As far back as I can remember I wanted a career in the theater. When my aunt took me to see a production of “The Miracle Worker,” I was totally and irrevocably determined to pursue my dream.
In high school, I joined a professional acting workshop then earned a B.A. in Theatre from Adelphi University. I appeared in plays Off-Off Broadway before graduation. After college, I studied in Broadway director Arthur Storch’s acting workshop and privately with coaches. Talented artists I worked with provided invaluable experience – especially directors Ron Link and Bob Dahdah, actor Marilyn Roberts and that force of nature, Ellen Stewart of La MaMa E.T.C. Crystal Field at Theater for the New City has been my producer, mentor and friend since 1994. I directed in New York, Paris and at the National Theatre in London. My plays have been presented in the United States and Europe.
My more than twenty-five historical plays hold a mirror to the present. I tackle racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia and anti-immigration. Putting a personal face to injustice has a power that reading history books cannot duplicate. A reviewer wrote, “Barbara Kahn is something rare in theater: an historian and playwright… Aiming for our heads and our hearts she tweaks our intellect and kindles our emotions.” Paulanne Simmons, NYTheatre-Wire.com, Feb. 17, 2012,
My life in the theatre has been governed by a passion for justice and for quality. Nineteenth century author George Sand wrote: “All I want is for people to question the accepted lies and call out for the forgotten truths.” Portraying the truth gives me fulfillment as an actor. Directing with integrity and insight is what I offer other actors. Preserving the truth is why I write plays.
Member: SAG-AFTRA, AEA, Dramatists Guild, The Actors Fund Performing Arts Legacy Project.
WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
MORE ABOUT ME
It is difficult to land on a single moment from a lengthy career. Of course, awards have been validating and significant—from the 1995 Torch of Hope Award for “lifetime achievement in non-profit theater” to the 2019 Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, with a number more in between. I am very proud to be included in the pilot group of The Actors Fund Performing Arts Legacy Project, where I have created a retrospective of my career. https://performingartslegacy.org/kahn/
As a child, I was able to meet and interview actors I admired, including Julie Harris, Robert Preston, George Grizzard and the incomparable Buster Keaton. I also figured out how to get past the stage doorman who chased me until I saw a door with a star and rushed in. There was Laurence Olivier, removing his makeup. I was 14 and there was Lord Olivier in his underwear! He smiled, asked if I minded that he continued to dress while we spoke, and offered me a seat. In shock, I remember nothing of our conversation, except that I pretty much was speechless, only nodding yes or no to his questions or comments.
Tech rehearsal for the play I directed at The National Theatre in London was an amazing experience. Against their protests, the staff producer and the stage manager were pulled from the rehearsal to pick up Samuel Beckett at the airport. Beckett obviously and deservedly had more clout. Instead of waiting for them to return, the crew and I figured out a lighting plot and all the other cues. When the two missing people rushed in a few hours later, they were told that we completed the tech. The downside was that the stage manager insisted I call the cues on opening night, a terrifying experience that fortunately I didn’t mess up.
WHAT I'M WORKING ON
A number of writing projects while looking forward to restaging my play in 2021 that was closed in March 2020 five days before opening night when theaters in NYC were closed. Also submitting monologues and short plays both on request and unsolicited. And the most daunting project of sorting through my vast collection of memorabilia in an effort to streamline the contents of my studio apartment.
Historical, Social justice, LGBT+, Lesbian, Jewish, Women in history, Book & lyrics