At the age of 15, while at summer camp, a young Chilean boy would have an experience that would change his world forever.
“The first day I saw it I didn’t stop, but the next day I had to stop. I felt it call my name.”
Since then, Carlos Baron, a longtime Mission performance arts coordinator and Multicultural Theatre professor, has never looked back.
That mysterious object was a circus tent that Baron spotted on the beach while at camp, which was the moment that ignited his love for the arts.
Baron was sent to camp by his parents, who were staying at a beach home that they build for vacation. He and a group of friends found a tent left on the shore one morning and decided to use it to reenacte movies like The West Side Story, just to pass time.
“We used everything available dogs, donkeys, and whatever we saw, said Baron, with a soft giggle.
“The whole thing became a huge skeptical, but one thing I remember is the audience that we gained who applauded and chanted, “one more, one more.”
This small memory was a confirmation for Baron that his passion lied in performing in front of an audience.
“I thank theater for key moments in my life,” said Baron.
Although he had that life-altering experience as a teenager, he did not exactly have a smooth transition to the stage.
At times, I felt guilty doing something that I loved,” said Baron.
Raised in Santiago, Chile with his mother, father, and three sisters, Baron was the only son and was expected to carry on the Baron legacy.
‘My father was a lawyer, and he wanted me to be a lawyer too.”
Growing up, Baron was the typical trophy child that many parents in his town valued. He was a track star, a tennis player, and had graduated high school with honors.
“I was coming from a good background, but I always felt that law was here and justice was over there. I wanted to get closer to justice in what I did and what I said,” Baron said.
After high school, he decided to follow his father’s legacy.
“For two years I did law, but I hated it. I thought then I was participating in social justice, but to me, it wasn’t pure.”
Realizing that the University Of Chile School Of Law was not his final destination, Baron decided to flee for the United States in 1972, hoping that the American dream would offer him the freedom that he needed to fulfill his dreams in theater.
As soon as he landed, Baron found ways to get involved with the social justice movement. He started by contributing to demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
Baron’s courage to follow his dreams paid off when he was offered a full scholarship to Berkeley School of Theater for playing a mute homosexual character that he created himself in an Irish play.
“Playing that role took a lot of dedication,” said Baron.
He prepared for the role by learning sign language. He also practiced being silent on a rigorous schedule. This was only preparation for the many roles that he would take on over the years.
“These are all the shows I have ever done,” said Baron, as he sipped his tea and walked through his dining room.
The wall was splattered with plaques and posters from some of his productions that he wrote and directed such as “The Still Life Cabaret”, “Poesia eres tu”, and a mini documentary “Si Chile”, which covered his experience from the military cope in 1973 that invaded Chile on a year long trip back home.
“All my life, I have always played the devil’s advocate, said Baron.”
“My mother also used to tell me, “you’re a lamp on the outside and dark on the inside.”
Baron has always seemed to challenge social normality, and this is something that he wanted to express in his production pieces in order to introduce new ideas to his audience.
Although theater became a huge part of his life, Baron still found time for family.
I grew up with a house full of women: my mother, my three sisters, and my great –grandmother, so I am very much in touch with my female side,” he giggled.
“As a father, I was very soft and affectionate.”
His four children share great memories of their father. To them, whether he was on stage or off stage he still remained a character.
“It was Halloween, and I was in the first grade. I was a witch for my school’s procession, and he dropped me off, but I left my broom in the car. Next thing that I know, I see my dad flying in on a broom acting like a witch, said his daughter Dulce, as she laughed.
“Being the theater person that he was, he did it so well that I wasn’t embarrassed because so many people enjoyed it.”
Baron has many theatrical accomplishments , but he prides himself in having the opportunity to share his love for the arts with the next generation.
In 1989, he wrote and acted in a play called” Poeta Pan”, which is where his teaching career began.
“Some of the department chairs at San Francisco State University came out to see the show and asked me if I would like to teach multicultural theater,” said Baron.
Baron decided to take the offer , and he has been there ever since.
“The ideas of our culture try to portray certain ideas about sexism, racism, and all the ills of society, but I try to present alternative to students,” said Baron.
“I think I have done a good job. It has been exhausting most of the time, but I am happy with what I’ve done.”