In 1984, I was a painfully insecure teenage girl from a dysfunctional
family. I was depressed, underweight, badly groomed, and rejected by my
peers. My only solace was to be the stage manager at our school's
One day, actors from the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival came to
perform for the school. One of them was Barry Kraft, and he was unlike
anyone I'd ever met. A successful leading actor in the country's best
theater companies. A well-known Shakespeare scholar. A published poet.
The Oregon State chess champion. A confident, humorous, likable man,
held in great esteem by his colleagues.
As I ran around backstage helping him get props organized, he treated
me with the casual friendliness and respect that he would show for
friends in his living room. Did I like acting? What did I like to study?
Where was I thinking of going to college? At first I was flattered, but
then I figured he was just making small talk to while away the time
before the performance.
He showed up at our drama class and asked everyone to recite a
monologue. I had already pegged myself as a loser, so I figured he'd
cringe. To my shock, he took me aside after class and said, "Your
monologue was the best. That was really very good."
I made it through graduation and got accepted to college. That
summer, I traveled with a friend to see Mr. Kraft perform at the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival. During one performance, I screwed up my courage
and dropped him a note at intermission, saying I was visiting and if he
looked he could see us in the 15th row. Almost immediately I regretted
sending the note. I thought it was the most presumptuous thing I had
At the end of the show, he was waiting for me! He smiled broadly and
gave me a hug. Then he said, "Would you like to visit backstage?" And
off we went. Every time we met someone, he introduced me and said,
"She's a very good performer who was a huge help to me at her school
visit." Afterward, he made sure I got safely back to my motel and wished
me success in my studies.
It is difficult to describe how important this man's attention was to
me. A successful actor doesn't have to give a depressed teenager the
time of day, but he did far more. My confidence had just increased 800
percent; after all, if a man like him could like me, I must not be so
bad after all. I went on to a successful college career.
I am now a happily married professional, and whenever I notice an
adolescent in need, I remember Barry Kraft. He saw a teenager in need of
attention and support, and he took the time help. So now I take the