Foa scholarship provides a ‘little push’ for young actors

  • Barrett Foa with his 2019 Endowed Camp Scholarship in Theatre Arts recipient Margaret Jacquay.

  • 2019 Barrett Foa Endowed Camp Scholarship in Theatre Arts recipient Margaret Jacquay (center) as Violet Newstead in the High School Musical production of 9 to 5.

  • 2019 Barrett Foa Endowed Camp Scholarship in Theatre Arts recipient Margaret Jacquay (center) as Violet Newstead in the High School Musical production of 9 to 5.

  • Barrett Foa (left) working with a student during his July 9, 2019 masterclass.

  • Barrett Foa (left) working with a student during his July 9, 2019 masterclass.

  • Lance Horne (left), Ernest Nolan (center), and Barrett Foa (right) in the Interlochen Arts Camp 1994 production of Angel Street.

  • Barrett Foa (right) during the 1995 Interlochen Arts Camp production of The Gondoliers.

Everyone needs a little push. Everyone benefits from someone who understands what they might need. For Interlochen alumnus Barrett Foa (IAC 92-95), that person was his mother.

At a young age Foa had an array of interests; he excelled in school, he spent time at sports camps, and took jazz dance classes at home in New York City. As time went by, Foa spent less time on the soccer field and began gravitating towards his interest in the arts.

“My mom picked up on that, and she sent me to Interlochen Arts Camp,” Foa said. “Suddenly, I was on a plane at 14 by myself. It was scary for one day, and then [my parents] never heard from me for eight weeks because I was having the best time of my life.”

Foa’s four summers at Interlochen allowed him to develop artistically. Though he never played the lead, Foa found his niche in the chorus, as one half of the second couple in various musicals and operettas, or as the comic relief.

“I was always less interested in playing the smoldering leading man” Foa said. “I liked playing characters who were small and overcoming obstacles.”

One summer during class, Foa was singing “Where Did That Little Dog Go?” from Snoopy!!!, and his teacher stopped him.

“I remember them saying, ‘No. Don't play the underdog. Just be the underdog,’” Foa said. “That's actually something I learned here. I wanted to elicit certain feelings, but I was playing them. I was not playing the truth of the song.”

Like the archetypal underdog, Charlie Brown, Foa developed his resiliency, eventually getting cast as the male lead in Lend Me A Tenor at Camp. That confidence boost energized Foa, and gave him a leg up as he entered The Department of Musical Theatre at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. There, Foa flourished, even revisiting productions he first starred in while at Interlochen, Anything Goes and Candide, but this time in larger roles.

“I was always that kid who had a lot of potential and didn't quite realize it,” Foa said. “That's the lesson I learned at Interlochen. My teachers just kept drilling into me that I have potential, and they kept trying to help me understand that.”

“I’ve often wondered what would have happened if someone had said, ‘Hey kid, you have something,’ and invested in me—pushed me to succeed. I think I would have woken up a little bit sooner, stood a little taller, and been a little more focused.”

Years before making his Broadway debut in the original cast of Mamma Mia!, playing Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, or starring as Princeton and Rod in Avenue Q, Barrett’s career started with a single person believing in him. Inspired by these themes in his life, Foa recently established the Barrett Foa Endowed Camp Scholarship in Theatre Arts. This scholarship is awarded to a high school musical theatre camper who shows strong potential for growth. During his recent campus visit, Foa hosted a master class, and later met and talked with the first recipient of his new scholarship, Margaret Jacquay, from O’Fallon, Ill.

“I want to provide an opportunity for someone who might need that little push,” Foa said. That push helped get Margaret to Camp where she would go on to perform the lead role of Violet Newstead in the High School Musical production of 9 to 5.

Back home in New York, Foa was “academic Barrett.” But at Interlochen, he was able to get away and foster his fledgling talents.

“Interlochen couldn’t be located in New York City or in another major metropolitan area,” Foa said. “That’s why this place is so special: because it’s in the middle of nowhere. You have to go away and incubate. Interlochen creates that safe space you need as a young, developing artist.”

“New York is always going to be there. The arts in major cities are always going to be there. The city is too distracting to get that perspective shift. [Students should] come here and just be a sponge and soak it up. Don't get distracted by bright lights and Broadway shows. There's time for that. You're fine. Come here and learn from your fellow artists.”

Through his philanthropy, Barrett is facilitating the journey of students like Margaret for generations to come.

Foa is currently starring as Prior Walter in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Parts One and Two at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre alongside fellow Interlochen alumni Meredith Baxter (IAA 63-64) and Ben Cherry (IAA 92-93). Foa also stars as Eric Beale on the CBS series NCIS: Los Angeles with Linda Hunt (IAA 62-64). The show will return for its eleventh season on Sept. 29.

More than 30 new endowed scholarships were established by generous donors like Barrett Foa during the CREATE AMAZING Campaign. For more information on endowed scholarships, please contact the Office of Advancement at 231.276.7623 or