thesalting SPOTLIGHT | ken barnett : actor & teacher : portrait by ellen mc dermott & bridget sciales
thesalting SPOTLIGHT | ken barnett : actor & teacher : portrait by ellen mc dermott & bridget sciales

thesalting: we are thrilled to witness all of the fantastic happenings around you! congratulations on completing an award winning portrayal of Halston in the off-broadway production of 'mister Halston' directed by kimberly senior. how did the part come your way?

Ken Barnett: in 2019, I was at sundance promoting a wonderful short film called 'lavender' and I went to see the documentary about Halston. I really didn't know much about him. I sat through the whole film thinking "I have to play this man". I've never had a response like that to any character before.

cut to spring of 2023: the playwright and director are searching for the right person to play Halston, and I am recommended to them by a mutual friend. the director reached out to me and said "we think you might be the right guy for this role," and I answered - "yesI think you're right"

it felt like destiny!


ts: a favorite part of the experience?

kb: I have never done a one person play before, and I was terrified of the loneliness of the endeavor. In the end, I treasured all the alone time that was part of the creative process of learning and building this character. normally the theater is such a collaborative art-form, and a rehearsal process involves a roomful of actors and designers, a director, etc...the privacy of this particular process was very inspiring to me. it was like sacred time.


ts: how did you prepare yourself to take on this iconic character?

kb: I read everything I could find, and I watched clips of him over and over. pretty early on, I made the decision to present an invented version of him - as opposed to trying to do an exact impersonation of him. this enabled to find him creatively within myself and gave me freedom to fly with the character.

to my great surprise, people who knew him came to the show and said it was like being with him again. this is so remarkable to me, especially since I did not prioritize replicating his voice or mannerisms exactly...I think people were responding to the soul of him, which is so present in the wonderful writing and hopefully in my work as well.


ts: your next dream role?

kb: I am currently working on a new musical called 'the gorgeous nothings' we've been developing the piece over the last couple of years and hope it will be produced in New York soon. It's a beautiful and gut wrenching true story about a ward of the New York City prison system in the 1930s where the queer prisoners were kept. it's a forgotten chapter of nyc queer history, and I love honoring these men who were our ancestors. the suffering they lived through reminds us how far we've come, and how much we've had to fight for the progress we've made.


ts: you have created a workshop called 'dreamwork' please tell us about it.

kb: thank you for asking. dreamwork is an approach to creativity focused on sourcing one's work from the unconscious. we work with the profound and mysterious images from our dreams in order to get deep onto our own personal material and bring that to whatever project we are working on. it's a beautifully to bypass the critical thinking mind and get down into the most authentic expression of who you are as an artist.


ts: is it designed for actors only?

kb: dreamwork is available for anyone! it is practiced by many actors and writers, but also directors, visual artists, well as by many people who don't identify as artists. dreamwork is based in the analytical work of Carl Jung and is practiced by therapists and analysts around the world. the dream work that I practice is focused specifically on creativity, bringing on the wisdom and emotional richness that is coming up in your dreams and finding an expression of it in your creative work. it's a miracle to witness how dreams ground, transform, and inspire anyone who chooses to listen to them.


ts: three favorite films?

kb: oof how to choose?? right at this moment, I'll go with:

after hours, what's up doc?, the shining


ts: last movie you've seen? 

kb: maestro


ts: favorite play?

kb: I'm gonna say 'glass menagerie' or 'streetcar named desire' ... tennessee williams gets me every time 


ts: favorite musical?

kb: floyd collins


ts: favorite spot in nyc?

kb: via corona, king, libertine


ts: do you have a favorite travels destination?

kb: nothing beats paris


ts: next dream holiday?

kb: I'm dying to go to Japan and have time to explore


ts: best advice you've received?

kb: do it now. don't wait.


ts: how do you erase hate in your everyday life?

kb: the more compassionate I can be towards my self, the more I will be towards others. this to me is key to having no room for hate.