For nearly 40 years, Dr. Eric Barr taught acting, directing and writing at the University of California, Riverside. For 30 years, he chaired UCR’s Theater Department. A key architect of UCR’s master’s degree in fine arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts, Barr was responsible for launching the program at the UCR, Palm Desert, campus.
Then, a long-simmering staph infection following open-heart surgery in 2013 triggered numerous strokes that left Barr incapacitated — unable to speak, move, comprehend or continue his life as he had previously lived it.
His one-man show is a candid examination of his journey from near-certain death to his reawakening and cognitive rewiring. Although he still experiences short-term memory loss, Barr has reclaimed his life, having found ways to work around the “piece of his mind” that was severely damaged.
His is a story of perseverance, grit and optimism while facing a seemingly endless string of challenging medical crises. Aided by his wife, Karen Genet, Barr fought back with determination and humor over a three-year rehabilitation and recovery period.
At Stanford University’s hospital, where Barr’s critical surgeries were performed and his path to recovery launched, Barr is known by doctors and staff as their “miracle man.”
And as a theater professional who knows the importance of plot elements in telling a story, Barr appreciates and credits the many serendipitous occurrences that gave him the life he has today — Stanford’s chief cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. D. Craig Miller flying in from Montana to perform a surgery that others could not, completing the surgery while still in his cowboy boots, and, subsequently, overruling other staff and directing that Barr be given acute brain and spinal-cord rehabilitation.
During rehabilitation, Barr had the good fortune to meet and be under the care of a neuro-therapist, Dr. Mahnaz “Naz” Motayar, who believed in treating the whole being. She fully understood Barr’s outbursts during rehab. “There’s nothing wrong with this man,” she said. “He’s just angry; he’s had a stroke.”
Barr’s one-man show, which he performs for audiences that can benefit and be encouraged by his story, is also fueling his continued recovery and optimism. “Doing the show has really been a trip, a true transcendent experience,” he said. “When I tell my story to a stroke survivor, it builds a bridge and creates hope. I had lost the whole left side of my body. My recovery, with the help of so many, was like magic. I knew I needed to tell this story.”
Barr performs “A Piece of My Mind” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Rainbow Inn on South Circle Drive. Tickets are $18 and are available at the door or online at www.idyllwildactorstheatre.com.
For more about Barr, visit http://theatre.ucr.edu/emeritus-professor-eric-barr-returns-to-the-stage.