Idris Goodwin — poet, writer, playwright, director, educator and hip-hop enthusiast — arrived in Colorado Springs five years ago, after a series of lives spent in various American cities, bringing a big, facile, culturally divergent voice to the Front Range. Now he’s making inroads down the I-25 corridor into Denver’s theater scene, with his director’s cap on at Curious Theatre and as a playwright at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts this spring. What does this award-winning dynamo have on his table? Read his answers to the 100CC questionnaire to learn more about Colorado treasure Idris Goodwin.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Idris Goodwin: Music is up there. I usually need music playing at all times. I am a rhythmically wired type of person. The sound of house silence makes me anxious. There’s music while I write, music I exercise to, music I drive to, and music as I am dreaming through the day.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Frida Kahlo, Mexican painter, because she was a real one. I would love to know her thoughts on the world at this moment and the kind of art she’d be making.
Harold Washington, Chicago’s first (and only) black mayor. I would invite him so that I could figure out a way to keep him alive long enough to run for president in 2020.
DOOM, rapper — because he’s Doom.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
I think “scenes” are at their best when they’re inclusive, consistent, ambitious, electric and kind. I think scenes become toxic and/or stale when they’re the opposite of those things.
I am really excited by the fervent and frenetic pace at which people are making and sharing art on their own terms and finding ways to get it to people. It seems like the era of industry-molded artists is becoming less and less of a norm. Now artists create on their own terms and have a greater intentional hand in their image, their message and the spaces they want to cultivate.
I don’t hate trends. Some things are for me and some aren’t. Not worth hating. Matter of fact, there’s too much hate in the air. Let’s get this going!
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
Well, let me first say, my son is, no doubt about it, hands down, the greatest thing I have ever co-created.
As far as art objects go, I wrote a play for young audiences called And in This Corner: Cassius Clay, about Muhammad Ali as a kid. It was commissioned by Stage One Theater out of Louisville, Kentucky, where Ali is from. The Ali Center was a partner. For my research, they took me around the city and introduced me to folks who grew up with Ali and showed me his house. The play ran for maybe a month in Louisville, and in that time, almost 1,000 elementary and middle-school kids were seeing it per day. Then the play went to St. Louis and played for hundreds of kids a day. I visited and saw firsthand how these cities became activated around the play. It was beyond gratifying. The play is next going to Charlotte, Portland and Anchorage. And I am chit-chatting with folks about more productions down the road.
A ton of things, but the first thing that comes to mind is that I want to present more of my work internationally.
Colorado, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I came here in 2012 on a fellowship to write and teach at Colorado College, a liberal-arts school in Colorado Springs. After two years I became a full-time tenure-track prof, and I’ve been here ever since. It's definitely an easy place to live, and I’ve been surprised by the breadth of art, music and literary events that exist out here. Theater, too. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and the one constant is that no matter where I land, I manage to seek out the creatives and the spaces they inhabit. There’s a lot here, and the artists are really ’bout it!
Aw, man, you’re gonna get me in trouble. I have a lot of homies that I respect and whose work inspires me —actors, graffiti and street artists, musicians, writers, etc., and so on — but Son of Pop, a 2013 exhibition by Denver-bred and Manitou Springs-based visual artist Floyd Tunson, blew my mind. The level of craft and vision and perspective, man. It’s one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen anywhere.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
A lot! I am directing two plays in Denver: Detroit ’67, by Dominique Morriseau at Curious Theatre, and This Is Modern Art, which I co-wrote with Kevin Coval at Denver Center Theatre/Off Center.
Kevin and I also will be dropping a book of spoken-word poems we co-authored called Human Highlight: Ode to Dominique Wilkins on Haymarket Books. We’ll likely do some performances in the region.
Also, I have a lot of my own plays opening around the country. Visit my website [see below] for specifics on cities and dates. I regularly give readings and things around the region; I stay on the hustle. Find me on social media.
Down here in Colorado Springs, there is a really exciting young company Funky Little Theater; they’re ambitious and grassroots. Their current season is comprised entirely of plays by female-identified writers. Their primary goal is to be a safe space for LGBTQ artists while thinking broadly and inclusively. Basically, they’re doing right what a lot of others fail at. Their budget is not huge, but their sense of adventure knows no bounds.
Curious Theatre Company’s production of Detroit ’67, directed by Idris Goodwin, opens for previews on January 11 and runs through February 24 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma Street. For tickets, $18 to $50, visit Curious online. This is Modern Art, a play co-written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin, opens March 22 and runs through April 15 at the Jones Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For tickets, starting at $25 ($15 for students with IDs), visit the Denver Center for Performing Arts website. Learn more about Idris Goodwin and his work online.