Idris Goodwin: Break Beat Plays and Versatile Writing

Idris Goodwin, a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department, has made a name for himself as one of the most well-known and dynamic faculty members on campus. Between teaching blocks at Colorado College, producing projects around the country, collaborating with local artists, and directing productions on campus, he has established his role as a creative powerhouse.

On campus, Goodwin’s most popular blocks are Intermediate and Advanced Writing for Performance, which “give students the opportunity to try their hand at playwriting, spoken word/performance poetry, monologue and everything in between,” said Goodwin. Students from these classes have produced screenplays, rap albums, and other forms of performance. “Plays, spoken word, hip hop music – I’ve been making and residing in this world for a long time. I write across genre, drama and comedy, I do a lot of work aimed specifically for young audiences. I am trying to be the most versatile writer and teacher of writing,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Catalyst Archives

This drive and dedication has led to one of his newest projects, “The Realness”, a drama in his Break Beat Play series. “These plays are about hip hop’s impact on the American character.  They follow young characters, primarily of color, who use hip hop as a means to navigating issues of identity and class,” said Goodwin. “The Realness” is the second play in his series, preceded by “How We Got On”. The third installment, “HYPE MAN”, “will world premiere in Boston this coming winter 2018.” Goodwin also plans to write “1-2 more in the coming years.”

Goodwin says that the reaction to The Realness and other Break Beat plays has been “positive by and large. They’re musicals but not musicals. They use rap and beats and pop culture reference in a really particular way. Folks either get it right away or they don’t. That’s how I like it.”

In addition to the Break Beat plays, Goodwin has “a whole slate of plays being produced across the country.”  This Corner Cassius Clay, a piece about the early life of Muhammad Ali, is playing in Charlotte, Portland, and Anchorage. The Way The Mountain Moved, a historical play about western expansion, and various other projects are also showing in theaters around the U.S.  Despite his national success, however, Goodwin still devotes a large part of his time to his students at CC, whom he describes as all “very bright.”  For him, the integration of his playwriting, production, and his teaching is important. “I was taught and mentored by practitioners,” Goodwin said.  “Practice remains the cornerstone of my pedagogy.  I venture into the landscape and gather intel to bring back home for the students.  I also try and help our grads figure out what to do once they get out.  The theater world is vibrant right now.”

Students interested in what Goodwin has to offer have so many opportunities.  Since he likes to be involved in local projects, Goodwin is directing two plays in Denver – Detroit 67 and This Is Modern Art – in addition to Theater D’Art’s Angels in America here in Colorado Springs (which opens in December). For opportunities even closer to home, Goodwin is teaching Writing for Performance in blocks 5 and 7, in addition to Rewriting America, “which exposes students to the work of contemporary playwrights representing a variety of marginalized communities.”  Goodwin also emphasizes that “students interested specifically in spoken word/performance poetry should check out my half block course THE VOCAB.  This year we have a very special guest instructor Jessica Lopez who is the former poet laureate of Albuquerque, NM and is hands down one of the best spoken word artists in the world.  We are lucky to have her and she is gonna blow minds.”

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