Paul Barile has so many talents you need a smartphone app to track them. He can dish a blues guitar licks one minute, and dish dirt on Italian beef sandwiches via his culinary blog the next. And when he’s writing poetry, or acting, or getting ready to release a new novel, he’s a playwright who tackles the stage like no other.
“I feel blessed to be able to do this — to do all of what I do,” says Barile, 50, a Berwyn native who lives on Chicago’s Southwest Side. “Having a strong and loving Italian family was instrumental in my pursuing the things that matter. They gave me courage and encouragement every step of the way.”
Now comes Barile with a new production of “The Cemetery Tree,” a play that salutes his Italian roots. It concerns a group of widowed men in Florida who enjoy sitting and snacking beneath a tree in the cemetery. Then Richard, a grandson of one of the men, comes to introduce the girl he wants to marry. Meanwhile, one local lady has set her sights on the grandfather.
“I was dealing with the recent loss of my father — one of the greatest men I ever had the pleasure to spend time with — and some of the stories within the play are his,” Barile recalls. Other stories came from Barile’s paternal grandfather, also of Italian lineage.
Barile father’s family is from San Giovanni in Fiore in Calabria, while his mother’s father is from Naples. “Watching how my parents treated the neighbor kids with respect and generosity has been something I’ve used throughout my life. I spent many years as a prolific producer of theater festivals here in Chicago. I brought that respect to my actors and to the technicians, who really are the heart and soul of the production.”
Barile started his theater career at age 4, cast in a community theater production of “Robin Hood” — causing him to brag to his mom that he was one of Robin Hood’s “married men.” As an adult, Barile is wed to theater that values substance over opposed to shock.
“The theater is full of 25 year olds who recently learned that they can use profanity and get away with it,” he says. “I’m the other guy: There is almost zero profanity in my work. I explore family mythology and the tribal attitudes of communities, although not from a dry anthropological stance — but rather through a loving member of the community.”
Other stages attract him as well. Barile belongs to several bands including The Infants (garage rock), P-Bone and the Donuts (acoustic folk and blues) and The Grudge Brothers (where he plays bass and composes original music).
“My goal is to get to a place where I can do all these things full-time,” he says. “The immediate future is to wrap up the projects, and the aspiration is to come up with more quality projects.”
Catch “The Cemetery Tree” at the James Downing Theatre, 6740 N. Oliphant Ave., Chicago, Aug. 9-25. For more information on ticket prices and reservations, call 224-725-3696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.