Arts & Culture

Alum wows with solo Shakespeare performances on the streets of NYC

Will Barnet ’12, a popular street artist, performs soliloquies for New York City park-goers

Contributing Writer
Friday, September 20, 2013

Will Barnet ’12 has been making a name for himself in the Big Apple with a distinctive solo act, infusing canonical Shakespearean verse with the attention-grabbing energy of street performance. For over a year, Barnet has been performing Shakespeare on request around the city — frequenting such popular destinations as the High Line, Washington Square Park and Central Park.

Determined to become an actor, Barnet moved to New York City the day after his graduation, he said.  Barnet spent his first months in New York attending open calls, but he said he soon felt inspired by the myriad of street performers and their ability to entice onlookers. “Seeing cool people doing cool things inspired me to see if I could get people to stop,” he said.

A popular street artist — recently featured in the New York Times — Barnet has definitely persuaded more than a few pedestrians to stop and watch him perform. He has adapted his skill set, he said, learning to transition from performing for one person to engaging with a growing audience of twenty during a single soliloquy.

Barnet also said he has been able to cultivate a “monologue by request” style of his own. “I have started to be known for my work,” he said.

But the biggest lesson Barnet has learned, he said, is the importance of “cultivating oneself” — becoming comfortable with oneself and learning to develop into what we aspire to be.

Barnet credits his energy for Shakespeare and acting for inspiring him to create “Will in the Park,” a move that established him as “the guy who does Shakespeare.” He added that the initiative he took in carving out a unique identity among performers in New York helped gain him recognition in the theater community and has led him to auditions and even modeling gigs.

“Build yourself,” Barnet said, adding that “you can build your own work so that people want to work with you because they know you empower yourself.”

He said his philosophy of proactivity and self-help derives from individuals like Patrick Stewart who “built themselves rather than asked to be built.”

Barnet said he did not always aspire to acting — as an undergraduate, he concentrated in anthropology. He discovered acting late in college, he said, and from then on he constantly looked for ways to get involved and began taking classes in the theater department.

Barnet was involved in Brown University Motion Pictures — then known as BTV — RISD productions and Shakespeare on the Green, and he “became embedded in the theater scene,” he said.

Barnet said Brown’s open curriculum and his experiences as an undergraduate shaped his professional path. His love for acting in college and ability to break into what he calls the “Brown bubble of casting” nurtured his ambition and potential as an actor.

“I look back to see how to frame my experiences and to figure out where I am going to go next,” Barnet said, adding that he is always thinking about “how to take the work and productions of the Brown bubble and insert them into the mechanism of NYC acting.”

Yotam Tubul ’14 who worked with Barnet on “Roomies”— a production in which Will was the protagonist — said Will’s attitude is perfectly complemented by his “clever and original idea to make some good disposable income.”

Tubul added that he recently ran into Barnet at the park himself and saw the Shakespearean at work, soliciting viewers for a performance.

Barnet said he intends to keep doing what he is doing so long as he has the energy to do so. But in the long run, Barnet said he plans to take his acting career to the next stage.  Though he loves the theater, Barnet said he realizes he will have to reconcile between “the things I want to do and things I am a good fit for” and is considering working in television.


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