“The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.”
- Hamlet, Act II, sc.ii
During this milestone 50th anniversary season, we will celebrate many achievements, past and present, and honor many of the people and organizations who have helped us reach this landmark in our history; but no group of people deserves a warmer spotlight than our extraordinary family of artists, who over the years, have been the primary purveyors of the great works of literature that we bring to life each season. Each day of this year, from this first day of rehearsal for the first show of the season, to the last day of our final show, we will highlight one of our company artists and their specific achievements here at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. As they accumulate, you can go to the special calendar link and revisit any of the profiles in the large array of incredible artists who grace the “wooden O’s” of our amazing institution.
May 10th, 2012
Artist of the Day Jon Barker ~ Actor
In just five seasons, Jon Barker has racked up a prodigious catalogue of performance accomplishments with The Shakespeare Theatre. In fact, his rise here has been somewhat meteoric. Less than a decade ago, we first met Jon when he was doing some carpentry work for us in our scene shop. Through the grapevine, word got to Bonnie that while he was a skilled carpenter, his training and his ambitions lay in the acting world, and so he was given an opportunity to audition for Shakespeare Live!, our touring company. As it has for so many others, Live! functioned as the perfect springboard for a move to the Main Stage, and in 2008, after a six month stint touring Midsummer, Macbeth and Nevermore with Live!, Jon was given a non-speaking role in Amadeus on the Main Stage. Joe Discher, who directed that production, spoke highly of Jon’s good (albeit mute) work in that show, and recommended to Bonnie that she consider Jon for a small part in King Lear. Hence, he quickly “graduated up” to a two-line role in Lear. Despite the lack of verbal opportunity, he managed to distinguish himself as a very promising talent, and in that very same season, he won the small but important role of the doctor in A Streetcar Named Desire. The gentle authority he brought to that character helped assure the success of the fragile and final scene in that play. In a record-breaking roll, he was cast in the final two shows of that season, Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale, and he ended the year having performed in the touring company as well as five of the six 2008 Main Stage productions; a full 12 months of non-stop acting work. By the end of that extraordinary and intense induction into the company, we knew we had a truly remarkable leading man “waiting to happen.” In 2009, Jon was given the role of the young romantic lead in School for Wives, and sporting a long, curly, blonde wig and mustache, his comedic talents came to full light in a truly hilarious performance. Again, Jon earned himself a solid streak of work, and returned later that season for both Hamlet and the now-famous shredded paper Twelfth Night. In 2010, Jon turned in a great performance as Tranio in Taming of the Shrew and then went on to All’s Well That Ends Well. In this short time, he had established himself as one of our most versatile and adept players, and a truly delightful and committed company member. His performance in the difficult comedic role of Philinte in The Misanthrope and as Cassio in Othello, both in 2011, cemented his stature as one of our best, young leading men and now, in 2012, we will have the pleasure of seeing his Hotspur in Henry IV, Part One. Being a great company member means so much more than just being a talented actor. Jon exemplifies what it means to be a great company member – his unrelenting pursuit of excellence; his warmth; conviviality; his generosity onstage and off; his gentle spirit; his sublime sense of humor; his dedication to his craft and to The Shakespeare Theatre - his creative home; and his never-ending delight in the words, the characters, and the discovery process, all make working with him an utter pleasure. He is a director’s dream actor, and for a theatre dedicated to the nurturing of talent - an artistic director’s pride and joy.