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After 26 shows as a Blugold, grad looks to next stage

| Judy Berthiaume

Are you a fan of UW-Eau Claire’s theatre arts?

If yes, chances are good that you have seen Barry Inman’s work.

When Barry graduates next month from UW-Eau Claire, he will have 26 more shows — including 16 main stage productions — to add to his already impressive resume.

Barry has been a part of every main stage production since he arrived on campus as a freshman, as well as numerous shows put on by student and other groups.

“I have been both on and off stage,” says Barry, a comprehensive theatre major from Becker, Minnesota. “I have been an assistant costume designer, costume designer, assistant stage manager, stage manager, house manager and an actor.

“In this major, we all have to do a variety of show assignments, and that is something I thoroughly enjoy about the department. I will leave the university with a multitude of skills and will be versatile in the workforce.”

While it is not always easy to juggle classes, homework, practices and performances, he has loved every minute of it, Barry says, noting that there were times he was involved with three different productions at one time.

“Theatre inspires me because it is solely about the human experience,” Barry says. “Every single one of us has a completely different path to where we are today. Theatre is simply storytelling. You get to sit there while an actor shares another human's story and I get a drive off that.

“Learning about people, learning about how they operate and learning about how they got to where they are due to what they have been through is what inspires me the most.”

Not surprisingly, after four years immersed in all things theatre, it is hard to pick a favorite show, role or experience, he says.

Still, this year’s “Sweeney Todd” production definitely is high on his list, he says, primarily because he loved the challenges that came with it.

“I was an assistant stage manager on the show and a lot of music students were cast in the show, many whom I have not worked with before,” Barry says. “The challenge was bridging the two parts of the department and collaborating.

“Many of the actors had no idea what stage managers did, how the set and costumes get built, how lights are hung and focused, and how much work actually goes into the production. By the end, there was a greater understanding of how a production goes from an idea to a product.”

Thanks to the on-the-job learning experience, he will be well prepared to help coordinate his next musical or opera, Barry says.

Another highlight of his Blugold career was being a part of The Players, a student organization that presents shows outside of the university’s main stage productions. He's served on the organization's executive board for three years.

This year, The Players put on its first musical, “The Last Five Years.” The show sold out throughout its run.

“I was a costume designer for the show and the production team spent countless hours putting the show together,” Barry says. “After rehearsal for the main-stage show, we would go over to Kjer Theatre and work on this one, whether it was painting or patching lights.

“We were in there until 2 a.m. many nights. Each member of the team was so passionate about what they were doing. For this show, I was moved at the effort that we all put in and then having a sold-out run.”

Barry also gained valuable experience with costume design thanks to two research grants secured by a theatre faculty member.

Through the first grant, he worked with Amanda Profaizer, an assistant professor of theatre arts, to design costumes for “Three Sisters.” With the second grant, he served as the costume designer for “Roustabout,” with Profaizer there to offer advice and guidance as needed.

Those opportunities were especially meaningful because it had been years since a student assisted with costume design for a main stage show at UW-Eau Claire, Barry says.

As he nears graduation, Barry is confident that his many varied experiences — on and off the stage — give him the knowledge and experience he needs to be successful in the theatre industry.

Thanks to UW-Eau Claire’s New York City Artists spring break immersion program, he also has connections within the theatre industry; connections he hopes will help him break into the competitive industry.

“I met with many professionals in the field and made a ton of connections, which is essential in the theatre industry,” Barry says of the New York City immersion. “After that trip, I felt more driven to develop my product, myself. I am now taking the necessary steps to find my success.”

His time in New York City also helped him refine his future goals, he says.

“One day, I will own my own small theatre company either in the Twin Cities or Chicago,” Barry says of his career aspirations. “I was never really sure what I wanted to do in the theatre because I never really found the perfect fit.

“After the immersion trip, I was reassured that company management or arts administration would be where I fit in. I want to at least start out in the Twin Cities and get a job with the Guthrie or Hennepin County Theatre Trust.”

As graduation nears, Barry says he is more certain than ever that UW-Eau Claire was the right college for him.

“Once I got out of the car for my tour, I had a feeling inside that this is where I belonged,” Barry says of UW-Eau Claire. “Now, as I get ready to graduate, I could not be more proud of what I have accomplished during my time here. I am ready to step into the next chapter of my life.”

Photo caption: Barry Inman, right, was a member of the cast for UW-Eau Claire's production of "The Heidi Chronicles."