Elizabeth High School theater teacher wins coveted honor

Jennifer Barclay receives Bobby G Award for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

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Jennifer Barclay, theater teacher at Elizabeth High School, won the coveted Bobby G Award for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for her work on the “Beauty and The Beast” 2022 spring musical. The Bobby G Awards is a Colorado statewide high school musical theater awards ceremony.
 
In association with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ education program, it celebrates educators and students from all over Colorado. The event took place at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver on May 26.
 
Barclay has been with Elizabeth High School for seven years, and had a long theater history before arriving at the high school in the hills. When Barclay was a child and adolescent, her aunt served as her theater teacher, making the art of theater an ongoing family affair. During her college years at Arizona Christian University, Barclay participated in theater, honing her craft, which she used as she worked for her friend’s theater company.
 
“I’ve been doing theater my whole life,” said Barclay. “I worked for my friend’s theater company for six or seven years while I was getting my degree (elementary education). I didn’t anticipate actually teaching theater at the time.” Barclay’s first public school teaching job was at Grand Junction Central High School.
 
When asked what her plans were for the Elizabeth High School shows for the 2022-2023 school year, Barclay said the shows would be much smaller due to a drastic reduction in cast size.
 
“We’re going to do two smaller shows next year. I only have three seniors next year,” Barclay said. “We had 23 seniors graduate last year. That’s a huge amount of people. So next year we’re doing the female version of 'The Odd Couple’ in the fall and our spring musical will be 'Once Upon a Mattress.’”
 

Teacher is key player

Barclay is the backbone of the theater department at Elizabeth High School. From picking the shows, to working with the music department, to making the costumes, she has a hand in it all.
 
“I can choose whatever plays I like. But for the musical, I need the choir and music teacher on board. Their voices are just as important,” Barclay explained. “And for the students, I look at each of them and see what part will work best for them.”
 
When asked about how she obtains funding for the plays and musicals, Barclay explained: “The shows generate their own income. Whatever money the ticket sales bring in, that’s the money we have. It’s a circular budget. Using funding from the previous musical. We don’t get funding from anything else.”
 
Barclay further explained how the budget is broken down for each show. “I really try to stretch the money we have, especially for the set design. The theater teacher before me left us so much great stuff, so we rarely have to fully make new pieces,” she said. “Most of our money goes to royalties and costumes. Because it was a Disney property, it was $4,000 to do 'Beauty and the Beast.' Most other musicals run between $2,500 to $3,000. A play typically runs around $450.”
 
Costuming is by far Barclay’s biggest passion within the realm of theater. She hand-makes almost all the costumes that her student actors wear and works diligently to make sure they fit properly and make the students feel comfortable.
 
“I never want a kid to go onstage worrying about their costume. I want them to go on stage worrying about their acting,” said Barclay. “It’s important that students feel good and comfortable in what they’re wearing.”
 
Barclay said that as a young thespian, she felt uncomfortable in some of her costumes. As a plus-size person, she wanted to make sure none of her students had that feeling of discomfort in costume on stage.
 
“I’m not a thin person. I’ve never been thin. A lot of my costumes in college didn’t fit me,” expressed Barclay. “Over time I’ve generally learned which clothes look good on which bodies and how to make people with all body types feel good in their costumes.”
 
“Mrs. Barclay is absolutely amazing. She hand-makes almost every single outfit,” said Grace Vrban, Elizabeth High School student actress. “She literally sewed my dress for Cinderella over fall break, and it fits like a glove!”
 

Changes in schedule

Barclay is a fast-paced, busy woman who constantly works toward producing shows for the Elizabeth community and contributing to the lives of hundreds of children each year. With a role full of responsibility and people looking to her for guidance, Barclay has made some changes to her busy schedule to help give her a smoother work-life balance.
 
“I try to get started on costumes immediately as soon as I know who the kids are. I used to go to school where I’d work from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at night. It became too much. I work thousands of hours. Belle’s ball gown took five full days to make,” said Barclay. “There needs to a point where I level things out. I’ve recently hired someone to do the directing. So now, during rehearsal, I’m sewing instead of directing.”
 
Barclay has no plans to retire from Elizabeth High School any time soon, meaning the community should have delightful plays and gorgeous musicals for years to come. Barclay did indicate, though, that if she had not worked as a theater director, she would have further explored her passion for costuming.
 
“It’s too late in the game for me to do Broadway. I didn’t know when I started out in theater that there were 9-to-5 jobs on Broadway for sewing. If I’d known that back then, I might have gone that route,” said Barclay, “I really love working at Elizabeth High School now. I have a fantastic administration team and they’d have to drag me out. I have no intention of ever leaving.”
 
 
 
Elizabeth High School, Bobby G Award, Jennifer Barclay, theater, Elbert County, Colorado

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