Paul Mason Barnes grew up in 1950s Connecticut and 1960s California, the son of loving, Eisenhower Republicans. Moving west when he was in junior high school, Barnes came to terms with his sexual identity during the tumultuous, liberating '60s, lived in San Francisco during the "Summer of Love," and eventually became a high school drama teacher. Never content with the status quo, Barnes left teaching for the professional theatre, and moved to Ashland, Oregon where he met actor-director Jim Edmondson, his partner of 46 years. It took Pete Buttigieg's campaign for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination to catapult Barnes off the sidelines and into the Pete for America campaign, first as a contributor, next as a grassroots fundraiser, and finally as a member of the PFA Arts Policy Advisory Committee. By the time Pete Buttigieg appeared from the enveloping darkness of the catastrophic Trump years, Barnes had established himself as a versatile, award-winning freelance theatre director, sometimes referred to as "the working-est director in America," with a steady flow of projects at regional theatres, festivals, and university training programs across the country. His travels in America - to directing assignments , campaign stops, and home to Oregon - made his inaugural and well-traveled "fanboy" adventure vivid, visceral, and memorable -- particularly when, midway through the campaign, Barnes's partner experienced a stroke, resulting in expressive aphasia five weeks before Edmondson was to begin rehearsals for Tony Kushner's "Angels in America, Part II: Perestroika," one of the most complex and challenging American plays ever written. Barnes and Edmondson's adjustment to this new chapter in their lives becomes a moving and reverberant thread in the fabric of the fanboy adventure.
"Paul for Pete" has been described as a hero's journey, triggered by Hillary Clinton's loss of the 2016 Electoral College vote and spurred into action when then-Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg's appeared on the national political scene. Inspired by Buttigieg's authenticity, intelligence, level-headedness, bedrock values, progressive ideas, and human compassion, Barnes leapt off the high board into the political fray for what turned out to be an inspiring, life-changing 14 months.
Divided into five sections ("Infatuation," "Courtship," "Dating," "Commitment," "Trial Separation," with an extensive Prelude, Interlude, and Afterword, "Paul for Pete" includes numerous detours and sidebars as Barnes weaves together two remarkable narratives: his own life story and that of an unlikely campaign, led by a dynamic and inspiring new voice in American politics.
"Paul for Pete" has been described as a love story, an anthem to taking a chance, an ode to friendship, and essential reading for our times.