Growing up in Colorado Springs, Caroline Barry loved two things: theater and adventure. Wait. Make that three: she also played a mean game of lacrosse.
She’ll wield a pistol instead of a LAX stick when she takes the stage this summer at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, but there’s little doubt that her yen for acting and adventure will serve her well in the lead role as Jim Hawkins in “Treasure Island.”
“I think the play itself and the adventure it creates is alluring to anybody who ever wanted to be an explorer or going to some mysterious island,” says Barry, 20, of Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson swashbuckling classic.
As children, Barry and her brother indulged their active imaginations with quests and adventure in the valley that spilled off of their backyard.
“There’s caves and all this cool stuff, all these deer trails. We would spend entire summers exploring, pretending to be Pocahontas, refusing to wear shoes,” says the CU a theater major, entering her senior year. “I think that sense of adventure is still in all of us. We all want to go run around barefoot and explore.”
After a quick start as a child actor, in high school Barry balanced her love of lacrosse — “Actually, I was involved more with that than theater” — by starting her own acting school. For three summers running she held several week-long sessions in her garage, coaching and directing neighborhood kids in performances of “Annie,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Barry wasted no time before plunging into the theater scene when she arrived at CU Boulder. She was cast in Maurice Maeterlinck’s “The Blind” as a freshman and was literally in rehearsals before setting foot in a classroom. She went on to perform in three plays that academic year.
All that experience should serve her well in the role of Jim, the 14-year-old English boy who finds himself on the high seas with a band of pirates and dodging bullets on an exotic tropical isle.
Director Carolyn Howarth, who directed Barry as an understudy in CSF’s 2011 production of “The Comedy of Errors,” said she had the CU student in mind from the moment she decided to helm “Treasure Island.”
“The seed to have a young woman play Jim is planted by the playwright (in his notes). So I knew from the beginning I wanted to cast a woman,” says the director. “I worked with Caroline last summer and just loved her. She has the spirit for this role. … Every now and then you run into young actors and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, she has it.’ Last summer I saw that.”
Barry has the acting chops, as it turns out, to have been given a rare opportunity: She is the first CU Boulder undergraduate to play a lead role at CSF in XX years.
“We’re so pleased that we were able to offer a leading role to a CU undergraduate and that Caroline Barry is an exceptional young actor. The role is just right for her. It’s a perfect match and we couldn’t be happier,” says Philip Sneed, Producing Artistic Director at CSF.
Barry is confident that audiences will be accepting of the long theatrical tradition of having young women play boys: “I think we’ve seen with ‘Peter Pan’ that people are really okay with it.” She simply plans to channel her inner adventurer.
Still, she says, CSF resident company actor Stephen Weitz buried a gentle ribbing in his compliment during auditions when he told her, “I can believe a girl as a boy, but when you run they’ll never believe it’s a boy.”
Hard to believe, given Barry’s reputation for running — according to her lacrosse-playing brother — “like a gazelle” while on field. But, she promised Weitz, “If I get this part, I will run like a boy!”
Editor: Hayley Samuelson.
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