From 'The Amazing Spider-Man' to 'Hairspray': Durham Born Actor Enjoying Summer Success

Michael Barra, a 2004 Coginchaug High School graduate, appears in the summer blockbuster and plays Edna in the Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Hairspray - the Broadway Musical.

It's been a busy summer for actor Michael Barra.

The Durham native and 2004 Coginchaug High School graduate has returned to Connecticut to play Edna in the Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Hairspray - the Broadway Musical.

Barra was in Los Angeles recently for the premier of The Amazing Spider-Man. He plays a store clerk named T-Bone in the summer blockbuster.

Patch recently caught up with the actor to ask him about his big screen debut, dressing up as a woman and what he misses most about his hometown:

Patch: You play Edna in Hairspray - the Broadway Musical, tell us about her character.

Barra: Edna is the very protective and loving mother of lead, Tracy Turnblad (played perfectly by Jill Sullivan). Edna is always played by a man (Harvey Fierstein, John Travolta, and originally drag queen Divine), but is truly a woman. A woman with a very manly voice. It'd a wonderfully written role, especially the duet between Edna and husband Wilbur (the awesomely talented Neal Mayer) in act two. 

Patch: When you found out that you'd be spending your entire summer dressed up as a woman, how did you feel? 

Barra: I felt nostalgic. It isn't actually the first time I've been in a dress at The Ivoryton Playhouse. The first union show I did was Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors as Nell the Kitchen Wench… a woman. Between the two productions, I have played a couplemen at the playhouse. 

Patch: What's special about the Ivoryton Playhouse? 

Barra: Ivoryton is special for me because it's like coming home. It's the theater where I did my first professional stage work and interned the summer after my high school graduation. It is also really nice to work so close to home. Working with people who are great at their jobs and you truly enjoy doesn't hurt either. 

Patch: You've got a role in the new Spiderman movie, tell us a little about that.

Barra: I play a store clerk who is not the nicest guy to Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, in theaters now. I can't say much about it though. Don't want to leak any spoilers. Working on it was amazing though. I can't thank the producers and director enough for the experience. Being given the freedom to improvise a bit from director Marc Webb was incredible. And yes, Andrew Garfield is extremely nice. 

Patch: You've also had roles on Law & Order. Do you prefer TV, Movies, or the stage, and why? 

Barra: I just like working. I really love it all because it's all just acting. 

Patch: What's the best advice you can share with students interested in acting? 

Barra: I would say to go for it. It is a heck of a lot of work, and it normally takes many years before it pays off (if it pays off), but if it's what you want to do, do it. Start seeking out opportunities in your school and communities. You'll learn the most from actually doing it. Make sure you don't let the acting fully take over your life though. It will try, but find time to fit in other things you enjoy… and school work. Who knows when you might play a mathematician or a cross country runner.  

Patch: Lastly, what do you miss about Durham? 

Barra: Durham was the best place to grow up. It has a great school system with wonderful teachers. It's also home to a lot of good people. I would miss it, but I feel like I visit so often, I haven't had time to. I did miss The Durham Fair last year though, which I wasn't happy about.

For tickets to the Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Hairspray - the Broadway Musical head to their website. The show runs from July 4 to July 29. You can keep up with Barra thorugh his Facebook fan page.


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