Groundbreaking artist directs Curious’ look back at uprising before bringing This is Modern Art to Jones Theatre
By Jeannene Bragg
For the DCPA NewsCenter
Plays. Raps. Essays. Poems. Film. Idris Goodwin is a storyteller at heart. Performance and words are his jam. “Why not?” is his constant refrain.
“If I can do all these things, why not?” says Goodwin. “Just like a visual artist has various mediums: oils, acrylics, collages, so do I. I work with stories and some are plays, some are raps or poems.”
Goodwin has a special connection to both Detroit and Detroit ’67. He met playwright Dominique Morisseau during the premiere of his play And in This Corner … Cassius Clay at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, where the two connected over their shared childhoods in Detroit.
“After meeting her, I immediately went out and read Detroit ’67, and started teaching it in my class,” said Goodwin, a full-time associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “It had been on my radar for many reasons, including being a fan of American history and drama. And when the opportunity came, I said, ‘Of course, what a perfect piece for my directorial debut in Denver.’ ”
The story is set in the summer of 1967, when the soulful sounds of Motown were breaking records and breaking down barriers. Siblings Chelle and Lank make ends meet by running an unlicensed bar in their Detroit basement — a risky business as police crack down on after-hours joints in black neighborhoods. When Lank offers shelter to an injured white woman, tensions escalate both in their home and in their community — and they find themselves caught in the middle of the violent ’67 riot. Detroit ‘67 explores a moment rife with police brutality, immense racial divide and a powderkeg of emotions.
As a native of Detroit, Goodwin knows the world and rhythm of Morisseau’s play. “I know the people. I know their spirit. But there is also a universality of the show,” he said. “My goal is to make people feel like they are in that basement with that family, going through what they are going through, too.”
Shorty after Detroit ’67 closes on Feb. 24, Goodwin’s This is Modern Art will bow at the Jones Theatre. That incendiary play, written with Kevin Coval, recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago. The tagging began with the words “modern art” and ended with the phrase “made you look.”
“They were putting out a challenge,” Goodwin said. “What is modern art? Who gets to decide who a real artist is? And where does art belong?”
In 2018, Goodwin’s plays will be seen all across the county. His highly anticipated new play The Way The Mountain Moved gets its world premiere at the esteemed Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July. It tells the powerful story of how the Transcontinental Railroad shaped the country’s moral and environmental future from previously untold perspectives.
In This Corner…Cassius Clay, a children’s play that explores the early life of the man who would later rename himself Muhammad Ali, will be performed in Charlotte, N.C.; Anchorage, Alaska; and Portland, Ore. This is Modern Art also will be staged by the New York Theatre Workshop June 1-24.
Goodwin also will perform at a reading of the book Breakbeat Poets in the Age of Hop Hop in Southern California this spring. That’s a collection of poems edited by Coval that features Goodwin, among otheres. Goodwin and Coval have their own book due to drop in February called Human Highlight: An Ode to Dominique Wilkins.
All while teaching full-time at Colorado College and raising a young family.
He’s going places. But right now, he’s in Denver at Curious Theatre.
Jeannene Bragg is the Community Engagement Organizer for Curious Theatre and the founder of Creating Justness, which is committed to amplifying the voices of artists from oppressed arts , community and social justice groups. She also does contract work for Colorado Creative Industries, the state’s arts council. She can be reached at 303-800-3030 or email@example.com.
Detroit ’67: Ticket information
- Presented by the Curious Theatre Company
- Performances Jan. 13-Feb. 24
- 1080 Acoma St.
- Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
Cast and Creative team:
- Jada Suzanne Dixon
- Cajardo Lindsey
- Anastasia Davidson
- Ilasiea Gray
- Frank Taylor Green
- Idris Goodwin, Director
- Charles Dean Packard, Scenic Designer
- Kevin Brainerd, Costume Designer
- Richard Devin, Lightning Designer
- Jason Ducat, Sound Designer
- Dylan Sprauge, Props Designer
- Diana Ben-Kiki, Wig and Make-Up Design
This is Modern Art: Ticket information
- Presented by Off-Center
- Performances March 22-April 15
- Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
- Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
Graffiti: Modern art or ‘urban terrorism’?
Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band