In preparation for Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments, which is being presented by ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre with the support of MOJOAA Perfoming Arts Company and in conjunction with the Ladies of the Triangle Theatre (LoTT), I had a chance to speak with playwright Idris Goodwin, author of “They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared…”, about his writing process, inspiration for the play, and the power of theatre to serve as a tool for social change. Please enjoy this wonderful interview!
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Idris Goodwin: I have always been drawn to live performance. I do hip hop music, spoken word as well---words in the air being caught by an audience is exciting to me. I didn’t really have an appreciation for the theatrical medium until I moved to Chicago for college and started meeting working theater artists. Once I began to see behind the curtain a bit, I got curious “could I write a play?”
JL: Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
IG: It’s pretty straight forward for me. I walk around with lots of ideas ping ponging around my head. One of them fights their way to the forefront. I write my first drafts very swift and decisively---then I spend many months revising. But I never stop working and I often juggle multiple projects. They begin to sort of influence and inform one another.
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of the New Black Fest’s Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments?
IG: The New Black Fest is an entity I have longer admired and wanted to be a part of. Much of my activism and response to the issues of the day is via my creative work. After first laying eyes on the images from Ferguson I immediately began writing a song, then another and within months I had a rap album called RHYMING WHILE BLACK. This project gave me the opportunity to respond in a theatrical mode.
JL: Tell me about your play. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
IG: My piece They Shootin’ or I aint neva scared: a reverberation in three parts is a monologue written in my own voice but for an actor to play. Which is to say, I wrote myself as character but don’t really intend to perform this piece myself. It’s about the paranoia one feels when considering America’s violent history toward the black body.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
IG: Theater sparks conversation. To me theater is about what happens before, during and after the show.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
IG: So as I mentioned RHYMING WHILE BLACK was just released and is available via my Bandcamp page and CDbaby. I am doing small concerts around the country. I just opened AND IN THIS CORNER: CASSIUS CLAY, a play based on the young life of Muhammad Ali, at Louisville’s StageOne. THIS IS MODERN ART, a play co written with Kevin Coval, is based on the true exploits of an outlaw graffiti crew. That is going up at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in late February. My latest “break beat play” THE REALNESS, a romantic comedy about class and hip hop, is receiving a reading in the Ruth Easton series at The Playwright Center in Minneapolis this March. And in April my black psycho drama play BLACKADEMICS, is being produced at Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco. And finally in the late summer my jazz play BARS AND MEASURES will world premiere at B Street Theater in Sacramento.
About Idris Goodwin
Idris Goodwin is a playwright, Hip Hop artist, spoken word performer and essayist. He is the author of the award winning and widely produced play How We Got On (Playscripts, 2013) and the pushcart nominated essay collection These Are The Breaks (Write Bloody, 2011). He’s performed on HBO and Sesame Street. His two latest plays And in this corner....Cassius Clay (for StageOne Family Theater) and This is Modern Art (for Steppenwolf, co-written with poet Kevin Coval) will have world premiere productions in 2015. Idris teaches performance writing and Hip Hop aesthetics at Colorado College.
HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments
Written by Dennis Allen, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, Nathan James, and Nathan Yungerberg
Directed by Monet Noelle Marshall
Dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James and Jacqueline E. Lawton
Featuring Malcolm Evans, Kenny Lampkin, Jordan Marshall, Justin Peoples, CJ Suitt and Marcus Zollicoffer
Stage Manager: JaMeeka Holloway
Produced by ArtsCenter Stage
Plan Your Visit
What: HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments
When: February 5-7 at 8:00 pm
Where: Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd, Durham
RSVP: (919) 384-7817
Online Tickets: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/4916
*HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments is produced in association with the New Black Fest.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!