Britt Aamodt

Nobody's Fool: Theater and the Homeless

Nobody's Fool: Theater and the Homeless | Media List


The Elk River Star News

Nobody’s Fool

by Britt Aamodt

Nobody could call Sister Carmen Barsody a fool. Yet this 1980 graduate of Elk River High School adopts that title every day when she arrives at Faithful Fools Street Ministry, a resource center, meeting ground and creative workshop for the homeless and underprivileged in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

In 1998, Barsody co-founded Faithful Fools with Minnesota native Reverend Kay Jorgensen. Their street mission derived its name, said Barsody, from the fool, or jester, of medieval and Renaissance theater who, though playing the clown, is the voice of reason amid the pomposity and ignorance of the royal court.

Barsody’s “faithful fools”—staff, members and local residents participating in the ministry—use their real experience of homelessness to chip away at popular misconceptions about who the homeless are and how they ended up on the streets. They bring their message—that every human has value—to individuals, groups and communities whose only connection with street people may come through media images.

Barsody, with the sponsorship of the Elk River Area Arts Alliance and Central Lutheran Church, will be presenting a free performance of “The Witness,”1 p.m., October 2, at Central Lutheran Church on School Street.

The one-woman drama, acted by Rebecca Noon, takes a closer look at homelessness through four different perspectives: Tracy, the well-intentioned if somewhat naïve lead character; Wendy, Tracy’s aunt; George, a friend; and a Faithful Fool.

Central Lutheran will put on a free luncheon beginning 12 p.m. Following the performance, audience members will be invited to stick around for a question and answer session with Barsody.

Though Barsody may not have grown up planning for her present career, she credits her parents with giving her the foundation.

“My parents cultivated a generous way of being in the world,” said Barsody.

Elk River residents Geri and Joe Barsody taught their daughter and her sisters and brothers that “whether you have a talent or a material gift or time, you pass it on. You make yourself available. They modeled that.”

Tony Darkenwald, board member of the Elk River Area Arts Alliance, has known Carmen Barsody and her family for years.

“Carmen would call and ask to take care of my children, just because she knew I could use a break and because she loved children,” said Darkenwald.

Having following Barsody’s career from Minnesota to Chicago, Venezuela, Nicaragua and now San Francisco, Darkenwald jumped at the chance to bring “The Witness” to Elk River.

The play was written in response to playwright Martha Boesing’s experiences in the Tenderloin as a participant on a Faithful Fools-sponsored street retreat.

Since 1998, Faithful Fools has placed more than 1500 people from all walks of life on the street in an area Barsody calls “that part of San Francisco you’re told to stay away from.”

The participants “don’t play at being homeless,” said Barsody. “They just spend time in the neighborhood. They stand in food lines, see who’s there. They find out many of the people there aren’t who they thought they were.”
Barsody’s experiences over the years have broadened her perspectives, but she still feels the same young woman who graduated from Elk River in 1980.

“The heart’s remained the same,” she said, “just larger.”
Anyone wishing further information about the October 2 performance of “The Witness” should contact the ERAAA at (763) 441-4725 or

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