M Milwaukees Lifestyle Magazine July 2012 : Page 76

Rob Goodman | ARTISTIC DIRECTOR | As a father of four and the founding artistic direc-tor of First Stage, Rob Goodman believes the secret to connecting with children is respect. He so respects his audience that he insists shows produced by the company “are real stories that are relevant to the people and issues in our community.” “Over the years, our audience has grown to really appreciate that from First Stage,” he says. “They can be entertained, but they’re going to be enlightened and entertained, and challenged a bit. Like any good novel or movie, that’s what a good play does.” Goodman says Milwaukee had a fairly vibrant the-ater scene, but not a professional children’s theater, when he founded First Stage 25 years ago. That first season drew 40,000 people. Under his leadership, First Stage has taken risks. There was “The Yellow Boat,” about an 8-year-old hemophiliac who contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion; “A Thousand Cranes,” about a girl enduring the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb-ing; three separate plays about children and the Holocaust; and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to provoke discussion about racial issues. “The power of theater in terms of being able to transform young peoples’ attitudes and hearts in those situations is extremely profound,” Goodman says. The First Stage Theater in Education program is now in more than 400 schools, helping children build confidence, character and leadership skills. First Stage’s Theater Academy has become the larg-est professional theater training program for young people in the nation. Though Goodman was involved in theater in high school, he didn’t plan on theater as a career, majoring in physiology in college. Serving in the Vietnam War changed that. When he returned, he decided to listen to his heart. Goodman, one of Milwaukee’s most passionate advocates for the transformative influence of the arts, is now transitioning to a semi-retirement emeritus role at First Stage. “It makes me feel extraordinarily humble that life chose me to do this and be part of this,” he says. “You might say that I founded First Stage, but First Stage really found me … It’s been a real gift.” 76 M | July 2012

Previous Page  Next Page

Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here