Summerworks Interview: Keith Barker [Homegrown]

Keith Barker from the Summerworks play Homegrown

A lot has been said already about the Summerwokrs show Homegrown. Good, bad, the Prime Minister. It is all out there. No matter what you think of the show, it has certainly raised some quesions about the arts, funding, terrorism and the media.

Keith Barker is a Toronto actor who plays the roll of Greg, the boyfriend, in Homegrown. I wondered what it was like to be an actor involved with a play that has gotten so much political attention. I sat down to ask Keith to talk about his involvement, as an actor, in Homegrown.

How did the opportunity to be cast in Homegrown come about for you?
I was contacted by Bea Pizano the director of the piece. We knew each other through Native Earth Performing Arts where I was the Artistic Associate for two years. She had seen me in The Making of St. Jerome by Marie Beath Badian at the Next Stage Festival in January and contacted me regarding a piece she was mounting at the Summerworks Festival.

How much did you know about the Toronto 18 story prior to accepting your role in Homegrown. How has your perception changed of the entire news story?
Only what i had heard on the television and read in the papers, which was very little due to the publication ban. I had seen the video of men loading a truck and a swat team storming in, but that was about it.

The fact that Catherine Frid (writer) is a lawyer has been very valuable to this process. She has been able to explain the legal details of the case in a way that makes them understandable. The Terrorism Act is something I knew little about before my involvement in HOMEGROWN and it is a very scary piece of legislation with very broad powers given to police and the government. I was reminded of the way the G20 was handled in Toronto and how if the people are scared enough there is a lot of room for the police, the government and the media to take advantage. I think HOMEGROWN is an important piece because it begins a conversation that few in Canada are having and it is unfortunate that the media coverage has chosen to take the direction it has and for the most part not engaged the public and taken the opportunity to grow the conversation.

What are some possible consequences for you, as a professional working actor, after being involved in such a controversial production? Benefits too?
I am not really sure at this point. I have had really positive feedback and support from my fellow artists and from family and friends. While everyone may not agree on the politics of the trial or the accused we are having positive debate and dialogue about something that is current and affects all of us.

As for my future as a professional actor it is difficult to think that this would be harmful in anyway but then again I didn’t think the Prime Minister of Canada, would make a statement denouncing the play, I didn’t think the Sun newspaper would put a cast member on the front cover with the words ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ printed underneath it or that this would be the beginning of a debate on funding for the arts and censorship. We need to be talking about these issues, absolutely, but i think an informed conversation is better than making assumptions.

Why did you ultimately decide to take part in Homegrown?
To be honest, I was nervous. I had friends who made very legitimate arguments about turning this piece down. I had a long conversation with my mom & my partner about it. As soon as I admitted to myself that the content made me uncomfortable I knew I had to do it.

What has been the hardest part about doing this play? Usually I ignore reviews, but it has been difficult not to read the articles and news reports that keep showing up in the headlines. Especially since it’s been so inflammatory. I found it most troubling that public officials and the media were making statements and writing stories even before they had read or seen the play.

You can catch Homegrown today, August 13th at 5:30 or Saturday, August 14th at10:30PM at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace.

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Posted on by Wade in Everything, Summerworks

About Wade

Transplanted east coaster now in Toronto. Lover of Canadian music and comedy

One Response to Summerworks Interview: Keith Barker [Homegrown]

  1. george t.

    this play is a fraudulent misrepresentation of the facts of the case. while it does not glorify terrorism, it suggests there is no evidence in the case and that its the result of a set-up by paid informants (how it is people think you get evidence on groups like this no one seems to know). a horrible attempt at re-writing the narrative. The Toronto Star has a comprehensive piece on this case, and you won’t 10 bucks to hear lies.

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