Barfield was raised in Portland, Oregon and attended Metropolitan Learning Center. Before becoming a playwright, Barfield was a solo performer, appearing in her one-woman show Without Skin or Breathlessness.
She graduated from New York University and then attended the Juilliard School Playwrights program, receiving an Artist Diploma. She taught playwriting at Primary Stages School of Theater and Barnard College, New York University and she served as the literary manager of the Juilliard Drama Division from 2009-2014.
Her plays include: "Bright Half Life", The Call, 121° West, Blue Door, Dent, The Houdini Act, Medallion, Of Girl & Wolf and Wanting North, Pecan Tan and The Quick. She authored a book for a children's musical entitled Civil War: The First Black Regiment.
Her play Blue Door had its world premiere at the South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California in May 2006. It was then produced at the Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons in September 2006 to October 2006, directed by Leigh Silverman. The CurtainUp reviewer noted: "Barfield’s play is filled with words that spin into near poetic riffs and define the past and the present philosophical and cultural attitudes of African-Americans in a unique and refreshing way....The title refers to a family memory and a tradition stemming from the days in the slave quarters when the door was painted blue to "keep the bad spirits out and the soul family in." It also was produced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2007, Berkeley Repertory and Harare International Festival of the Arts, Zimbabwe (HIFA). Blue Door was developed at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Utah, in 2005.
On June 29, 2008, her play Of Equal Measure premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California directed by Leigh Silverman through the sponsorship of the National Endowment for the Arts. The play was a NAACP Theatre Awards nominee.
The Call opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in a co-production with Primary Stages in March 2013 to May 2013, directed by Leigh Silverman. The TheatreMania reviewer wrote that "...whatever the work's shortcomings, it's never a bad thing to leave the theater thinking about the problems of the world at large and looking at your own neighbors in a new light." The Call was a New York Times Critic's Pick.
Bright Half Life ran Off-Broadway at the Women's Project Theater in February 2015 to March 2015, directed by Leigh Silverman. The TheatreMania reviewer wrote:"The red-hot moments that shape the decades of their relationship burst like solar flares throughout the play, erratically filling in the unexplained holes and giving shape to the story before us. Still, an intelligent order can be found in this unpredictable sequencing, suggesting a far more intricate network of cause-and-effect than one that abides by the strict rules of chronology... Even with few safety nets, both actresses effortlessly maneuver through these instantaneous transitions, with detailed direction by Leigh Silverman, who builds their playful bond while successfully clarifying the piece as a whole." It was a "Time Out" Critic's Pick.
Her television writing credits include The One Percent, Season 1 (Starz) and The Americans, Emmy-nominated Season 4 (FX).
Awards and honors
Bright Half Life was a 2016 LAMBDA Literary Award Winner.
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