Nov 15, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 403: Idris Goodwin
Hometown – Current Town: I am a true son of the Midwest, baby! Michigan, Illinois, Iowa all day
Q: Tell me about your play coming up at Humana.
A: How We Got On is a 1988 coming of age story about three teenagers who have just seen Yo! MTV Raps and want to become rappers. Only thing is that they live in the suburbs of the Midwest. The play’s form and structure is adapted from the DJ driven underground rap mixtapes (see Tony Touch, DJ Clue, DJ Kay Slay)that sustained me as a hip hop obsessed teenager. The play’s narrator scratches and blends scenes together as if they were records.
I worked on the play this past summer at the Oneill with a great crew.
It’s the first in series of what I call the Break Beat Plays.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: Joining forces with fellow playwright/ solo performers Sean Christopher Lewis and Megan Gogerty on The Teacher Show –an evening of pieces about our experiences in the classroom. We’ll be presenting at the very essential 2012 Revolutions Theater Festival in Albuquerque, NM and other venues across the country.
Working on the next Break Beat Play currently titled Street Team, which is a romance with raps set in 96, at the onset of the Puffy era.
I continue to travel the nation’s community colleges, youth centers, book stores, cafes and dive bars promoting These Are The Breaks my first collection of essays and poetry.
Working on a syllabus for a Hip Hop theater class I start teaching at Northwestern this winter
Toying around with a young adult fiction novella (we’ll see)
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I wrote my very first “stage play” after reading True West so I gotta give it up to Sam Shepard - but listening to Richard Pryor taught me everything I need to know about the art of live performance.
Also, Chicago’s infamous Curious Theater Branch and Prop Thtr were an undeniable part of my genesis. They opened their doors to me when I was a pup so I could learn how to collaborate, fail and grow.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I have a very broad definition of theater. For me theater is:
any sequence of calculated actions presented in real time to a live audience. Venue, content, context, length is irrelevant. So for me concerts, poetry slams, sporting events, rap battles, etc… all theater
(Ever notice in sports, a sequence of actions on the court or field are referred to as “a play.”)
I would love to see the blending of these different styles and approaches to live performance encouraged by the academic and theater making industry at large.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Every year there is an event in Chicago called Louder than a bomb, which is a teen poetry festival co founded by Def Poet/educator/author Kevin Coval. At the heart of the festival is a tournament style competition in which kids from all over the state form teams and battle it out with their original performance poems. I’m talking hundreds of teenagers from all sorts of ethnic, socio economic, racial, cultural backgrounds standing on stage spilling their guts about where they come from, who they be to thunderous applause. It has all the stuff of great drama – people’s desires, tragedies, comedies – and these are real kids – these are the sons and daughters of professors, fire fighters, single moms and dads, aldermen, immigrants – all listening to one another’s truth. But it’s the audience that’s truly special – the word diverse is an understatement – you see a room full of adults cheering for their kids, for other people’s kids, but most importantly listening and reliving in some way their own adolescence – you’d have to be dead not to be inspired. Its absolutely cynic proof. They made a documentary about it which has been cleaning up on the festival circuit and will premiere on Oprah’s new network on Jan.5 2012
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: two things
1. Talent is the easy part, everyone is talented—the real skills to learn are rigor, discipline, strategy, attitude, and most of all, patience.
2. Never take someone’s advice just because they may be more “accomplished” than you – follow, feed and trust your instincts instead.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: As mentioned above, How We Got On has it’s premo at the 2012 Humana fest in March
My other play Blackademics chew the flan waiting for death and/or tenure….will premo at Chicago’s MPAACT in fall 2012
I work in a lot of different mediums: if you want to check out my spoken word, essays, music and other stuff drop by my website - www.Idrisgoodwin.com
Be on the look out for that Louder Than A Bomb Documentary