Barney Carey Gets His Wings at Olympia Family Theater

by Molly Gilmore

Barney (Kemi Holley) is thrilled with his wings in Olympia Family Theater’s Barney Carey Gets His Wings. Mark Alford, the theater’s executive director, plays Michael Carey, Barney’s dad.

In Olympia Family Theater’s latest production, opening Feb. 23, a boy yearns to wear a pair of wings, but he hesitates: Is it OK, he wonders, for a boy to wear wings? It is, as the title, Barney Carey Gets His Wings, reveals.

That premise might sound a bit old-fashioned (of course, a boy can wear wings, right?), but the plot and casting are not. On the scene to educate Barney (a role shared by Kemi Holley, 9, and Hudson Ray, 10) and his dad, Michael (Mark Alford), is Agnes (Aya, a drag performer), a glamorous bearded being in an elegant dress.

“The script calls for a quote ‘bearded lady,’ ” said Alford, the theater’s executive director. “Agnes is a sharp, wisecracking mysterious entity who helps guide both Barney and Michael as they navigate being themselves in a world that doesn’t always accept that.” Agnes is not a fairy godmother — but Barney does mistake her for one.

“The show is hilarious, but it doesn’t sacrifice any heart,” added Alford, whose credits at the family theater include Bunny in Goodnight Moon and the Prince in Cinder Edna. “At its core, the show is a discussion of self-identity and self-expression.”

“When I first finished reading the script, I was amazed at how much can be unpacked from such a short story,” said director Anya Guadamuz. “Though this story touches on themes very relevant to queer communities, this story is for everyone. This story is for those who have ever felt lost in the social fabric, those who have ever felt like they didn’t belong.”

The mysterious Agnes (Aya) helps Barney (Hudson Ray, sharing the role with Kemi Holley) learn the courage to express himself.

Barney playwright Brendan Murray said in an online interview that he hoped the play would inspire audiences not to be afraid to be different.

“I met some children … in a school in New York, and I asked them to draw pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up,” he said in the interview, published in advance of the play’s 2018 premiere in Ireland. “One of the boys, called Philip, loved dancing and he drew a picture of a ballerina. … I used to wonder what happened to the children — and to Philip in particular. A couple of years ago, I discovered he had become a professional ballet dancer and that he was working for a company in which male dancers dress as ballerinas to make people laugh; his dream had come true.”

Directing Barney is a dream come true for Guadamuz, who began working with Olympia Family Theater in 2022. The director said they knew right away that they wanted to cast a queer performer in the role of Agnes. “As a queer artist myself, I would feel remiss if I missed that opportunity,” they said.

Aya has performed at Capital City Pride, The Crypt, Wildman Brewing and The Clipper, among other places. Guadamuz ran into Aya downtown a few days before auditions and invited her to audition. “After seeing her connect with the other cast members during auditions, it felt like a clear choice to me,” the director said. “There were other wonderful actors who tried out for the role of Agnes, but only one of them could I see truly connecting with the role.”

Wings director Anya Guadamuz works with Hudson Ray during rehearsal.

Aya’s performance style adds spice and attitude to the show, Alford said. At 45 minutes, Barney is recommended for ages 7 and older.

Hudson, in 5th grade at Pioneer Elementary, will play Barney on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Kemi, in 3rd grade at Oakbrook Elementary School in Lakewood, will play the role on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

Photos courtesy of Olympia Family Theater.

Barney Carey Gets His Wings

7 p.m. Feb. 23 and 24 and March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 and 3 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25 and March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17. Masks are required for Sunday shows.

Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets are available on a sliding scale


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