How many sixteen-year-olds do you know who, in their free time, rent old musicals like My Fair Lady from Netflix, and sing show tunes around the house?
Meet Gabie Barnes. She’s got Broadway in her blood, says her dad Billy Barnes, an Air Force officer. The family moved to MacDill Air Force base last year.
“From a young age, she’s always been a part of whatever production her school is doing at the time,” said Billy.
Gabie is part of the upcoming production of Caught! A Culinary Comedy of Confusion, playing in the Shimberg Theater in April.
The musical is a full-scale student production that gives students professional experience in all aspects of theater from writing to lighting and everything in between.
“[The class] has been absolutely fantastic,” said Gabie. “The students make all the decisions. We wrote the play, we wrote the songs.”
Gabie takes choir and theater at Robinson High School. She also plays piano, guitar and ukelele. She took piano lessons for about four years, but taught herself guitar and ukelele.
“She likes to write jingles,...she takes contemporary rock songs and plays them on the ukelele,” said Billy, a mathematician and scientist. “She gets straight A’s in school, including in math and science, but she likes to write plays and music.”
Billy has conceded that Gabie probably won’t follow in his footsteps as a techie, but he’s good with that. At a recent performance at the Patel Conservatory, Gabie devoted a song to her mother.
“I’ve never had a bigger knot in my throat than when I heard my daughter sing that song for my wife,” said Billy. “It was a fantastic moment in my life...I realized she’s got a real passion.”
Despite her extensive theater and music experience, Gabie has enjoyed the specialized training she’s received through the expanded musical theater program at the Conservatory.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot...In theater, I’ve gotten more technique. I’ve worked on method acting, character arc and adding truthfulness to your acting,” said Gabie.
As part of her training, Gabie also takes dance and voice classes. “I enjoy having different instructors because it helps to know you have an expert in everything.”
Dance is the one area where Gabie lacked experience. “The dance class is spontaneous and upbeat, but you can tell she [instructor Susan Downey] has a curriculum.” The class has given Gabie an overview of tap, ballet and jazz.
Gabie has been involved with many school choirs, but she says, in the Patel Conservatory senior choir, “They work a lot more on technique, and, we work on more challenging pieces.”
Overall, she feels like she’s become a more versatile actor and performer. With Caught!, she’s also become a better writer.
“I’ve fiddled around before, but nothing as intense as this...I’ve discovered that I enjoy scriptwriting, and wouldn’t mind making a career out of it,” said Gabie.
For Billy and his wife, they’ve also noticed an improvement in Gabie since she started classes at the Conservatory, not only as a performer, but in life.
“More than anything, it has brought out her personality,” said Billy. “She’s normally a very shy girl. Now, the wonderful things about her personality, like her imagination, are magnified, and she’s happier.”