Mind-blowing: The only adjective I feel appropriately describes the experience that is Barcode. In witnessing Barcode, I was anticipating a show, but it was more of a spiritual journey that you kind of blindly venture on. The tour guide, Destin Le’Marr, from start to finish, yanks you up into a whirlwind of soul searching, making it impossible for you to leave the same way that you came. The hybrid narrative is a combination of two worlds where Le’Marr guides you through various factors that contribute to your self-identity and speak to circumstances that we all find ourselves in.
“Barcodes are used to identify products. It stereotypes the products, highlighting what group it falls into,” says Le’Marr. “Too many of us have turned into our own barcodes. Age, race, gender…. We turn into barcodes… Listening to outside voices that tell else the way to do things in order to achieve success.” Essentially, Barcode conveys how we become what society says we should be, conforming to our identification tags, as opposed to who we truly are.
“The two things I’m most passionate about are inspirational speaking and performing arts,” says Destin. “Often times those are two distinct, different elements… I wanted to find a way to, in a very alternative and unconventional fashion, merge those two elements, and give a unique experience to the community.”
Le’Marr’s intentions are definitely delivered. Barcode is a set of 9 scenes, each leaving the audience with some profound, thought provoking message. Destin uses bright suitcases of different sizes to store props, but, more importantly, to drive the theme. Throughout the whole journey, he’s not only unpacking props from the suitcases but, metaphorically, unpacking the story. But the “power” that is Barcode is no script, as the culmination of this project came as no accident.
“Mothers, they just know.”
Destin says that he was “thrust” into the performing arts at the tender age of six. Up until then, he’d been attending summer basketball camps, but one summer his mother told him he’d be attending a performing arts camp at the King Arts Complex; it was clear that momma had other plans. His mother revealed to him that he would be “singing, dancing, and acting,” and he had no intention on cooperating. But, you know, “mothers, they just know.”
“The first summer was horrible; I didn’t do anything.” Hardheaded and resistant, Destin recalls a turning point during camp that would ultimately set the stage for the rest of his life. It was during a rehearsal for the end-of-camp final performance. As the young performers were on stage, one practicing as a cowboy, young Destin was in the audience, laughing and poking fun at his peers. Witnessing his behavior, and maybe even his potential, the director scolded him, instructing him to either get on stage and do a better job or be quiet. He got up there. “I played that cowboy in that rehearsal, and I haven’t gotten off the stage since.”
It wasn’t until Destin was in high school that he was introduced to public speaking. “And I fell in love with that,” he proclaimed. “It was almost like a re-falling in love with the stage, in another fashion.” Since then, he’s been committed to merging the two.
“It wasn’t anything artistic.”
During his undergraduate experience, Le’Marr attended Hampton University in Hampton, VA and Coppin State in Baltimore, MD. He later taught high school theater in Baltimore and in the D.C. area. It was during a trip back home to Columbus that he came up with the concept of Barcode and The Kito Project.
Destin says he went through a crisis. “It wasn’t anything artistic. Life had blindsided the h*** out of me—not in the life of Destin Le’Marr the performer, but Destin Le’Marr the person. Yeah, the person was hit heavy!”
That’s why Barcode is more of a manifestation than a manuscript.
Le’Marr began to question everything he was and everything he thought he knew, due to a deep sense of void and failure that had overcome him. He remembers feeling that everything he’d hoped for had not come to fruition. He had to reevaluate who Destin was; he began rethinking his identity. “I remember sitting in my car that I had parked in the back of a grocery store lot and I was just crying and I could not stop,” he recalls of that life changing moment. “And I said to myself, ‘Destin, you don’t get to this place by happenstance.'”
He began backtracking to a younger Destin. “What factors contributed to me sitting in this parking lot?” It was out of that moment that Destin decided that a change-of-course had to take place. Barcode signifies a lot of the seemingly elusive factors that contributed to his identity. “A story had to be told. I didn’t know it would turn into Barcode.” Destin’s life became the perfect opportunity to incorporate his passions for the stage and inspirational speaking. “I knew I wasn’t the only person in the world that would go through an identity crisis. I needed to provide a sense of assistance or help because everyone hits that crossroad…”
During the first scene of Barcode, Destin Le’Marr introduces us to the idea of family and identity. It’s easy to know who you are within your village but what about outside of that? “As important as your village is, it’s even more important to find a balance within yourself because in times of crisis, when you’re drowning, your village may not be there in that moment.”
Destin says that Barcode is for everyone, and I have to agree with him. But it’s not the “storms” in life that we ought to be concerned about. Barcode isn’t about the storms:
“The vision for Barcode, The Kito Project and for Destin Le’Marr, is to have these encounters with people where their foundation is shaken, and that’s okay because sometimes it needs to be.
Sometimes we build faulty foundations. Storms are going to come. Houses don’t fall because of the storm itself. They fall because they’re built on the wrong foundations.
I want to speak to the foundations. Society and our culture have told us how we should build our foundations. They tell everyone the same thing. Until we tap into our own individual originality, then and only then are we able to customize our own foundations.”
And Destin does exactly that in his nine scene expedition. One of our first bar codes comes from who we are in our families, our village. During the opening scene, Le’Marr raises the question of who we choose to be outside of our villages.
Half-way through the journey, Destin explores what may be one of the strongest driving forces behind Barcode as he bravely takes on generational curses and the psychological struggles that accompany them. The rest of the show is a constant thriller, from the significance of selfies to senseless killings. Destin leaves us, almost with a mission, reflecting on what greatness would die with us if we left this earth tomorrow. What unexplored hopes and dreams would the world never see all because we hit the snooze button on our greatness.
“I don’t want people to feel entertained but more empowered.”
Destin’s Barcode actually left me feeling grateful. I remember during the beginning of the show, I was guessing the significance of the suitcases scattered across the stage. I had no idea that he would be unpacking a little bit of my own baggage. I think I left a little bit of my previous self there.
Destin and the Kito Project plan to travel nationally, allowing as many people as possible a chance to witness Barcode and what saved his life:
“Every time I take the stage, before it’s therapy for anyone else, it always will serve as therapy for me. I am intentional about speaking to myself as I too speak to an audience.
The circumstances (in Barcode) come across as fictional, but there’s a very real sense of emotional psychological wrangling in every scene. Even when you have a sense of a firm foundation, it doesn’t mean that adversity won’t come.
Barcode is not a show. I don’t want people to feel entertained but more empowered. I believe that Barcode saved my life and got me out of that parking lot. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was like a life raft, and I definitely want to throw it into waters for other people who are drowning.”
And Destin isn’t stopping there. Destin recently announced that he will be starring in his very own web series, “Turn Up the Volume.” On the show, Destin Le’Marr will sit down with special guests to discuss some of society’s most provocative and challenging issues, like the ones he explores in Barcode. “As much as I love the stage, I felt it was important to broaden the channels of communication in a continued effort to spread the message I care so much about,” says Destin. “Turn Up the Volume” is a fun, engaging, and provocative new series that still maintains the essence of the principles Barcode was founded on.”
“Turn Up the Volume” is scheduled to air this week, August 3. You won’t want to miss it!.
To keep up to date with Destin and updates on Barcode showings, check out his handles below: