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Sonia Barinskaya

“Theater is a space that has pushed me to grow and surrounded me with so many interesting and wonderful people.”

We recently caught up with sophomore Sonia Barinskaya, who says theater has pushed her to grow and led to her meeting so many “interesting and wonderful people.” In the winter musical, Chicago, she played Velma, an interesting character to say the least. And one from which she learned a great deal.


Year: Sophomore

Hometown: London, England. Her parents moved from Russia in 2011.

Cubs & Activities: Theater, Choir, Chamber Singers, A Cappelicans, International Student Ambassador (ISA), water polo.

On theater: She had not done theater before coming to Loomis but had been singing for quite a while, and that helped. She said being connected to one’s emotional side is important in each. She played Velma Kelly, one of the lead roles, in the musical Chicago this year. “Something I came to appreciate in the winter term was that the theater was a place I could come to and not think about school, not think about anywhere even, and I was so grateful for that and for the safety of the space and the community. I feel people in theater are usually the nicest people, and they accept you the way you are because theater is very vulnerable. ... Everyone supports each other and doesn't judge, and it is so nice to be in a space like that. It’s also a space in which everyone in their own way grows so much. For me, it was confidence. Every day coming into the theater, confidence is something I am forced to work on. ... You have to learn, as [Theater Director David McCamish] says, to get the judge off your shoulder. And you can take that outside of theater. Everyone needs to have a little less of a judge on their shoulder. Theater is a space that has pushed me to grow and surrounded me with so many interesting and wonderful people.”

On playing the part of Velma in Chicago: Sonia said she was a bit scared at first when she got the part. “I thought people would think the character I am on stage is the person I am in real life. Velma is very aggressive, ... looks down on everyone. ... I guess I looked at her negatively at that point, but I think I gradually found admirable things about her and her character and was even inspired by them. My Velma was fearless, and I think that fearlessness was admirable because she has an inner sense of calm and ... she just doesn’t care what others think about her, and that is what makes her so confident.”

Sonia Barinskaya as Velma Kelly in the winter musical Chicago

Sonia as Velma Kelly in the winter musical Chicago

On her musical background: Music has always been a big part of Sonia’s life. “My parents love music.” She went to piano concerts and classical music concerts at a young age, and she said her mom loves opera. Sonia began informal singing lessons at age 4 and later learned piano and saxophone. “The arts are a big part of Russian culture, and I think that is what has made me into someone who loves music so much, someone who connects to it so easily, and someone who hopefully shares music well with people in performances.”

On how theater has helped her singing: “Theater has given me a new sense of comfort in expressing how I feel when I am singing. ... You can sing with not much expression or you can sing with emotion and passion.” The audience can sense your joy, she said, and her goal is to get people smiling.

On being an ISA: As an international student, she said it is important to her that other international students feel comfortable. “You don’t want them to feel isolated or not able to be themselves or hide a part of themselves. It is important that international cultures are accepted, supported, and celebrated.” An ISA helps to make that happen on a campus that has numerous events celebrating diverse cultures.

Favorite place on campus: She has three. First, the dining hall. “I’ve had some of the most fun nights there with friends and different people. It is nice at the end of the day to smile and see the whole community and talk. There’s a sense of unity in that. And in the winters, it is busy for me with theater, and coming to the dining hall is a way to unwind. My friends have been so supportive in accommodating my theater schedule and being there for me.” Second, the chapel. “In the spring when it is sunny and we have A Cappelicans practice there, it is so beautiful seeing the sunset through the windows. It is a … place I can be that part of myself that loves music so much.” Third, is her dorm, Ammidon Hall. “I’ve had so many special moments and great nights there. ... Everyone supports each other and loves each other and is open to each other.”

Favorite snack: A cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese. It’s a quick and easy snack to grab 10 minutes before class, she said. Ice cream from the bookstore also puts a smile on her face.

Favorite meal at home: “I have come to appreciate traditional Russian meals my mom cooks. It’s not something I can or do eat here.” She especially enjoys a Russian meatball soup her mother makes. “When I come home, it’s ‘Mom, can you please make it?’...  The soup makes me happy and reconnects me to that part of myself and my Russian culture.”

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?  “My mom’s grandma. I have heard so many wonderful things about her from my mom, and … my mom says I am quite similar to her.”

Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the present? “I’d rather live 100 years in the past. I feel life was simpler in a time without social media and cell phones. It seems like the joys of life were simpler and more appreciated. I wouldn’t want to go 100 years in the future. That is kind of scary to think about what life will be like. I'm sure there will be so many incredible and interesting and live-saving inventions, but I'm scared life will lose its meaning in a sense. I think one of the good things about life is, yes, it’s imperfect but there is beauty in that. Its imperfections allow you to have such high moments but also experience low moments and learn from that. You get to experience a range of emotions, and I wonder if that will be gone 100 years from now — not emotions but the way our lives are structured, how we interact with people.”


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