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Five Things: StageOne's Idris Goodwin On Alice Waters, Cassius Clay And Frankenstein

Whitney Adkins

Muhammad Ali has brought plenty of recognition to his hometown of Louisville, and he also brought Idris Goodwin here.

Goodwin is a playwright and teacher who was commissioned by StageOne Family Theatre to write a play about Ali's early life, which was eventually produced as "And In This Corner: Cassius Clay." The play was the beginning of Goodwin's relationship with the theater company, and as of July 2018, he's running the place, as the artistic director.

StageOne is producing a new adaptation of "Frankenstein" this month, written by Goodwin -- and it's not the first time he's adapted this story. One of the objects he wanted to talk about was the original Mary Shelley novel. In fact, all of his five objects were books.

On a poetry anthology he helped to name:
"Poetry, to me, is the root of all creative writing. Because what is poetry? It's crafting words together to evoke feelings that are complex. So the key to blues poetry, for example, or the lyrics of blues, using very simple words to convey very complex realities and emotions. The more economical the language, the more complex the response, the more varied the response. So that's the game. That's what I think all artists do -- you get into this thing of millimeters, you're just trying to get it precise so it has the intended impact."

On learning about Louisville through the Muhammad Ali play:
"We partnered with the Muhammad Ali Center and through them, I got to really go all over the city. Because [Ali] was from the West End and so we were going to the West End, meeting people who grew up with him, going over to the Presbyterian Community Center in Smoketown, and that's when I started to really see other parts of the city. Coming to Humana [Festival], I was mostly just downtown and at Freddie's Bar. So working on this project really deepened my relationship with Louisville and I would say it's a big reason of why I chose to move here."

On writing two adaptations of the same original material:
"It's taught me that I actually love adaptation, and it's something I want to do a lot more of in the future. It's weird, it's kind of like retranslating -- in poetry, there's this thing called translations, where you're not going word for word, you're trying to evoke the spirit, what were they trying to get at, but you want to maintain the artistry too. I think that's what adaptation is. And to engage with another writer in that way, it's kind of fun."

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