From Stage Combat to Hudson Views


Fortunately, he was able to overlook the building’s one glaring deficiency: the absence of fire escapes. “When I came to New York, the whole city looked like ‘West Side Story,’” he said. “But I’ve never lived anywhere with a fire escape. Another dream dies.”

Name: B.H. Barry

Age: 77 Occupation: Fight choreographer and director On Where He Hangs His Hat: “I worked it out one time: I have spent two-thirds of my life in the dark in theaters, so I’m incredibly easygoing about where I live.”

Mr. Barry has had to content himself with the wide staircase that separates the two floors of the apartment. It’s not nearly as rough and raffish, but he has adjusted well, according to his wife, Lynne Halliday, a performer and playwright who met Mr. Barry when she took one of his classes in stage combat at the Circle in the Square training workshop. They married in 1987 and have an adult daughter.

The couple limit their own combat to amiable wrangling about the apartment’s appointments, from the art (she’ll take a still life; he favors photo realism) to the cutlery and china. The goal, Mr. Barry said, is comfortable elegance: “I want to be comfortable and Lynne wants to be elegant.”

Mission accomplished on both fronts. When Mr. Barry and Ms. Halliday bought their new-construction condo in 1991, they played with the floor plan a bit, knocking down a wall on the first floor to create better flow between rooms, swapping out the parquet floor for terra cotta and planked wood, and adding cherry wood built-ins to hold books and pictures, like the photo of Mr. Barry as a 2-year-old.

“The apartment had been ‘moderne,’ and we are not ‘moderne’ people,” Ms. Halliday explained. “We like antiques and we like furniture you can sit on.”

Mr. Barry clarified: “We like couches that have a back to them.”

The living room is expansive enough to hold several very inviting sofas (all with backs) and easy chairs. They’ve been recovered a few times and the windows “re-curtained,” Ms. Halliday said. Draped over one of the sofas is a custom-made quilt cleverly fashioned from the show T-shirts of productions and theater companies that featured fights staged by Mr. Barry, among them “Golden Boy,” “Oleanna” and the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Born Barry Halliday, Mr. Barry conjured his alternate identity as a way of creating another income stream. “When I had a role on a TV thing, I’d say, ‘Oh, I can get B.H. Barry to do the fight scenes.’ I’d get two fees,” he recalled.


Slide Show

What I Love | B.H. Barry

CreditRobert Wright for The New York Times


“I was going to do that for four or five years, and then lose B. H. Barry and go back to Barry Halliday,” continued Mr. Barry, who has also moonlighted as a director. “Now, 50 years later, I’m B.H. Barry, and who’s Barry Halliday?”

As B. H. Barry, he accepted with great pleasure a 17th-century spyglass and a compass, gifts from his friend and former student, the soap opera director Conal O’Brien. “He said I should have some antique things to do with the sea,” said Mr. Barry, an avid sailor who was once a prospect for England’s Olympic team.

While he has been known to sit at the dining room table and sketch out fights with the aid of a salt cellar and pepper grinder — “One would be Laertes and one would be Hamlet” — Mr. Barry does most of his homework in the study upstairs. Shelves hold books, like a much-loved first edition of “The Sword and the Centuries,” a history of weaponry, and a bust of the swashbuckler nonpareil, Errol Flynn, given to Mr. Barry by a makeup artist friend. It was a present with particular resonance: Flynn’s stunt double, Paddy Crean, an English fight director, had been Mr. Barry’s teacher at acting school.

On the wall near his desk is a framed picture of the set design from a production of “Carmen,” signed by its director, Franco Zeffirelli.

“I like to have things that remind me when I did things,” said Mr. Barry, who won a Special Tony Award in 2010. “I look at that set and I think of Zeffirelli.”

He is now fighting for mastery of the recently acquired ukulele that sits on his desk. “It makes me very happy to pick it up,” Mr. Barry said. “I think it’s something everybody should do, therapeutically, as they get older. It’s fun, even though I’m not exactly going to be going out on tour.”

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