Barton Finds His Place On The Stage

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Barton Finds His Place On The Stage

James Barton acts in Fiddler On The Roof during the Friday night performance.

James Barton acts in Fiddler On The Roof during the Friday night performance.

Maggie Lea

James Barton acts in Fiddler On The Roof during the Friday night performance.

Maggie Lea

Maggie Lea

James Barton acts in Fiddler On The Roof during the Friday night performance.

Grace Ojewia, News Editor

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Sporting a beard, James Barton smiled as he pulled up a chair. It was the continuation of our first interview and although he mentioned he was fatigued, he nonetheless seemed eager. His persona seemed to exude a sense of being an actor. As we talked, his gentle manner gave the impression that he generally puts a lot of thought into what he does. As one of the leads in this year’s musical, Barton has gotten the opportunity to showcase his skills.

As Tevye, the poor milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, the contemplative young man that I had met just a few days prior turned into a middle-age Jewish man living in Russia right before my eyes. From his accent to the costume, I was transported into this era just before the war to end all wars as Tevye (Barton) struggled to hold onto tradition while letting his daughters choose their own paths.

“I’ve played father figures like this before, but never quite like this where they are going through such a change,” Barton said. “It is similar to what high school is like. Kids are growing up and are doing their own thing.”

He feels like acting was almost always meant for him. From the time he was a young boy in school and teachers would ask what he wanted to be when he grew up, he did not really have an answer.

There was not one thing that did not sound interesting to him. After he started participating in the musicals that his middle school put on, everything seemed to click. It made sense, his métier, because through the art form he could be anything he wanted. It is what he loves the most, and he could not see himself really doing anything else with his life.

At his middle school it was pretty standard that many students participated in the annual musical. It was something that everyone, both faculty and students, looked forward to. During his eighth grade year the musical was Marry Poppins and Barton got the role of Bert. It was the first time that he truly connected with a character.

“When you connect so emotionally to one character, you become that character,” Barton said.  “That’s something I hadn’t felt again until Tevye. Marry Poppins was where I realized that this is what I want to do with my life. ”

All the musicals since, from 9 to 5 to Fiddler on the Roof have been an opportunity to explore the human experience for him as he tests and strengthens his skills in acting.

“Musical theatre or theatre in general has opened my eyes to new perspectives,” Barton said. “I feel like with each new role I take on part of the world opens up to me that was shut off or unexplored before.”

In professional acting, the performer has to take a character hidden in the words of paper and turn them into a three-dimensional person that could walk among us. When he is in his element, Barton first immerses himself in the story and tries to grasp an understanding of what he is portraying. Whether that is from doing additional research on the time period or place, or learning more about a story, accurately representing the story while adding his own individual touch to a role has always been his goal.

“It is the most wonderful feeling as a parent to be able to watch your child do something they love and do it so very well,” Barton’s mom Amanda Ryan said. “His dedication not only to the roles he plays, but the entire process has been wonderful to witness.”

Before every show he has some rituals that he does to prepare himself. He feels like every performance is unique in itself. Barton puts everything he has got into his auditions, practices, and performances yet never overshadows those who he works with.

“He is always discovering new things and willing to give or take,” theater teacher and director Alexie Baugh said.

In 9 to 5 Barton played the unfaithful husband of the protagonist Judy Bernly. There was a scene where he did not have any lines, but was reacting to what Bernly was singing and during practice Baugh found his reactions incredibly well done. The level of professionalism that Baugh had seen from Barton was always impressive and from that point on he continued to grow and stand out through his acting.

“His reactions to her were so good and he was able to respond to everything that was happening in the music and so we really believed him,” Baugh said. “I think that was where I really saw something in Jimi where he was really able to take that extra step as an actor and really internalize and become a character no matter what he had to work with.”

Outside of acting, Barton loves the outdoors and in his free time he is often hiking, hammocking with his friends, shooting the tube in the summer, or just enjoying the natural beauty that is around him. He loves movies and directors, two of his favorite being Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino. Music is another big passion of his and his favorite musician is John Mayer. He loves Mayer so much, he was once late to class because he was jamming out to Room for Squares when it was playing during the passing time between classes. He is the kind of guy who laughs with everyone else at a joke made at his expense and brushes it off.  As a very compassionate soul, he is always looking out for others, yet is comfortable with himself.

Barton is very involved in school whether it is through the performing arts or academics. He has been on the drama council for two years as a part of public relations and now he is the head of public relations. He has been a part of choir and is currently a member of Concert Choir. Academically, Barton challenges himself by taking honors and AP classes and is always seeking more knowledge.

“James is passionate about learning and striving to be great at what he does,” Ryan said. “That encompasses everything from school, to acting, to computers, and photography…maybe not so much when it comes to doing dishes. That has always been who he is.”

He recently shed himself of the beard as he prepared for auditions for the next play. As one production comes to a close and another begins, you will find this contemplative guy always pushing the boundaries of what he can become. As he has said, what better way is there to become anything you want than to be an actor?

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