dream to play.
I had a chance to interview John Barker to find out more about the actor and this performance.
- Can you give us some personal information, where you call home, where you studied theater other than Stella Adler Studio of Acting, e.g. college, high school and any other things you want to share?
I have been living in New York City for the last four years. So, it has become my home. Before I started the acting conservatory at Stella Adler, I had only taken a few beginner acting classes in the D.C. area over the course of a few months before applying to the school. I had always wanted to be an actor since I was a kid but only pursued what I thought I was supposed to. I got a degree in foreign language and government from Liberty University in Virginia and joined the US Army where I served for five years as a linguist. After that, I worked as a government contractor with the DIA and NSA until I got in a car accident where I was sure that it was the end. Time slowed down and all I felt was regret that I had never tried at anything I wanted to do for fear of failure. Acting was the only thing on my mind, and I told myself that if I could do my life over, I wouldn’t be afraid to pursue my dreams. I walked away from the accident relatively unscathed and immediately looked up acting classes in the D.C. area. I started class the next week, and it brought me here.
- Have you ever performed any of Williams works before, including “Streetcar”? If not, are there any you would like to do in the future?
I have only performed scenes from Williams’ plays before so this is my first full production. I love his plays and there are a few I would like to do including “Summer in Smoke,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “The Night of the Iguana.”
- Did you do any research into New Orleans or have you ever been there? How do you think the New Orleans culture affects the story and characters? Did you see the classic movie?
Visiting New Orleans is still on my bucket list, but I did do research into New Orleans at the time of the play. At the time it was a new city growing quickly post WW2 with people of all backgrounds coming there. It was a city full of brothels, nightlife and a place to enjoy the carnal pleasures. That is very much the culture we see in the play- gambling, sex, drinking and fighting. I have seen the classic film a few times but it is important to note that the film differs somewhat from the actual play because of censorship at the time it was released.
- What actors/actresses do you hold in esteem?
Some actors that I hold in high esteem are Christian Bale, Daniel Day Lewis and Anthony Hopkins to name a few. There is a level of dedication and reverence for the craft there and a constant pursuit of truth.
- What is the difference in performing in regional theatre and New York theatre?
I think the major differences in performing for a New York vs. a regional audience are the expectations and familiarity with the world of theater. New York has a huge theater culture where the audience knows the material very well, and you are almost competing for audiences which puts a lot of pressure on the creative process. If you are unable to get a hold of a great theater location for the show, a lot of people won’t come. In regional theater, there are well-established theaters, like the Cumberland Theatre, that consistently put out great shows and have regular patrons that love their work simply for the enjoyment of attending live theater.
“Streetcar Named Desire” will be playing at the Cumberland Theatre, 101 Johnson Street, Cumberland MD 21502 until June 16th. Tickets are available online.