Barbara Bates Smith, current resident of Haywood County, NC, has made quite a name for herself. Best known for her role of “Ivy Rowe” from Lee Smith’s novel Fair and Tender Ladies, this gal has performed Off-Broadway, in Scotland, and across the country in several Lee Smith and Ron Rash inspired works. (NC Stage patrons may remember her best from her benefit performance of Ivy Rowe last season.) In addition to her famed one-woman shows she has undertaken many power-house roles including Dr. Vivian Bearing in Wit and Sister Aloysius in Doubt in regional theatres across the country.
What drew you to 4000 Miles?
“I read a review for the piece in the New York Times, tore out the review and the picture, and kept it. I knew that someday, somewhere, I wanted to be a part of this story.”
Vera Joseph- a mirror?
When I asked if she found many similarities between herself and her character Vera, she laughed. Barbara explained that she is attracted to “spunky” roles. “Is it because I am spunky that I am drawn to the type or have I become spunky from playing these roles? I’m not sure.” Either way she possesses the same feisty nature that lies within Vera’s veins.
With a spark of passion in her eyes she began to share with me that she, too, is a political activist like Vera. Her most recent tour, Go, Granny D!, tells the true story of Doris “Granny D” Haddock who completed a year-long walk from California to DC at the age of 90 to advocate financial campaign reform. Barbara shared with me many stories of her own political efforts. In fact, she will perform a new monologue called “Reverend B, Meet Granny D” at a political reform conference in Asheville this month. In the words of Granny D, “You’re never too old to raise a little hell.”
What if you had not chosen a different career?
I inquired whether or not she would have been a vocational activist had she not pursued a performance career. I was surprised by her response: “No. I would have spent my life getting other people’s stories…” In fact, Barbara currently leads a Story Circle for the Haywood Street Congregation, a homeless ministry where a diverse community comes together as equals. Every week people from all backgrounds get together and simply share their stories, their lives together. “That’s the most important and rewarding work I do.”
What do you hope the audience will gain from 4000 Miles?
“…to see them laughing at, and sympathizing with, these very real-life characters and their relationships… and perhaps see their own lives in it too.”
For more information regarding her touring shows visit: www.barbarabatessmith.com