She. was. the. coolest.
She lived in San Diego, right near the ocean. She loved animals and science. She had beautiful, loopy cursive writing that was hard to read and made me squint and it danced with phrases like “your good newsy note,” “a wreath and my little tree,” and the shortened “tho’.”
She was my Great Aunt Barbara.
Aunt Barbara and I exchanged letters a few times a year. I sent her school photos and she sent me newspaper clippings about the pandas at The San Diego Zoo. When I began doing theatre in sixth grade, she started sending me clippings about acting, too: children’s theatre productions, the local professional theatre scene, and the struggles of union actors in the small San Diego market.
In the late 2000’s my Aunt Marji gave Great Aunt Barbara an “email machine,” but mostly Barbara and I continued to write.
She never missed sending me a birthday card, always with a long “newsy” note, and often including a memory of my birthday in the early 1990s that we spent together. “I’ll always remember the year I was in Sheboygan for the big event, and you were getting your first skis. You had to get out and try them on right that moment. Such fun!”
She was quite a lady.
When Aunt Barbara passed away in 2012, her generosity enabled me to begin Compass Creative Dramatics with Cassandra. Barbara's legacy has allowed us to serve thousands of children across the United States.
Aunt Barbara would have been so proud of the work we’ve accomplished. She valued education—she received her bachelor’s degree in 1939 when only 3 women out of 100 graduated from college, and she went on to get a teaching certificate, too.
She worked in Washington, DC throughout World War II. Later, after she had returned to California, she worked with two different school districts and then with underserved teens, assisting them with job placement. When that program ended in 1971, she again turned her attention to serving children: this time, by organizing an outpatient clinic for kids with serious diseases.
She was a fantastic lady.
During her lifetime, she changed the world around her. I like to think that through her gift to me after her death, she continues to do so.
To that end, I’m honored to announce our official new scholarship:
The Barbara Kenyon Creativity & Bravery Scholarship
Throughout our time with Compass Creative Dramatics, we've made it a personal mission to not let any child's family finances get in the way of participating in theatre camp. Every summer, kids in Bedford, IN, Sheboygan County, WI, and Chicago attend camp for free because that's important to me and Cassandra. We want all kids to have the opportunity to stretch their creativity and bravery muscles through theatre if they want to.
Auntie Barbara would have wanted it that way, too.
I hope you’ll help support my Aunt Barbara’s dedication to children and education by making a pledge to help a child attend theatre camp.
- $300 sends a child to camp for a week
- $60 covers one day of a child's theatre camp
- $20 sponsors their camp t-shirt, and
- Any amount makes a difference
With so much love for all of our Compass family, including you--