Ask Idris Goodwin to share what he’s teaching these days, and the assistant professor of theatre is happy to oblige. His schedule includes basic and advanced levels of Writing for Performance, and a spoken word poetry Half-Block course titled The Vocab. Alongside those is Rewriting America, a class that he describes as a blend of play-reading, writing, and analysis, “looking at contemporary writers of color and writers representing different marginalized groups, how they balance socio-political issues and universality, and … at the history of different non-white, hetero bodies on stage, and the way in which the history of those are presented.”
It’s a full plate. But it’s not the only one he’s filled for himself. Ask Goodwin what else he’s working on and he begins to chatter nonstop.
“I have a play called ‘From the Mouth of Monsters,’ which is a commissioned project for the Kennedy Center for their young audiences program series. … I also have my play: ‘And In This Corner, Cassius Clay,’ which is a story of the early years of Mohammed Ali, when he was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, in the Jim Crow era. That play is opening in Nashville, Nashville Children’s Theatre. … I just put out a book through Haymarket Books, a chapbook called ‘Inauguration.’
In April [co-author and former student] Nico [Wilkinson ’16] and I are gonna drop a digital album, which is basically us reading the poems from ‘Inauguration.’ We’re gonna put that out in April, which is National Poetry Month, then we’re planning to do another event in collaboration with a new press that’s opening, a new local press called Peach Press [by Han Sayles ’15] … based around the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency.”
Wait, though. He’s not done yet.
“I have this play called ‘The Way the Mountain Moved,’ which is a commission for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a western set in the Utah area in the 1850s, historically based on a survey team that was sent out to assess the feasibility of a transcontinental railroad. … I’m doing a stage reading of it at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival
in Denver. It’s a big, giant, fat play.”
When Goodwin finally pauses, it’s to check the calendar on his phone to see what else he’s overlooked. (That, and a dry-erase board in his office are what keep him on track.) Panels on race and the American stage at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Spoken word performances at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Directing a show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of the Revolutions International Theatre Festival, called “Hands Up,” an anthology of monologues (including one he’s written) in response to police shootings of unarmed black youth. And a hip-hop theatre weekend at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
He pauses again and says, “I don’t know if you want everything.” Then he grins. He knows it’s a lot. And on top of that, the world has taken notice.
Just since January, Goodwin has received the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award by Chicago’s American Blues Theatre for his original play “Hype Man”; his play “Bars and Measures” was nominated for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award; and his short play “#matter” — which he directed on campus in 2015, featuring Alex Sarche ’17 and Alexandra Farr ’17 — was selected to be produced during the March 2017 reopening of the Bush Theatre in London.
The awards are exciting, but they don’t distract him from his primary goal: being creative. It’s the only thing, Goodwin says, that has ever really centered him.
“The world does not want you to make art. The world wants you to go to work and push products and to keep the existing creations moving. The world does not want you to give birth to new things. The world needs you to give birth to new things, but the world is not set up to give you space to do that. You don’t find time, you make time. And that’s how I look at it. I fight for it. I go to bat for it. I go 30 rounds. I go two days straight in Fight Club. I will make that time.”
Since he’s primarily teaching classes during the day, making that time often means really early mornings — the path Goodwin took four years ago after his son’s birth — or really late nights — “which is a horrible time for me, my brain is like SpaghettiOs.” But it’s all just a part of the bigger picture.
“At this stage of the game, there’s really no separation for me between teacher, artist, and even person, individual, father, husband. All of it is in harmony with one another. It’s all just creating. It’s all improvisation. It’s all just being open and being present and juggling and trying to be creative.
“I’m searching for a holistic existence, where it’s like when you make a soup, and you let it sit for two days, and
then you taste everything. That’s what I’m striving for. I’m striving to be three-day broth.”
Out and About
Chicago alumni can catch Idris Goodwin for a stage reading of his Blue Ink Playwriting Award-winning “Hype Man,” on Monday, May 22, at Stage 773. Or those near Reykjavik, Iceland, can sign up to attend the NonfictioNOW conference, where he’ll be a speaker in June.
Of course, Goodwin isn’t the only faculty member working on projects outside the classroom and across the world. Alumni interested in connecting with professors can visit the CC Alumni Event page (www.coloradocollege.edu/alumnievents) for announcements about faculty-led alumni activities such as Block Breaks Away, Books on the Beach, and other themed programs, as well as individual, non-college-related faculty appearances.