Profile: Etai Smotrich-Barr Continues To Act And Make Meaningful Friendships With PTG

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Etai Smotrich-Barr is playing Schlomo Metzenbaum in the upcoming Pioneer Theatre Guild production of “Fame, The Musical.” and the Community High School junior says his character “struggles with growing up in the shadow of his father, and finding his own path in music.”

Smotrich-Barr admits that he struggled a bit getting into his character.

“The biggest challenge I have found is getting into my character,” he says. “Putting on a role is a very difficult process because to act well you can’t just say your lines, you need to have all the motivations and intentions of your character behind them. For me to do that requires laying down all the motivations and emotions that I am having on a certain day, and take on Schlomo’s instead.”

And sometimes doing just that isn’t an easy thing to do.

“I have a lot of trouble gathering the focus it takes to do that,” he says. “That being said, I feel like Schlomo has a lot of traits I can relate to and is facing a lot of experiences in high school that I have faced at one point or another. Thus, once I can take on the character, I am able to relate to it easily.”

Schlomo Metzenbaum is the son of a classical violinist whose dream is to play in a rock band. He struggles with growing up in the shadow of his father, and finding his own path in music.

“He also must navigate a complicated romantic relationship with Carmen, whose pursuit of fame at all costs is at odds with his goal to follow his aspirations and not change himself to fit the expectations of others,” Smotrich-Barr says.

The expectations are certainly high for another brilliant production from the well-respected Pioneer Theatre Guild. “FAME The Musical,” presented by the PTG, opens Saturday, April 27 and runs through May 5. Smotrich-Barr says rehearsals have been going great!

“We are working under a fabulous creative team with a lot of energy and vision,” he says. “In each scene we work on not just lines or blocking, but on intentions of characters and inter-character relationships. Our director Maya often challenges us to find out our character’s internal justifications for every action, and our music director Ryan works with us on moving beyond just melodies into the emotions of every song.”

And the rewards of the hard work and extra effort is showing up on stage.

“I think that hard work really pays off as you see group scenes bursting with life and solos that pour out emotion,” Smotrich-Barr says.

The cast for “Fame, the Musical,” is split into three smaller groups based off the cliques in Fame ’s high school: the musicians, the actors, and the dancers. Smotrich-Barr says the cast is “amazing.”

“The dance ensemble is incredibly talented and are given lots of dance features throughout the show,” he says. “I’m a member of the musicians, as Schlomo is a violinist and pianist, and although I am jealous of the dancer’s talents (I have two left feet myself), I still believe that ‘music is the hardest profession in the world,’ as you will learn in one of our songs.”

And then there is the crew, an “essential part” of any production.

“Nothing we do as cast members would have any impact without the incredible work the crew does,” Smotrich-Barr says. “Student crews build, paint and add props to our set, which is a multilayer school building with classrooms, lockers, staircases and hallways. They design and run lights to follow action or set the mood of the scene. The costumes crew I’m sure is having a great time with the 80’s style outfits of Fame, and makeup crew works hard to keep us actors looking our best.”

Smotrich-Barr has done every PTG show since his freshman year excluding “In the Heights.” His stage work includes “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Wizard of Oz,” “High School Musical,” “Willy Wonka,” and now “Fame, The Musical.”

He says his favorite part of theatre are the friends he’s made over the years.

“Everyone in PTG is so kind and friendly,” he said. “The bonds you form with people after long days of rehearsal are incredibly powerful and there is a lot of joy in working with your friends to create a final production that is something to be proud of.

“My favorite moment performing may have been at this year’s “Future Stars” when I performed ‘Only a Human,’ by George Ezra. The song is a favorite of mine, and it also has a lot of emotional weight for me. Being able to perform it with a live band and with my friends supporting me in the audience was a dream come true for me and an experience I am incredibly grateful for.”

Etai, the son of Hannah Smotrich and Michael Barr, plans to go to college to study some form of engineering or design.

By Terry Jacoby
Main photo by Margie Morris