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    By Sarah Kelley 

    Idris Goodwin spent the first decade of childhood in a quiet, residential enclave of Detroit, where his father worked as an auto-industry executive. But by the late 1980s, a growing drug epidemic began infiltrating the neighborhood, prompting his family to flee to the suburbs. “Suburban living is one of those things that, when you’re in it, you’re not thrilled. But later in life when you look back, you appreciate what it provided,” Goodwin says. “It provided me a space to let my imagination flourish and forced me to learn how to navigate situations where I didn’t look like everybody else.”

    Goodwin is an accomplished playwright, poet, director, hip-hop artist, spoken-word performer and educator. The 40-year-old Renaissance man moved to Louisville in July to take the reins as producing artistic director of StageOne Family Theatre, which began as the Louisville Children’s Theatre in 1946. It’s a fitting venue for Goodwin, given his background teaching and writing plays for young audiences, and because his passion for performance took root early in childhood. “It all started when I was the frankincense wise man in the New Calvary Baptist Church Christmas play,” recalls Goodwin, who bounces energetically from one topic to the next. His enthusiasm never wanes, whether ticking off his favorite TV shows — “Barefoot Contessa is my jam” — or discussing theater as a tool to wrestle with challenging topics and teach us “how to be human, how to be well-rounded, how to navigate the world.”

    Goodwin pursued drama as a kid, but as a teenager his focus shifted to hip-hop, spoken-word and filmmaking. He went to college to pursue the latter, majoring in film and screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago — the city where he came of age creatively. Eventually, theater re-emerged in his artistic repertoire, and he went on to earn a master of fine arts in creative writing. Goodwin has penned over a dozen plays, including one that premiered at Actors Theatre’s Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2012, before going on to garner positive reviews nationwide. How We Got On weaves old-school hip-hop into a story about city-born teenagers struggling to create a cultural identity after moving to suburbia.

    The new gig at StageOne pulls Goodwin in many different directions — some creative, others all business. By 2 p.m. on this August afternoon, he’s already had meetings to talk branding, grant funding and professional development, toured Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School, corresponded with the Muhammad Ali Center about collaborating, and brainstormed ways to combine the rituals of theater and sharing a meal. But he still finds time to write every day — either at 5 a.m. or late at night, long after his wife and six-year-old son are asleep in their St. Matthews home.

    Currently, Goodwin is finishing an adaptation of Frankenstein for StageOne (Oct. 19-31 at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater). “I’ll keep writing until the director kicks me out of the room,” jokes Goodwin, who’s also working on a play about the young life of Jimi Hendrix for Seattle Children’s Theatre. Though much of his creative bandwidth is dedicated to making theater for young people, he writes for adult audiences, too. “I’m a playwright who works in both lanes, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it, and I’m using the same techniques whether I’m writing a play for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or StageOne. It’s all just storytelling.”

    This originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine on page 89. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photo by Mickie Winters, mickiewinters.com

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    Part of "33 Reasons We Love Our Arts Scene."

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