As a person of color growing up in a predominantly white area like Olathe, Kansas, Justin Barron said he often found himself wondering where he fit in. He started acting in high school, not knowing the opportunities it could open up for him.
Barron has lived in Columbus Park for almost three years now. He and his wife fell in love with the historic homes, and as a young couple just married, the affordability was a huge draw for the both of them.
Now, they have fallen in love with the area. Both Barron and his wife are actors participating in the thriving Northeast acting community, and both have found themselves able to thrive in this area.
“I am a Latino man myself, growing up in Olathe, I was mostly surrounded by white people. But the Northeast is so much more diverse, and it has really helped me explore that part of myself.”
Music and theatre had always gone hand-in-hand with him. When he first started college at the University of Central Missouri, he majored in both. Eventually, he only majored in musical theatre, and since then, has been in several local plays at the Unicorn, and this year’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.
Storytelling is what Barron said draws him to the stage the most. In college, he was in a play titled “The Shape of Things,” where he played a character named Adam. This unfolded a new idea of acting for him, one that allowed him to fall in love with storytelling.
“It was really this one [“The Shape of Things”] that made me realize how much I love being on stage, and really how much I love storytelling.”
Within the past couple years, this love for storytelling has allowed him to explore himself creatively. He has been getting into more roleplaying games, and has started to write his own plays and short stories.
He has now written a screenplay with a good friend, and even if it never gets published, he said he considers it an accomplishment to even write it. This writing has gotten him back to his first love, comic books, and he has even started drawing again.
“From an early age I loved reading comics, I think for the same reason I love theatre. It’s another medium to let my imagination kind of go where it wants to. I had an idea for a comic I wanted to write and I was like ‘Why not? What’s going to stop me?’ so I just kind of started writing. And that kind of got me into starting to get back into drawing, and now I am taking online drawing classes.”
He hopes to have a website up and running within the next year, where he will have his comics self-published, and will “see where it goes from there.”
The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival will run from June 11- July 7, with no show on July Fourth. This year’s festival will be a performance of “Shakespeare in Love,” where Barron will play Ralph, Valentine, and Nurse in a Romeo and Juliet script-in-hand reading. The shows are free and will be performed as live outdoor theatre. To learn more, visit kcshakes.org.