Spotlight Series: Meet Barbara Keegan, an Emmy Award-winning Actress

Shari Barrett

Registered Critic, Writer, Publicist

This Spotlight  focuses on Barbara “Bobbie” Keegan, an Emmy Award-winning actress who always says “yes” to the Santa Monica Playhouse and Theatre 68 who always travels with her adopted son, good luck charm and alter- ego, “Smitty the Magical Flying Purple Turtle.” I first met both of them during the second Hollywood Fringe Festival when Keegan took Best in Fringe honors headlining in the world premiere of Jon Courie’s Jennifer Aniston Stole My Life, which Courie wrote specifically with her in mind.

Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Bobbie Keegan (BK): I made my Chicago stage debut at age 3, in a duet with my comedy godfather, first mentor and jester spirit-guide for all time – Danny Kaye. I also have the distinction of being the only performer ever to receive a special Emmy Award for my work in a local television commercial. But it all kicked into high gear when I was enjoying a stint as a tourist development authority ambassador (masquerading as beauty queen Miss Miami Beach) at the same time CBS and Universal Studios were in Miami scouting locations and talent and discovered me.

Soon I relocated to the West Coast to strengthen my commitment to both stage and screen, with scores of appearances and participation on the governing bodies of organizations such as First Stage, Theatre 40, and The American National Theatre and Academy.  The move also made me a presence in major motion pictures from Caddyshack, to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, from Disneyland (Saving Mr. Banks, Tomorrowland) to outer space (J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek), as well as a slew of award-winning indie and festival projects. I also hosted my own TV series, The Handy Ma’am on PBS, and appeared as “Nell’s Mom” on NCIS: Los Angeles (in which I was introduced in a Christmas episode, wearing antlers on my head), in addition to a wealth of classic episodic TV roles.

Los Angeles theater audiences have seen me in ten roles in the Pasadena Playhouse’s award-winning Joined at the Head, five roles in the five yea- run of Bill W and Dr. Bob at Theatre 68, as well as original musicals from The Fantastics to the country-western Tanglin’ Hearts to the politically-themed Campaign to the borscht-belt Mamaleh! and the occasional beloved classic such as the blarney-speaking Nurse in Romeo and Juliet for Merry War Theatre Group.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(BK) I was appearing in the comedy Mistakes Were Made…coulda-woulda-shoulda at The Santa Monica Playhouse, which was written by Jerry Mayer and directed by Chris DeCarlo.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated to you?

(BK): As the coronavirus reports grew more serious, we suspected that we very well might be suspending performances at some point.  This was especially ironic for me, having only joined the cast in this extension of the show on Saturday, March 7.  So, I had my “opening” performance that night and we played our matinee on the following day, Sunday, March 8.  When we left the theatre that evening, we were already wondering if we would be playing the next weekend.  During the week, the reports grew more and more grim, and by “lucky” Friday the 13th, the Co-artistic Directors of Santa Monica Playhouse, Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo, emailed all of us to confirm that we were indeed suspending performances.  The irony is that this may turn out to be the shortest run of my life!

Mistakes Were Made First Night!

(SB): I know Mistakes Were Made has been running for a while as I reviewed it before you joined the cast. Do you know if plans are in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(BK): Of course, this is a situation we’ve never experienced before, and so all plans are of necessity both hopeful and flexible. Evelyn tells me that there is every hope and expectation that we will re-open as soon as it is feasible to do so, and we’re hoping to return this summer.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(BK):  I have kept my options open since there was already the possibility of further extensions of that show beyond our announced closing of April 26. And since everything is now up in the air, I want to be available for whatever dates we are able to bring Mistakes Were Made back on stage.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(BK): I try to post as many fun/funny/uplifting things as I possibly can.  My personal preference is to always try to only spread good news. A lovely recent festival competition-entry film I appeared in called Title 9 by Amy Campione, can be viewed at this link.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(BK): Oh, I love that you mentioned the Ghostlight!  That’s actually something I posted just the other day on my Facebook page. Here’s what I want to say: We WILL be back. My personal assignment-to-myself has been to use this time, however strange, as positively and healthily and lovingly as I possibly can.  I’m a do-it-yourselfer but also a lifetime member of the procrastinators club (well as soon as I get around to joining), so I’ve been trying to do at least one thing around the house per day. Fix something. Clean something.  Take care of the plants inside and out. Straighten a corner that’s gotten out of hand, which seem to multiply daily.

It’s important to remember we’re all creative artists, so let’s create! Maybe you’ll re-discover papier-mâché, or watercolors, or maybe you’ll use that great idea you have and finally write that play!  But don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Stay healthy, both physically and mentally/spiritually. Move. Exercise as much as you can. Eat. Hydrate. (I’m mostly reminding myself about that, I regularly get “busy” with something and forget to eat or drink ’til I just about fall over, my friends will testify to this)

Most importantly, if you’re by yourself (or not), REACH OUT and call people you love (yes, they will be home), write to them, text them, (but don’t text me, I’m bad at it). BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND EVERYONE ELSE. We WILL get through this. And always remember, it’s all about the love! And I’d like to end by sending out lots of love and best wishes to everyone from my adopted “son,” good luck charm and alter-ego, “Smitty The Magical Flying Purple Turtle,” who is always at the theatre with me and has an even bigger web following than I do!

This article first appeared on Broadway World.

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six – acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in local secondary schools, working in marketing for several studios, writing, directing, producing, and performing in productions for several non-profit theaters, Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as an independent publicist to “get the word out” about smaller theaters throughout the Los Angeles area.

As a founding member of the LA Stage Alliance Leadership Council Task Force, she and reps from theaters throughout the city worked together to articulate a vision for the theatre community of Greater Los Angeles.

Shari has received recognition from the City of Los Angeles for her dedication of heart and hand to the needs of friends, neighbors and fellow members of society for her devotion of service to the people of Los Angeles, and is honored to serve the theatre world in her hometown.

Currently she is the Publicist and a member of the Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse.