Paul R. Barstow

For nearly forty years Paul Barstow combined teaching at Wellesley College and active participation in the life of the theatre.

Barstow was born in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 22, 1925. He graduated with history honors from Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. Barstow's studies at Williams College were interrupted by World War II. He served in Europe during the last few months of the war under General George S. Patton's Third Army command in the 65th Infantry Division. In the spring of 1945 they liberated the Maunthausen concentration camp in Austria.

In 1945 Barstow was awarded the Third Army scholarship to Oxford University. There he studied historical theology at Keble College and took advantage of the opportunity to sample the richness of the London stage. "I saw a lot of theatre," he later recalled. Once his Army service was over, Barstow returned to Williams College to complete his bachelor's degree in English. After his graduation in 1948, Barstow taught English at Williams for two years, introducing seminars in modern poetry. Then came two years of work - which he characterized as "boring" - for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, developing tests in the humanities and fine arts.

In 1955 Barstow received the M.F.A. degree in directing from the Yale University School of Drama, having written his thesis on the concept of Areté in Sophoclean tragedy. He then came to Wellesley College as a member of what was at that time the Speech Department. His goal was "to do creditably plays which will entertain and stimulate the students, the faculty and the townspeople."

Barstow created the theatre studies program at Wellesley, gradually adding courses over the years. By 1971 it was possible for students to major in theatre studies. Study in the classroom - often in courses taught by other departments or at other institutions, as well as in courses devoted to the theatre - was supplemented by work in actual productions. During his career at Wellesley, Barstow directed over 100 Wellesley College theatrical productions, everything from ancient Greek to avant-garde.

Barstow always has loved to travel, using trips to investigate and experience the theatrical offerings and the culture of many parts of the world. He has visited Europe; north, east and west Africa; the Middle East; Latin America; Russia; South East Asia; China; Japan; Indonesia; Australia; and New Zealand. In the summer of 1979 he was visiting professor at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. On sabbatical in 1987 he traveled twice around the world!

Since his first visit to Japan 1977, Barstow has been particularly interested in that country's culture. His trips there provided the stimulus for Wellesley College productions of Kabuki, Noh plays, Kyogen comedies.

During the winter terms of 1978 and 1979 Barstow conceived, organized and directed the "Socratic Academy," a combination of interdisciplinary courses and colloquia and an active sports and performance experience. The Socratic Academy's "no homework" rule encouraged participants to pursue knowledge through disciplined thought and dialectic. The participants dubbed it an "intellectual day camp."

Barstow also has had an active career as an actor, director and producer. He is a member of Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Association for Asian Performance, and served for three terms as president of the New England Theatre Conference. His roles have included Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Kulygin in Chekhov's Three Sisters, Max in Pinter's The Homecoming, and Pontius Pilate in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In addition to seasons with the Provincetown Playhouse, Barstow also worked with the Harvard Summer Players and the Williamstown Theatre. He also has appeared on television shows and in films, has worked as a photographic model -- most notably in Boston English Illustrated and Moa Boston English - and has been in television commercials.

Throughout his life Barstow has had an active association with community theatres. Perhaps his longest association with any such group has been the over forty-year association with the Vokes Theatre in Wayland, Massachusetts. In the 1960s and 1970s Barstow directed and acted with his own theatrical company, Roundabout Repertory, which toured the greater Boston area.

When Barstow retired in 1995 Wellesley College honored his contributions by naming the main stage of Alumnae Hall after him.

Paul Barstow now lives in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in an apartment adjacent to the home of his elder daughter, Victoria (Wellesley '78). He continues to perform in theatrical productions and to travel.


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