We had the good fortune of connecting with David Barker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
Difficult decisions have always involved family and how it is impacted by my career choices. Family will always be the top priority in any decision-making, but sometimes a career choice while appearing self-serving on the surface, actually has family values at its core. Three difficult decisions in quick succession occurred early in my career: dropping out of an Off-Broadway hit so that I could see our first child born (1979), leaving my pregnant wife Eileen and 2 year old son to go on a 6-month national tour (1981) and 4 months after that tour ended, uprooting our young family and moving coast to coast, from New Jersey to Santa Barbara to take a position as Visiting Lecturer at the University of California. Three gut-wrenching decisions, weighing career benefits with the family hardships, all took place in a concentrated 2 year period. I was 24.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
To be clear, I make my living as one who trains actors. I enjoy the life of a college professor, and just finished my 37th year at ASU. However, what fuels my studio work with students is my professional activity as an actor, director and fight choreographer. There is nothing that has ever provided the kind of adrenaline rush I get from theatre; partly because of the exhilarating charge an audience provides when they respond, and partly because of theatre’s inherent power. Theatre has the ability to change someone’s heart or perspective about the human condition, and what could be more beautiful than that? Depending on the play, an audience member could become more understanding of people marginalized by race or creed or disability, of unwed mothers, of the LGBTQ community, of victims of domestic violence, of war veterans, of the homeless, of so many misunderstood members of the global community. And during this time of cultural crisis in our country, caused by the relentless murdering of Black people, theatre could actually support and contribute to healing and tangible reform. That is the power of theatre and along with pure escapism (and of course we need that also!), my chosen art can improve our world, one heart/one mind at a time. That is why I love to create. And my most successful works all have one thing in common: engagement. Yes, that moment or sequence when the audience is taken off-guard (they never see it coming) and is suddenly deeply involved on a visceral, imaginative, intellectual or moral level. They walk out of the theatre changed.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
No need to ponder this question: a trip to the Grand Canyon, book-ended with visits to Sedona and Flagstaff. And this Grand Canyon trip is not the measly day trip with the compulsory 30 minute stroll along the South Rim, and a lovely dinner at El Tovar. Oh no. This trip takes a year of planning, as required by the park’s reservation process, and which gives my best friend time to train. We reserve a cabin at the bottom of the Canyon, known as Phantom Ranch, and we reserve our meals at the Canteen. To the outsider, this may sound like cafeteria food, but the staff prepares excellent breakfasts and dinners, and you sit at the bottom of the Canyon in awe of many natural beauties and the food! So we drive from Tempe to Flagstaff, spend the night and walk around the downtown area which offers several outstanding eateries and a town square often bustling with live entertainment. The next day we head to the Canyon’s South Rim, and begin our 4 hour hike to the bottom via South Kaibab trail which provides the best vistas as you descend. The cabin at Phantom Ranch is rustic but clean and we enjoy a night or two in what seems like another world, and which resonates with the spirit of the Havasupai people, who have lived in the Canyon for over 800 years. It is an inspiring world, so far removed from the rat race of urban pressures. Our hike out is 6 hours along Bright Angel trail, and after a 90 minute car ride we spend that night surrounded by the red rock majesty of Sedona, and ease our aching feet in the cool waters at Slide Rock State Park. This trip is not merely showing my BFF the ‘best time ever,’ it is inspiring.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Absolutely everything I have been able to accomplish is a gift from God. And close by, at my side, every single step of my life since 1978, my incredible wife, Eileen has provided support, insight, encouragement and a hefty dose of reality particularly when I’ve had my head…let’s say…in the clouds rather than on the ground.
Laura Durant Tim Trumble Devon C Adams Tim Fuller