Play performed at Kennedy Center by WCHS grad

Brandon Schatsiek
Rachel Barclay

Excitement and nervousness filled Rachel Barclay in the weeks, days and hours leading up to one of the most exciting experiences of her life. 

As a play writer, she has seen a couple of her finished projects come to life, but this one had more meaning behind it, according to Barclay.

A 2002 graduate of Washington Community High School, Barclay’s play “Trees are Living Legacies” was performed on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts Monday as a part of “The President John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.”

When asked what would be going through her mind as the play was being performed, Barclay said, “Excitement and gratitude. I know it’s a short answer, but it’s the most truthful. Excitement and gratitude, and maybe a twinge of anxiety — just hoping the play comes to life, the actors are fully immersed in their characters, and that it all goes well.”

The play was written specifically for the 50th anniversary celebration that focuses on Kennedy’s efforts toward civil rights, women’s equal rights and the peace corps movement.

“It’s a short play that commemorates his legacy,” Barclay said. “All of these different movements that he created — just how his envisioning of ideas were put into place and the power of his vision and legacy has lived on.”

She said the play deals a lot with metaphors of trees with Kennedy’s legacy.

“A lot of people argued about whether his (initiatives such as the peace corps) would stay (after he died),” Barclay said. “His vision legacy is the trunk and all of the branches come out from his original ideas and visions.”

Along with three other winners, Barclay was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and two-day residency at the KennedyCenter in preparation for the showcase. The four winners were chosen from hundreds of submissions from graduate-level students from around the country by members of the Kennedy family and Kennedy Center staff.

Barclay said she always liked the theater and acting while in high school. One teacher, Barclay said, had a huge impact on her wanting to pursue theater as a possible career, was Rebecca Liescheidt.

Liescheidt, who still teaches at WCHS, said even during high school, Barclay had the talent to do whatever she set out to accomplish.

“She’s such an unassuming person, and (being selected for the scholarship) tells me so much about her inner confidence ... she’s full of this gift,” Liescheidt said. “She’s a beautiful woman. I’m so proud of her.”

Only after studying abroad in London did Barclay discover that she “wanted to devote (her) life to theater.” While studying at Arcadia University in Philadelphia, Barclay started out as an acting major, but realized she loved writing more. 

“It just feels right, intuitively.”

In addition to the “Trees are Living Legacies” play, she said a theater company in Manhattan is producing one of her short plays in March.

Barclay is the daughter of Mike and Antoinette Barclay of Washington and Melody Barclay of Lawrence, Kan.