by PETER DORFMAN
Priscilla Barnes was in Bloomington for several weeks in April and May, performing in the Bloomington Playwrights Project production of the psychological thriller To Quiet the Quiet. The play was directed by David Anspaugh, who also made his acting debut. “I love it here,” she declared, but then admits having been so lost in her character that, aside from coffee at The Uptown Cafe and lunch at Bloomingfoods Near West, she didn’t get out much before the show opened.
Barnes and Anspaugh, a veteran film director, have crossed paths frequently, but Anspaugh had never cast her before To Quiet the Quiet. Anspaugh, 72, had essentially retired until BPP artistic director Chad Rabinovitz showed him the one-act, Woodward/Newman Drama Award–winning play. Anspaugh insisted on Barnes for the lead, a role he says she was born to play.
Barnes met Anspaugh by accident when the Hollywood director happened to be on the set of a 1988 action comedy Barnes was in called Traxx.
“David was wearing a jacket, the kind they always make for you when you work on a film, and it said ‘Hoosiers’ on the back,” Barnes recalls. “I said, ‘Hoosiers—I love that film!’ I didn’t find out until after we’d met that David directed it.”
Barnes, 64, is best-known as a television actress, most notably for three seasons on the sitcom Three’s Company (1981–83) and more recently as the Eastern European eccentric Magda on The CW Network series Jane the Virgin.
But it was her more than 30 years’ stage experience (including an off-Broadway run as Hillary Clinton) that convinced Anspaugh to bring Barnes to Bloomington. He trusted her to do justice to the lead in To Quiet the Quiet and to coach him through what, after 35 years directing, was his first-ever acting turn.
Barnes laments the recognition she receives from her recent work on television. “It bothers me when millennials recognize me on the street as Magda,” Barnes says. “I asked my husband [actor Ted Monte], ‘Do I look like that?’ I was so deformed in that character. I was missing an eye and I was always losing body parts.”
While in Bloomington, Barnes stayed at the Grant Street Inn on North Grant Street. She marveled at the decorative details at the inn. “I said, ‘Look at these hinges!’ People thought I was crazy,” she says. “Our house in L.A. is from 1937, and I’ve been looking for years for those same hinges.”