B.H. Barry's Career-Long Fight to the Tony Award

PlayBlog   B.H. Barry's Career-Long Fight to the Tony Award
 
Broadway's premier fight-director, B.H. Barry, didn't actually bound to the stage of the Manhattan Room of the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel for the presentation of the Special Tony Awards June 12, but there is a certain in-like-Flynn flash-and-dash that clings to the man like glue. Some of it is his clipped accent, and some of it is the old-school mustache, but he cut quite a robust figure as he became the first of his vocation to be voted a Tony Award.


“This has been my Holy Grail, and there it is,” he beamed proudly at his new prize. A master of all manner of physical action on stage, Barry Halliday Barry begin his Main Stem career with the single performance of Frankenstein in 1981 and followed that with mercifully longer runs of Macbeth and Othello. His three-dozen Broadway credits encompass A Streetcar Named Desire, Noises Off, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, An Inspector Calls, Kiss Me Kate and Sly Fox.

His most recent Broadway show was the 2008 Dividing the Estate, which most people remember as a verbal (rather than physical) free-for-all over inheritances. Barry’s contribution was in staging the death of the family’s ancient butler (Arthur French) who sorta wilts to the floor and quietly dies in front of them.

“Arthur fell over — basically, that was it,” Barry said. “It doesn’t matter how small it is—as long as everybody’s safe. I was doing ‘All My Children,’ and the producer said, ‘Can we pay you by the punch?’ I said, ‘I give you all the fights for free. What you’re paying me for is my expertise. When I come into a room, that’s what it’s about.’”

Trained in his native England, Barry pioneered the teaching of stage combat as part of the curriculum of many U.S. drama programs at both university and graduate level. His work has also been seen in movies, opera, ballet and television.

“My life has been rich in artistic opportunities,” he told the gathering at this Tony Eve cocktail party. “When I started to create realistic fights on the stage, little did I expect that I would get this. Teaching has been the core of my fight-directing, my vocation. I love to teach. As I tell students and actors, ‘There’s no such thing as a bad student — only a bad teacher.’ To be able to take a person in a state of not-knowing to a new-found skill is awesome and a cause for celebration.”

Among his thanks: “To William Shakespeare, who has kept me working right into the future. And to my lawyer, Jere Couture, who first got me a billing on the Playbill page. I turned down my first Broadway show because they didn’t want to give me billing. They said if they mentioned the fight director and it was listed, then everybody would know there’s going to be a fight.”

Even without the Tony, he had his fight card pretty well fixed for the year: “On the 20th of July, I go to Salzburg to work with Bart Sher on Romeo and Juliet — the opera — then I come back and do Girl of the Golden West at The Metropolitan Opera. Then, at Christmas time, I do Simon Boccanegra at The Met. Then, I’m directing my own production of Treasure Island — finally! I get to do it.”

— Harry Haun

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