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Barker 'dodges bullets' for one-man show

March 30, 2009
(Shows on: April 10, 11, 17, 18)

On his sabbatical leave during the summer of 2004, David Barker was contemplating what he could possibly write about his life for a new one-man show. A life approaching 50 years where no major catastrophe had ever befallen him, and all the good news was everyday good news – marriage, children, work, honors, awards, trips.

Good news is great, but it’s not compelling drama.

Barker, a professor of theater in the Herberger College of the Arts who is known for his performances in mime, didn’t have to scratch his head too long for subject matter, however.

Two bullets, fired in rapid succession, changed everything.

One of the bullets was aimed at him, and astonishingly, it missed. His sister was not as fortunate, because the second bullet – meant for her – hit her in the chest.

The story of how his brother-in-law, “Dr. Jack,” happened to open fire on him and his sister became Barker’s sabbatical project – a one-man play titled “Dodging Bullets.”

Barker will present “Dodging Bullets” at 7:30 p.m. April 10, 11, 17 and 18 in the Lyceum Theatre. All performances are free.

Though Barker usually performs in mime, “Dodging Bullets” is spoken word.

The play follows three story lines – Dr. Jack’s attack on his wife and Barker; Barker’s father’s emergency surgery; and Barker’s mother’s dementia.
Dr. Jack, a semi-retired, financially successful East Coast brain surgeon, had been abusing his wife for many years, and his wife finally moved out.
On the fateful day of the attack, Barker accompanied his sister and 15-year-old niece on a stop at the sister’s home to pick up asthma medication for his niece.

“I went along to protect my sister,” Barker said. “We approached the house and Dr. Jack appeared at the front door. He told me to get out. Dr. Jack is a high-strung man with a God complex, who is a control freak. He attacked me He lunged for my throat and we just grappled standing up.

“He ran back into the house. We were in complete shock. He came back with a gun and fired at my sister and me.”

The rest of the story is a dramatist’s dream, a soap opera come true. The SWAT team arrives, snipers are placed on the roofs of the houses across the street, Dr. Jack stays holed up for four hours.

He’s finally arrested. His sister bails him out. His sister introduces him to a masseuse and an Episcopal priest, and he marries the priest. He is arrested again for trying to buy a handgun and she bails him out again. He’s now back in prison, with the next parole hearing set for the summer of 2010. Everyone can rest easily. Dr. Jack’s no threat anymore.

“But on March 5, Dr. Jack was inexplicably released from prison,” Barker said. “He knows where my sister is, but she doesn’t live in fear.”
In the hour-long drama, which, he says, is “a very physical show,” Barker plays all of the roles.

“It’s invigorating to perform this show because everything really happened. I’m not performing about imaginary circumstances.”
Barker said he has invited local domestic-violence agencies and shelters to his April performances, and he is open to having post-show discussions.

For him, personally, writing the play and performing it has “made me realize how very difficult it is to forgive,” he said. “I’m a Christian, and I have forgiven my brother-in-law – and put it into action. I wrote a letter of leniency for the parole board for him.

“He can’t be mad at me – or my sister.”