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An Interview with How We Got On Playwright Idris Goodwin

Posted on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
On November 2nd, Forum Theatre will kickoff our 11th Season with Idris Goodwin's How We Got On. Set to the music of the late 80's rap scene, the play is a coming-of-age story about three suburban kids, Hank, Julian, and Luann and how they navigate tumultuous family relationships, cultural isolation, and the search for authenticity. A sultry DJ re-mixes their lives as they use music to discover and express themselves in places words fail. How We Got On premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the 2012 Humana Festival. Idris Goodwin, playwright, essayist, and spoken word artist, uses his cross-discipline talent to tell this contemporary ode to the roots of rap.
Goodwin answered a few questions for us -- and gave us a playlist to get us through 'til opening night. 
Natalie: What was the generative idea for How We Got On?

Idris: So I wanted to write something familiar (the coming of age story) in an unfamiliar way. It sprung from the well of my experience. I grew up in Michigan and Illinois. I grew up writing and spouting and recording rap music. I know a lot of people who’re similar. I wanted to write a coming of age story drawn from that experience.

Natalie: Have there been differences in audience reactions around the country?

Idris: More or less, the reaction has been the same from Louisville to Boston to Sacramento folks across all walks of life. The play’s themes and spirit seem to resonate.

Natalie: How did you come to start writing plays?

Idris: I went to film school. I was most interested in the writing part. The actors I was using for my bad student films came from the theatre dept. Theatre parties are way better than film parties so I became friends with a lot of people from that realm. It was a natural progression. I believe I wanted community and nobody does theater unless they really love it. My first play was in a fringe festival in Chicago. A 60, maybe 70 seat house—no budget. I loved every second of it. So I kept doing it. 
Natalie: Do you have any strange writing habits?
Idris: The way I type is pretty strange. Two fingers. It’s not exactly hunt and peck--I been doing it so long I know where all the keys live—I go pretty fast but it’s just two fingers darting all over the place. Ridiculous. I have tried to learn to type so many times but I think I am a lost cause.

Natalie: What are the essential songs for a How We Got On playlist?

Idris: Well just to get started you gotta have Run Dmc’s "Runs House", Big Daddy Kane "Set it Off", MC Lyte "Paper Thin", Kool G Rap "Road To the Riches", Salt N Pepa "Push It", any and everything from Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions album, "Children’s Story" by Slick Rick, "My Philosophy" by BDP, Eric B and Rakim "Paid in Full"---that oughta get you off to a good start.


Natalie Piegari (@nataliepiegari), Assistant to the Artistic Director Intern
Natalie is a DC-based playwright and actor with a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland. Plays she has written include Safe as Houses, Left/Right, Sunday at St. Jude’s, Trash, the Knight’s Tale in Pointless Theatre Company’s production of Canterbury andMonster Match in Rorschach Theatre's Fall 2014 Klecksography: Haunting Monsters. Her plays have been workshopped and read at the University of Maryland and Mobtown Players in Baltimore. She has worked as an actor at the University of Maryland, the National Portrait Gallery, Damascus Theatre Company, Odd Act, Pointless Theatre Company, Pace Productions, Montgomery College, and as a company member of Pussy REP in That Kind of Girl at Capitol Fringe Festival 2014. 
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