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MSLCE Students went behind the scenes at the Goodman Theatre

By Evyenia Constantine

A group of students from Northwestern University attended the Goodman Theatre’s play Feathers and Teeth last Wednesday night, where they also had the opportunity to participate in a private Q&A with two of the big names behind the production.

During the “Northwestern Night,” hosted by the theatre company, NU students received personal insight and creative advice from Artistic Associate and Director, Henry Godinez, and lead actress, Olivia Cygan. Godinez and Cygan share ties to Northwestern, where Godinez works as an associate professor in the Department of Theatre, and Cygan is a theatre major. Both have been integral to the artistic process behind the interpretation of Feathers and Teeth, an original play by Charise Castro Smith. As Artistic Associate, Godinez has sought to champion fresh stories and voices at Goodman Theatre, particularly from Latino/a playwrights. Feathers and Teeth certainly fits the bill: the genre-bending play encompasses equal parts family drama, comedy, and thriller. “It’s nothing like what’s been done at Goodman before,” he said. 

Godinez spoke of the “delicate balance” of collaboration that took place between himself, the actors, and the playwright’s intentions and vision of the play. He also emphasized the importance of discovery in order to keep the performances fresh throughout the season. “Keep working and go back to rehearsal after performing,” said Godinez.

Cygan, who plays the troubled, teenage protagonist, Chris, was on stage for nearly every second of the play. Godinez said he was so sure that Cygan was the perfect fit for the role that they closed the casting session after her audition. Cygan said it was an honor to enact the main role in the play. “It’s hard work, but I’m excited and fortunate to be in this place,” she said. The actress also praised the creative team behind the production, which she described as “wonderful, talented and dedicated”.

During the Q&A, one student asked advice for breaking into Chicago’s theatre scene. Godinez stressed the importance of building a strong network. “Leverage your time at Northwestern. Meet people. Talk to them. Be genuine,” said Godinez. He also stressed the importance of work/ life balance, which can be hard when students are young and ambitious. He encouraged attendees to invest in relationships with family, friends, and fellow students. “It’s important to always have a life. People forget that; but you become better, the richer your life is,” he said.