For Immediate Release: February 10, 2004


GENESEO, N.Y. – Dr. John Barrett, professor emeritus of dramatic arts at the State University of New York at Geneseo and a former chair of that department, died in Rochester on Feb. 2 following a brief illness. Barrett, a resident of Rochester, N.Y., was 88.

Barrett came to Geneseo as professor and chair of the department of dramatic arts in 1970. Prior to his service at the college, he was on the faculty of Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. He also taught at Marietta College, University of Michigan, Western Michigan University and the State University of New York at Binghamton. He retired from Geneseo in 1987.

In 1960-61, he was employed at the University of Michigan television studios, and also served as director of the university’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society. In 1956, Barrett was guest director at Denison University Summer Theater; in addition, he taught ballet for four years in Marietta, Ohio.

While at Geneseo, Barrett directed many performances, including "H.M.S. Pinafore," "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," "The Beggar’s Opera" and "A Man for All Seasons." In "A Man for All Seasons," staged in 1970, the cast delivered such a strong performance that it earned three awards at the Corning Drama Festival even though it was not entered into the competition. According to a SUNY Geneseo news release about the event, the cast and crew decided to show their work at the festival "in an interested and cooperative way but not as contestants, informing officials of the Corning Drama Festival that they would respectfully refuse any prizes." According to the release, the Geneseo thespians did so on the theory that they wanted people attending to "celebrate theatre," and for other actors to see their production as part of an interested audience, not as a competitor. But despite the disclaimer, the Geneseo production was so outstanding that prizes were awarded for best costumes, best actor, and best full-length production. In keeping with their original plan, Barrett confirmed that the prizes were returned to the judges, except for the award for costumes, which was a merit award and not competitive. At the time, Barrett stated that "this brought forth a round of applause from all in attendance, even from those who wished to keep the festival a competition."

During his career, Barrett was a member of the American Education Theatre Association, the Speech Association of America, and the American Association of University Professors.

A native of Peoria, Ill., Barrett earned his bachelor’s from Northwestern University and his M.F.A. from Columbia University.

He is survived by his wife, Wyllis Wiegand Barrett, of Rochester. A memorial service will be held this spring, and details will be announced at a later date.

Memorials may be made to the John T. Barrett Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Geneseo Foundation, One College Circle, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454.