What did the 0 say to the 8? Nice Belt

Never let reality get in the way of a perfectly good theory.

- Bill Jetzer

I am Benjamin Barlow, a multi-faceted Business Analyst living in Madison, Wisconsin. I have a wide variety of skills and hobbies that range from photography to web development. The favorite pastime has been (and probably always will be) theatre. For the four (and-a-half) years I spent studying Mathematics at UW-Platteville, I participated in 20 productions. Almost one production every 80 days for 54 straight months.

My super power is visualizing relational databases. Essentially, it is simply easy for me to understand, query, and plan/model relational data. How about data that is best described as not relational like JSON, YAML, or XML? Well, it’s quite a bit harder for me to visualize data stored in those formats, but the concepts of attribute-value pairs, arrays, and hierarchies aren’t completely foreign to me.

History

Growing Up

I mostly grew up in the small town of Soldiers Grove, WI. My family did move around with stops in Montreal, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and among other places, but that was all largely before I started 1st grade. The lone exception was spending my 5th grade out on Long Island. Soldiers Grove, WI has the claim of being “America’s First Solar Village” while being very small with a population of around 600 people in the middle of the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin.

Growing up, I spent some time working on my Uncle Albert’s small diary farm in (not even unincorporated town of) Yankeetown, about a 2 minute drive outside Soldiers Grove. Elementary school consisted of a lot of sports and activities. Middle school had some theatre thrown in. High School was more of the same, though twice qualifying for State Track and Field in the 110m High Hurdles was definitely a highlight. Winning conference championships in Basketball, Football, and Track were also a ton of fun.

College

I chose UW-Platteville because they recruited me as a hurdler for their Track and Field team.

Well, not exactly :)

My dad’s mom and my sister both went to UW-P. I went to the UW-P summer music camps growing up. The campus is beautiful. It felt right going from a small town of 600 to a slightly larger small town of 10,000.

While I was working to be on the Track and Field team my first semester, I auditioned for the musical The Fanstastics. I knew some of the production team from the summer music camps and was encouraged to give it a shot. I landed the part of Matt. I then had to make a decision to be the third-or-fourth best hurdler on the Track and Field team or to be a lead in a college musical. I chose the musical and I forever got hooked on theatre.

All this while, I had to figure out what my major was going to be. I took a Calculus 1 class my second semester with Dr. Ul-haq where he encouraged me to seriously consider majoring in Mathematics. Not long after, I pulled the trigger and after 4 (and-a-half) years at UW-P, I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with an emphasis in Actuarial Science.

After College Graduation

While a fresh college graduate in December 2010, I moved out to Washington, DC to look for a career and to spend time with my two older sisters. It didn’t take too long to be offered a position as a Quality Assurance Analyst, but for reasons outside of my control, they eliminated the need for the position shortly after the offer. With not enjoying the concrete jungle of the east coast metropolis, I started to apply for jobs back in Wisconsin.

Shortly after that, I was offered and accepted a Business Analyst position with Logistics Health Inc. (LHI) in La Crosse. It was an amazing opportunity and a terrific learning experience. Before this, I had been very intimidated by software development. My dad, a developer, did nothing to help this as he talked very abstractly about technology and how software works. After a few weeks at LHI however, I started to embrace a fascination in coding. I learned HTML/CSS/SQL/JavaScript while in La Crosse. This website was coded from the ground up given a boilerplate CSS file and stripped down WordPress php files.

Move to Madison

In April of 2013, I made the difficult decision to leave LHI and move to Madison. Since then, I have fallen in love with the city. There is no better city in my mind! The sophisticated culture in such a small footprint is by far the most appealing aspect. And in mid-summer 2014, I accepted a position as a Business Analyst with SVA Consulting. I could not have possibly hoped for a better opportunity that suits me so very well.

Bartell Theatre Webmaster

Later in 2014, I started my involvement with The Bartell Theatre Foundation. I had proposed the idea for a new website to the Executive Director at the time and shortly after became the Bartell’s Webmaster. I then began work to develop, from basic WordPress php files (not too dissimilar to this website), and have maintained the website you see today on January 25th, 2015.

It has always been my philosophy with the Bartell Theatre’s website to design it for ease of use with two user groups, those being the people that need to maintain the data on the website and the people that are consuming data on the website.

With the users that need to maintain the data on the website, the events have been largely designed to be “set it and forget it.” For example, the homepage changes itself. By setting the performances dates for an event, the homepage will automatically know (through custom php and SQL) how to order the events and when to no longer show a show. Imagine being a producer of a production and not having to think about taking down the event on the website’s homepage after the show finishes! Other custom developed website features have proven to make the Bartell’s website one of the easiest theatre venue websites to maintain for end users.

With the users that need to consume data on the website, I wanted to make sure information was glanceable and easy to understand. On the homepage, every upcoming show has their next performance date listed and goes so far as saying if it is “Today” or “Tomorrow” while also saying if a production is “Opening” or “Closing.” In the audition section, you’ll know if the dates are for the first to last audition date. If it’s the last audition date, those actors need to know to show up!

Along the way, there have been several redesigns and enhancements. Although the underlying organization and infrastructure of the website have not change, there have been nuanced design changes that have allowed for all users that use the Bartell Theatre’s website.

Strollers Theatre

In March 2016, I participated in the Strollers Theatre production of Misalliance directed by Sam D. White, a Forward Theatre Advisory Company member. It was such a great experience, that I decided to run for and ultimately accept a position on Strollers’ Board of Directors.

On the Strollers Board of Directors, I helped steer the organization with a revitalized publicity strategy utilizing custom motion graphics in videos, professional photography and videography, and a higher standard of acceptable organizational graphic design. I led an investment into a cloud infrastructure for the Strollers’ history project and for the distribution of media resources. I standardized the Press Releases. I served as the Producer of one of the most successful Strollers Theatre production (in terms of sales) in the last several years.

I have helped bring a local theatre company into a new age of digital promotion and have made many new friends in the wider Madison theatre community.

Theatre Photography

I have built a strong theatre network in Madison that has requested my help in providing photography to help promote their productions.

For those interested in my theatre photography, it can be found in the below articles.

Madison Shakespeare Company will get blitzed for the Bard published in The Cap Times

What Strollers Theatre’s ‘Amadeus’ has to say about the late genius published in Madison Magazine

Shakespeare draws out-of-town talent for ‘As You Like It’ published in Madison Magazine

Five choreographers contribute to ‘Anger Dance’ published in Madison Magazine

Left of Left Center doubles down on ‘Beta Blockers: The Refill’ published in Madison Magazine

Troupe tackles tricky play with “Spirits” published in Madison Magazine

Madison Shakespeare Company embarks on first full-length comedy published in the Wisconsin State Journal

Seven summer theater performances not to be missed published in the Wisconsin State Journal

Theatrical love challenges the classic love story published in the Wisconsin State Journal

A timely statement published in the Isthmus

Moveable Shakespeare published in the Isthmus