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Playwright Idris Goodwin releases five free plays to teach families about race

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Idris Goodwin wears many hats: playwright, poet, professor and the new director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. - SCOTT MAJORS
  • Scott Majors
  • Idris Goodwin wears many hats: playwright, poet, professor and the new director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

The current protests against racism in America have left many parents wondering if they have communicated effectively with their children on the topic of race. How can a parent frame these tough conversations in a way that meets children at their level of understanding while still conveying the seriousness of the issues at hand?

Playwright, poet, professor and director Idris Goodwin, the new director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, has created a way to help. He is offering five of his plays to parents and communities for free, to spark discussion and foster understanding about race. We asked him a few questions about the plays and how they can help.

Indy: Why do you think parents are struggling to have these conversations with their children?
Goodwin:
Because it can be hard and uncomfortable. Racism is awful and messy and completely illogical, leaving nothing but death and trauma in its wake. It attacks without warning and manifests itself in multiple ways. It is something that has been diagnosed centuries ago that the country refuses to permanently cure. Erasure and denial do not work. Only policy change, education and disruption have moved us further.

How does acting/role playing make it easier to have these discussions and communicate values effectively?
Human beings are storytelling and story-listening creatures. We also have the potential for great empathy. Theater allows one to step outside themselves. It can provide a deeper immersion into the perspective of another. Moreover, stories are where we explore our beliefs and values.
A video version of #MATTER is available at tyausa.org/freeplay - IDRIS GOODWIN AND CODY SPELLMAN
  • Idris Goodwin and Cody Spellman
  • A video version of #MATTER is available at tyausa.org/freeplay

Is there a particular script that you think is the most helpful?

These plays are distinctly different on purpose. I am trying to provide a variety of entry points for different readers. Plays like #MATTER and Black Flag are more debate-driven and oppositional, Act Free is a [tragicomedy]. Nothing Rhymes With Juneteenth is more celebratory and accessible. Water Gun Song is bittersweet, and has already prompted some very powerful response from parents who are having similar struggles to the parent character in the piece. So I await the community to tell me the different conversations and uses of the works.

In a recent article you noted that you were feeling more optimistic about eliminating systemic racism than you have been in the past. Why do you think there is more hope today?
The country is in a very vulnerable position right now. There is no moving forward unless we are together. Many Americans are demanding change. We are sick and tired of being at this intersection. We have to move forward and we can only do that if we get some solidarity. And we can only get solidarity if we get some understanding. This is where the artists come in. We tell the stories and we stimulate the heart and mind.



Access these plays online, where you can also find video versions of #MATTER and Black Flag. Inquiries about directing these plays in a professional setting can be directed to Idris Goodwin at goodwright@gmail.com.

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