PMA Podcast Transcript: Episode 1, All God's Chillun Got Wings

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Matt:

All right. Well, welcome everyone to the first ever PMA podcast. Um, I think that's what we're calling it right now. Uh, right now we have, uh, myself, uh, we've got Chris Christensen on the ones and twos, or actually, let me see on board. We got Godfrey Simmons laughing right there. Um, he's the director of the upcoming PMA production of All God's Chillun Got Wings, which is opening April 29th. It's running through May 7th. And we wanted to talk to him today about, uh, that production and, and, uh, how things are going on. Are you doing today?

Godfrey:

Um, I, um, in need of coffee, but other than that, I'm doing all right.

Matt:

He's got that rich baritone voice, folks putting me to shame. Uh, but, uh, yeah, but, uh, aside from coffee, um, so you guys, there you go. That'll do it too. Or this world's pretend like this is 6:00 AM and then we just got you there. You're really early and so a little bit later in the afternoon. Right. But, um, anyway, so, uh, so you guys have been rehearsing for a few weeks, is that right?

Godfrey:

Yeah. Uh, we, uh, went into rehearsal, gosh, two weeks ago. And, um, we, uh, yeah, it's been, it's been great. We've been doing a lot of table work and by table work, uh, I mean, I don't know, you know, in terms of the listeners of this podcast, um, basically it's like literally being at the table, um going through each scene with a fine tuned comb, a fine tooth comb, fine tuned to comb. Exactly. Uh, basically trying to figure out, you know, what the characters want, what they need, what their obstacles are to get, what they want, what tactics they're going to be using to get what they want. And really being rigorous about figuring that out.

Matt:

So I, you know, and that kinda brings me in the first question. I, I was, you know, the, the tagline that you've kind of used, and I think this is great for the play. Uh, New York City, 1920s, Jim and Ella fell in love. They got married or fell in love and they got married, uh, race, love, marriage, hate. And I loved, the reason I love that is that it's kind of simple, but I think that this is kind of a simple story, but there's a lot going on.

Godfrey:

Right.

Matt:

And is that when you talk about looking or talking to the cast about motivations about, you know, is that, is that why that's so important? Because there's this, as I said, that plays very sort of, the story is very simple, but the play is very complex. Is that where you kind of find the those areas?

Godfrey:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, at the end of the day you still have to figure out as an actor what you want from the other person that you're doing the scene with. Um, and then you had to figure out for yourself what your overall super objective is. Right? Um, not, not, not to get too technical with it, but in terms of the story of the play, there are these larger issues. What Eugene O'Neill was writing about, uh, whether he knew it or not, he's writing about a New York that was really rich with, um, immigrant communities. Um, there, you know, Jim Crow was alive and well and it, you know, in both, like in the south obviously, but also there were things going on in the north. Um, you know, often they were unspoken, but I mean, you know, the early 20th century in New York City, even as much of a melting pot as it was, each immigrant community was kind of community was kind of fighting for their thing. You know, they are really fighting for, um, I guess a certain amount of agency recognition. And you know, there's a good kind of like Irish piece in here in terms of some of the characters. There's, there's, uh, there's African Americans. Um, but what we've done in terms of our casting is that, you know, there's, you know, there's a, there's an Asian American woman that's in the play as well. Um, you know, um, uh, a Latino man is playing the role of, of, of Jim. Uh, and, uh, so we're really kind of just kind of problematizing a little bit what, uh, the world that Eugene O'Neill is, is, is, is writing about, um, in terms of the tagline, uh, you know, it is that simple, right? You know, it's like, you know, you fall in love when you’re kids and then you get married and everything changes. Um, and, and I think that's the thing in terms of, you know, race in this country, what's beautiful about a marriage is that it, it represents this thing that, that, that many people do. It's one of these rites of passage that we talk about, whether it's actually getting, getting married, at the very least, it's setting up home and a partnership with a person.

Matt:

And one important thing to point out in it, and in case our listeners aren't familiar with the play, is that it is an interracial couple.

Godfrey:

Absolutely.

Matt:

You mentioned that the male protagonist is African American and the female is white. Is she Irish?

Godfrey:

Um, yeah. I mean, we're, we're looking at it that she's from an Irish American background. Yeah. Um, but that, you know, her, her family is not necessarily a recent immigrants. They probably immigrated, uh, you know, 1860s, 1870s. They probably been in New York for good, for a good while. Um, and uh, and yeah, there's some other characters. It where we're, we're, we're kind of like, hm, that family just got here. You know, they still got their accent going and everything like that. Um, because apparently there were a couple of different waves of Irish immigrants into New York City. Uh, so, so yeah.

Matt:

Well, and the Irish and Irish relationship with African Americans, it's kind of an interesting one in this country. And I think with any immigrant population and African Americans in this country, because, um, there's the, someone always wants someone else to look down on.

Godfrey:

Right.

Matt:

Um, and I think that one thing that's interesting about the production that, that you've done previously, could you did this in New York previously?

Godfrey:

Yeah.

Matt:

So the, in the story there is kind of defective segregation going on in the neighborhood. There's, yes, yes. There's the, the Irish kind of live on one side. Um, the African Americans live on the other side. Um, and then, and then in your production so far, and then you'll be doing this with the PMA, um, the Schwartz Center production as well is you split the audience after. You want to talk a little about that?

Godfrey:

Yeah. So when we did it in New York, um, we, it, it just kind of hit me like a bolt of lightning, as it will. And that's a horrible cliche, but it kind of did, it was weird. You know, you're reading the play and what O'Neill does is, is that he sets up in his voluminous stage directions, which are, which, you know, there's a play that was actually made out of his stage directions by a seriously by the neo, the neo futurists. So it was pretty, um, great a company in New York City. But anyway, he's got this, uh, these, the stage direction that says that one side of the street is white and one side of the street is black. Um, now he was in his expressionistic phase at this point, still kind of coming out of it since it was there are realistic, you know, it's still in the vein of realism or naturalism. Uh, in terms of his playwriting here, but you know, there weren't really streets where one side was white and one side the other like across the street flat probably. I mean maybe, but it's not likely and probably not likely. In New York City it was probably a block to block, but in order to really represent what he's talking about, one side, one side of the street was white and one side of the street was black. And you know, you could get more people on stage back in the 20s. Right? You can afford it. Right. They didn't cost as much to theater. Um, it wasn't as unwieldy and all of that. They just were like, oh, we need, we have somebody that, you know, that has one line, let's get them to do this one line. We have, you know, like, and we need 10 people to fill in and be the neighborhood, you know, uh, we need 10 white people on 10 black people to be the neighborhood. Well, we don't have that capability. So when we're doing the production in New York, um, I decided that the audience needed to be inside of the story. And that the way to do it was to actually split the audience. One side white, one side black, and then everybody else who wasn't white, who did identify as white and who didn't identify as black, got to choose which side they wanted to sit on. Um, and the, you know, the win. And that's how we did it. We, and it, you know, what would happen is, is that people would kind of, we were very upfront about it. Like we didn't hide the fact that that's what we were doing. Um, but people sometimes when they got there, they would forget that you come into play, right? Yeah. I'm going to go see this. And, you know, but you get there and when you see across the way, if you're white and you see that you're watching this play within the first and within the first five minutes, someone says, you know, n****r or c**n or whatever, right?

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

You know, or mech, eh, like, I mean, you all of a sudden you're like, oh, I'm watching, I am watching this play and watching these black people watch this play.

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

You know, and vice versa, like people were watching white people watch this plot.

Matt:

It's unavoidable.

Godfrey:

It's unavoidable. Exactly. And so that's, that's the idea is to really put people inside of the play. So the audience is the community. The audience are the people who were in on the white side of the street and on the black side of the street. Um, you know, there's a wedding at a certain point. And you know, when they come out, when they come out of the church, they, um, you know, they, uh, you know, the white side of the, you know, the streets stands up and the black side of the street stands up and watches them and they have to kind of walk through that. Um, when we did it in New York, we had, we did it in an alley seating arrangement so that, um, on, you know, the, the, basically the action took place between two banks of audiences and, uh, and so it was like the one side of the audience, it was kind of parallel to each other and, um, you know, kind of faced in and the play would happen between them. So, uh, the street as it were. Um, it's gonna be a little bit different at, at, uh, you know, here at, um, at, uh, uh, a PMA, um, at Cornell because it's going to be harder to do that in the big space in the Kiplinger. Uh, we'll, we'll, we'll have, um, we'll have banks, there'll be different banks of audiences, uh, that will be, um, you know, demarcated as, you know, where whites will sit and what we'll probably do is probably have, uh, people of color sit on another side as opposed to just to just having it just be blacks. Um, and that's partially because of the particular makeup of the student community here at, at Cornell. Um, as well as the demographics of Ithaca at large.

Matt:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So this is the second time you've done this, this play and it's not a play that's done very often. What drew you to this? What, this 1924 play? Why did it come knocking on your door?

Godfrey:

I, yeah, it's weird. I can't, you know, at first I wanted to, I to, I knew about the play. I, you know, when I was in college, I studied O'Neill as well as some of the other, you know, to be blunt, I know, you know, some of the other old dead white guys of the American theater and the first half of the 20th century. But, um, but I've always been fascinated by the larger, um, like larger canon of, of plays written by authors from the United States. Um, you know, I'm in, you know, obviously I'm including Lorraine Hansberry and Lillian Hellman and, uh, Alice Childress and, and, um, you know, all the way down, uh, and by down, I mean all the way down in terms of a time period, you know, Kushner and Wilson, uh, Shepard, Albee, um, Vogel. So like thinking about all of those writers. Um, I just have a fascination with that, with, with, with the plays by those authors. Right. And that play, you know, I have a fascination with Paul Robeson who originated the role of Jim in All God's Chillun Got Wings. And, um, so I was really fascinated by, by him and, and you know, what he went through to, to play this role. And you know, there's a part of me that wanted to play the role of Jim. And originally I wanted to, I really wanted to do the play and had very strong ideas about the play and about how it should be done. And so then it was like, well, I don't actually, why don't I direct it as opposed to be in it because I know what I want, I know what I want with it. You know what I mean? Like it was one of those things where, um, I just had a, you know, a clear vision.

Matt:

And a full vision.

Godfrey:

Yeah. And a full vision of what I, what I thought it was. And I, and I feel like if you're going to direct something, you know, you have to have that. And even when you have a full, a full vision, you know, the complications of the cast, you have the, the resources that you have, the limitations of space, money and all the other things, they'll, they'll come into play, which makes it even more, you know, more so that you have to have a really strong vision. And I read the play just, I just had a, I just had a vision of it. It just kind of spoke to me. Um, I think that having, having been in interracial relationships myself, that it also strikes home to me, you know, um, I'm, I'm married to a white woman, I have a mixed race child and, um, you know, there are, you know, there are challenges for both of us, you know, that we face separately. You know, when we're out with our child, there are things that we face together. There are issues that we face, you know, with each other. Right. Um, one of the interesting things about the play is that it, it doesn't, we're not only examining race, but there's some gender stuff in here too. Um, in terms of how Ella is treated, you know, not just by Jim, but you know, the other, you know, white kids, right? The white, um, the white men in the play, you know, so there's interesting dynamics in terms of gender and you know, you can't separate it all out. Right. It's hard to separate it all out and making the connection to my wife and I, sometimes it's hard for us to tell that what's going on between us. Is this a gender thing or is it a race thing and like, do you know what I'm saying? Like it's interesting.

Matt:

One thing I think it's so fascinating, the play and you're kind of talking about this to an extent, is a lot of times with plays that are about people of color, they become race plays.

Godfrey:

Right.

Matt:

I don't think that this is necessarily a race play. Um, I think that a lot of times in race plays the villain is very obvious. It's a guy in a white hood. It's, you know, someone yelling slurs, which in there is some of the slur stuff in this. Absolutely.

Godfrey:

There is, yes.

Matt:

I think that what's interesting is that the, and I'm in an interracial relationship myself, is that a lot of the, the stress that comes from that is, um, a lot vaguer than that. It's a societal pressure. And I think that there's some of that in this play is that it's not necessarily, like you said, um, someone saying you can't be with her. It's someone, uh, you know, uh,

Godfrey:

It's, uh, there's an implicit judgment.

Matt:

Yes, absolutely.

Godfrey:

It's, and it's, it's explicit. Yes, but the idea is, is that when, if you're in an interracial relationship and you walk out of your home or whatever is the protected environment that you're in at the end of act one, it's a church right after they get married. That just the fact that you see all these white people looking at you and all these black people looking at you, but two of you alone, there is a political statement there. It means something like it actually means something and whatever internalized stuff that you have going on because of how you were raised, because you're white because you're, you're black because you're a woman because you're a man because you immigrated from Ireland because you've migrated from the south. Well all those things play into how you're responding to that. Um, but I think, but I think the big thing for Jim and Ella in this play is that sense of is the isolation. It's, it's, it's that you feel alone, right? Now it's changing and that there are more and more blended families in terms of, uh, race and culture now, right? I mean, it's just, it's, it's kind of exploding a little bit in terms of, you know, mixed race children, mixed race families. Um, you know, you've got families that are, you know, that are, that are mixed in terms of, there's just like different cultures like in the family that get put together after the fact, or, you know, adoptions. There's so much of that right now. Um, seemingly and we're seeing it, I think play out. We're seeing it play out in the electorate. We're seeing that play out in, in, and I think how people are responding to social issues. So I get this changing, but there's still this, there's still this sense, there's still this like little judgment. It's just, you'll, you'll look, and even though I'm in an interracial relationship, when I see an interracial couple, I look and I might be thinking, that's awesome. I might be thinking in solidarity as it were. I could be thinking any number of things, you know, I might be thinking, wow, another black woman with a white guy, even though I'm with a white woman.

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

Right. Like, yeah. You know what I'm saying?

Matt:

When they, when you start looking at them.

Godfrey:

But the, but the mere fact of just looking that's, you know, I and I looked differently. Cause if it was a white couple, I wouldn't think twice.

Matt:

Well I think that that has an impact on the characters in this, in this play, too that, that it almost kind of, I mean without getting into too much to what actually happens to the play, but I think it can kind of make it crazy a little bit.

Godfrey:

Yeah. Yeah. It's, you do, you don't know what people are thinking. You're like, well what, you know.

Matt:

Cause you never get a confirmation.

Godfrey:

Yeah. Yeah. You don't, you don't know. I mean that's the thing about, and that's the thing and that's the thing about like race, gender and like other, you know, these other issues is that there's, there's so much that's unspoken and so when you have a slight, you just, you have to consider that it's race.

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

Right. Like being a black man, I have to consider it. I can't not consider it. Yeah. Do you know what I'm saying?

Matt:

And as a, as a white man, when that, when those first few times when that happened to me and I was forced to consider, I was like, oh, this is, this is new.

Godfrey:

Right. Yeah.

Matt:

Never had to consider before.

Godfrey:

Right, exactly. Yeah. Cause once you, yeah, once you're there, you have to come, you have to deal in a completely different way. You know, my wife was out with our son and um, you know, when my wife was out with our son, there are a lot of times where, you know, it's in the, she's treated utterly differently than she would if she had a, you know, a white child. Right. Utterly differently. Um, you know, she's been asked if he was adopted or

Matt:

She's the nanny.

Godfrey:

You know, or she, yeah. Right? Like.

Matt:

Totally.

Godfrey:

You know, you know, you're just, are you the babysitter?

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

I, you know, or like it's just, you know, or she'll get tailed, you know, in a store, like thinking that she might be, because she's wearing like a, you know, like a plaid shirt and like, you know, has a little, little baby of color or whatever. Oh, well, you know, she did, she got, and she like got tailed in a store.

Matt:

I'm sure.

Godfrey:

Right. Which never had never happened to her before ever. Right. And I mean, that's, that's notable. That's interesting. You know.

Matt:

And, and to our earlier point, she's, she, it's not like she can go up to that person and say, you did that because of that. Right. Part of that kind of general uneasiness and that I think these characters.

Godfrey:

Is it because she was dressed down? Is it because of that she had a little child of color? Was it both? What was it? And if you don't have a strong core, if you don't have a strong community behind you or if you don't have a strong, um, and you don't have a strong kind of, um, what's the word? Models for healthy relationships, which sounds so oddly new age, but like, but you know what I'm saying? Like in the 20s, no one was thinking about a model, you know, modeling, modeling relationships, who's thinking about that.

Matt:

Even a model relationship at that point wouldn't have been one that I think today we would consider to be.

Godfrey:

Right, exactly.

Matt:

Yeah. In terms of gender.

Godfrey:

But I mean, but even that, even if they had had the wackadoodle model relationship, the thing that we would call wackadoodle. Even if they had had that sense, you know, like how do you deal with that unknown, not knowing how people are looking at you, what are they thinking?

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

And it becomes a loop in your head.

Matt:

Well I think that's one of the things that makes this play so interesting is because there's so much subtext and so much going on in that sense. One thing I definitely wanted to hit on was, um, as you mentioned, um, I think that sometimes, uh, you know, even though we've come, so quote unquote come so far, there's another cliché for you, but, but even though um interracial relationships have become the norm so much more frequently. I think that it's almost like a false sense of people being okay with it. Um, and, and I think that, um, a lot of times, you know, when, when folks of an older generation talk about problems with race in this country, I feel that there are also younger people saying, well, I don't see that, or it's different now. Or, so my question to you is, you know, uh, how much explaining of how scandalous this was in 1924 have you had to do to the cast of 18 to 22 year olds?  Because I mean, when this play opened, one of the first productions, I was reading a review of it, the town tried to shut it down by denying permits to the child actors. Have you had to explain that to them that this is something that was as scandalous as it was?

Godfrey:

Well we did. But what's interesting about that scandal though is that it was, it was kind of made up.

Matt:

Oh, I should do my research on it.

Godfrey:

No, no, no, no, no. Our, my, uh, our assistant director, uh, Caitlin Kane, who's a, um, uh, a PhD student, uh, but you know, it doesn't do justice to her, uh, her brilliance. She ran a, uh, education, um, department basically kinda created it at, uh, American Theater Company out in Chicago when one of their, um, you know, major emerging theater companies out there. She did some research and found that essentially that the, um, that all of the brouhaha around, you know, the play was essentially invented because William Randolph Hearst wanted to, um, was trying to, uh, install his, uh, person in office. He was trying to actually get score political points. And so there was all, so he was kind of, you know, the mayor at the time, I've forgotten his name was kind of Hearst's puppet. And then there was someone else who was running, I can't remember who, I'm not quite sure who it was, but you know, he was trying to score political points by, you know, um, uh, somehow aligning, you know, another candidate with the production. And so, because they'd had productions with the interracial, you know, uh, casts and all that they'd had, they'd had the, that had been in New York, like a, a show where a black man had been with a white woman like that. Like that had happened and there was no kind of weird whackadoodle scandal, like it was, it was okay. Now, certainly they weren't going to it. Under no circumstances were they going to let, let the brother kiss her, right. Well, they weren't going to let, they won't get, we won't go that far then we, we weren't going to do any pre preludes to miscegenation or anything like that, but, you know.

Matt:

They were allowed to stand next to each other.

Godfrey:

Exactly. She could kiss him on the hand, you know what I mean? But, but, um, so there were pressures. I think there were things that couldn't happen, like, you know, in, you know, there are things that couldn't, that couldn't happen then that we can do now. Um, which is, and so we had done some explaining about like the, the vagaries of it. Um, and we've explained why it doesn't get produced much. It's, it's, there are problems in the play that you have to deal with that I don't, that I think that, that, that people don't want to deal with.

Matt:

What are some of those problems?

Godfrey:

Problems in terms of, you know, the character of Jim. Um, about, you know, how, you know, how he views himself. I don't want to give too much away, but you know, a, there's a healthy amount of self-hatred there in terms of being a black man and, and, and, and how do you contextualize that today? Um, you know, um, the things that, you know, and Ella like this idea, you know, of, you know, of, you know, women and their, you know, perceived frailties of women and everything like that. You've got to deal with that. So like, so there are things that you have to kind of deal with, I think, you know, um, and I think it's okay. Yeah.

Matt:

They aren't made up things.

Godfrey:

They aren't, yeah, they aren't made up things, but I, and I think that dealing with them in a way in which we can kind of bridge the gap between now and then, you know, I like to tell the, the, the cast that, you know, this play is basically written about the first 25 years of the, of the 20th century. And we're in the midst of the first 25 years of the 21st century. Um, and massive changes are happening. Tectonic shifts are happening right now. Right. And they were happening then. I mean, just incredible changes, right? I mean, uh, you know, I think the League of Nations was happening around that, you know, in that first 25 years. Uh, so that like nations, were kind of coming together for stuff, right? Prefiguring the United Nations, um, you know, the migration was, was in full force. Harlem Renaissance was starting to kind of gear up. Um, you know, we just coming out of the first World War, just so much, so much change in the world is happening. Uh, and so there's a lot of talking about that in term, you know, for, uh, for the, uh, um, you know, the 18 to 22 year olds and also an investigation of race and gender. Quite, quite frankly. You know, we did, we did a story circle. Um, you know, this is, uh, you know, uh, the, the, the production is being produced in association with Civic Ensemble, which is a, a, a theater company that, that I co-founded here in Ithaca. And you know, we believe that theater is everyone's birthright and one of our modalities is that we, we think that story circles are a way to, uh, a, it's a way to, to, to, to, uh, build material, right? Getting the stories of the community out there, you know, mining them for, um, not in a parasitic way, but mining them to, to try to kind of tell the truth of a people or of a community. But we also find that a, a way for community to be built. And that's what you want to do with any, um, play is you want to build a community, right? Um, and, uh, any production like this, we really have to build a community with the ensemble, particularly with the things that are flying around and what, by doing a story circle about race and we're probably going to do one about gender and all this stuff, you know, we'll begin to develop a common language about some of this stuff, right? We begin to check in with, uh, each other's experiences with this stuff. Yeah. Um, we begin to kind of think critically about our own part in that, you know, I mean, it's, you know, and, and, and there's a lot that's not that they're trying to figure out, right? They, there's, there's a lot that they do know because they're so young and they're taking like these really interesting classes about politics and gender and race and all this stuff, but there's a lot that don't know or you know, their gaps just in terms because of age. Right. And so there is some of that kind of filling in the gaps.

Matt:

Absolutely. So they've taken to it pretty well so far in terms of, um, understanding kind of the, the, the world in which this, this play lives?

Godfrey:

Yeah. Yeah. It's funny, it took them, it took them a week. Yeah, we could have like.

Matt:

I think it's easy to take that for granted.

Godfrey:

It is.

Matt:

And to an extent, I mean we're not, we're not 85 years old here, so it's not like we were in that era at all. But, but even, you know—

Godfrey:

Hey, Chris. That little machine over there. I like that machine, I see those waves and—sorry.

Matt:

I think that the, you know, the, I was, I think that a lot of our the foundation for which we learn and view things. It's like what our elementary school education was. What were the seven things we learned about when we were in elementary school? I think the things that we learned about and what you know is different from what they learned about. So I think that when you're coming from a different foundation of what was important in your kind of seeing things differently. So back to the original point was, uh, was that, uh, you know, it is, it is easy to take for granted that they would, they would understand that world necessarily. They didn't maybe didn't learn a ton about it when they were younger.

Godfrey:

Right. And I mean, they, you know, and you know, it's, it's interesting, one of the things that, um, that we did was that we had each of them, um, take a part of the play or something that affected, apply and do some research and make a little presentation to the, um, to the cast. And, uh, it's been, it's been interesting because they find out these things and what's happening is, is that we're all kind of learning at once. We're all kind of like learning this information about these things at once. And you start to kind of build a world around it and each person begins to kind of feel an ownership of that world because they're the experts—

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

Among us. Because they'd gone and found the stuff they'd gone and actually like looked up information about, let's say boxing because one of the characters is into boxing, right? And so he looked up and there's some serious like race stuff in terms of boxing and that time period, Jack Johnson is still kicking around, you know, and you know what? I mean, like, you know, there's some really interesting stuff in that, um, you know, someone did a, you know, research on Jim Crow and somebody else did research on music from the era and, uh, you know, these were all so and so much of the research that they're doing it stuff that was really new, right? Recorded music was really new, um, at that time. Boxing in the United States, relatively new, at least like 30 years old, right? Um, it's about the same age that MMA is now.

Matt:

Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Godfrey:

So just imagine. Right. So, um, and so, yeah, so it's, it's, they're starting to kind of make some owners just have some ownership over the time period, and I think as we begin to delve into the play and find the connections to, to, to today, um, they've begun to really kind of really enjoy the process and really enjoy investigating that time period.

Matt:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it seems like, yeah, when you're adding that personal experience to it, it gives them some skin in the game and it doesn't just seems like words on a paper anymore.

Godfrey:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, you're finding out, you're finding out this stuff, right? Um, and you know, it's going to connect to all of their studies, right? Like that's what's great about theater is that it's, it, it kind of synthesizes so much of this stuff, it synthesizes sociology, synthesizes history, depending on the play gets to synthesize science, you know what I mean? Like it synthesizes all of this stuff into a piece of art and that, you know, students are forced to empathize with people that are in those circumstances. So you're developing all of these different parts of themselves. And I really feel that, that the potency of theater is that it is, is its innate ability to do that, to synthesize the different parts of academia into one thing and provide an experience for students and faculty to like take those things, learn from them, but create a community around the telling of a story that is synthesizing these things. Um, I just don't, I don't think you can get a better concentration of learning and experience.

Matt:

And empathy is a big part of that too. When we do talk to students about, you know, why, you know, non-majors, why they do this. One of the things you talked about is that they're able to empathize with people that they wouldn't have otherwise because they literally have to become them—

Godfrey:

Yeah.

Matt:

For the play. Otherwise you don't do a good job and if you're forced to, you know, walk around in someone else's skin and understand where they're coming from and what their problems are, it's a lot easier to understand the day to day, um, you know, troubles that we have.

Godfrey:

Yeah. And it's not even, it's you, you, it makes you have to think twice, you know.

Matt:

It's a valuable skill.

Godfrey:

It really is, right? I mean, you're going to think twice before making a certain judgment. You know, jumping to a conclusion, you know, nine times out of ten you're going to think twice about it. You're going to take that time to go, do I really want to say that? Or is—

Matt:

What did I really mean?

Godfrey:

Yeah, exactly. Or you know, wow, okay, this, this just happened. What's their point of view on that? Where did that come from? What's in their background, what does that mean? And go down the rabbit hole and you can do that in five minutes and kind of go like, okay, I'm going to let that go or I'm going to deal with it with love or you know what, I'm just going to listen.

Matt:

Well, exactly, exactly. I mean cause I feel like some, some people's responses to a, that was racist, what you said was racist is to say no, it wasn't. Rather than to say, tell me why it's racist.

Godfrey:

Right.

Matt:

Which is what I think you're talking about.

Godfrey:

Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Matt:

Well, you know, this is going to be in the big stage. It's going to be on the Kiplinger stage.

Godfrey:

The big stage.

Matt:

What are you looking forward to seeing? What scenes, without giving away too much? What scenes or characters or are you looking forward to seeing on the big stage when you guys open?

Godfrey:

Oh wow. Um, oh, I can't pick, I get to rehearsal. You don't want to see me? Um, you know, uh, I, I think, um, it's going to be interesting to see how it translates to, the whole thing translates, you know, to, to a, a larger stage because the last time I did it, it was a small, it was in a storefront essentially. Um, that's a little wider, a little wider than a, like it wasn't like a narrow store, whatever. I mean like, you know, there was some, but it was relatively small. I mean it was about the size of the Black Box, if you will. Um, so yeah, I mean, so that'll, I'm just interested in seeing that, you know. Uh, the other thing is, is that, you know, Kent Goetz has put together a really great, um, set, uh, and, and kind of like, you know, arranged the stage, um, you know, we're building out the stage and it's going to be a kind of a, um, it's going to be kind of like a, not quite like a boxing ring, but kind of like a boxing ring, not actually with ropes, but that like, that's the shape of it, right? Um, this, this kind of diamond, um, and, uh, you know, we'll have seats on all, all four sides of the diamond and, um, you know, uh, and that and that, that the, the world of the play takes place within that kind of enclosed by the community, if you will. Um, I'm excited about, you know, what are, what the, you know, the post show conversations afterward. Um, you know, uh, I think I'm excited about seeing the actors really take ownership of the space. Um, you know, and explore that large, that large stage. Um, yeah, I'm excited about, uh, you know, um, uh, an actor, you know, from, uh, from Ithaca, um, uh, Sylvie Yntema, uh, who plays Jim's mother so I'm excited for, I'm excited to see her amazing work, um, in, in, in, in the play. Um, I'm, I'm really excited to see, it's funny because yeah, I'm excited to see stuff on the stage, but I'm more excited about kind of the stuff surrounding it in terms of getting people from, you know, Ithaca to come to the Kiplinger.

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

Like, really the, you know, people from Ithaca, from all different walks of life to try to, you know, get them to come, you know, see this play.

Matt:

Um, because it's about them. It's not, it's not about, you know, a group of college students it's about community.

Godfrey:

Well, and I mean, there's a decent number of interracial relationships and Ithaca it's kind of a thing—

Matt:

Two of the three people in this room, I think.

Godfrey:

But like, but it's kind of a, I mean, it's always been a thing though. It was a thing, you know, I had a friend who went to Ithaca College back in the 70s and she said, well, it was a thing then too. I was like, really? And she was like, and yeah, and she knows, she talked about, you know, being very much in the minority as a person of color at Ithaca College. And she, she said, she said even then it was a thing. So there's something, so there was a thing there, right? There's some stuff going on there.

Matt:

There's hooks on it.

Godfrey:

Yeah. So there's that. Um, there's looking at these issues of race and gender, uh, and, and, and it's a town that kind of likes to deal with stuff. Um, it's why Civic Ensemble really wanted to be a part of this, this production, because it does look at, it does have these issues embedded in the play, um, in and, and they resonate outward to now, sometimes not necessarily favorably, but then that's something that we've got to deal with. And do those things still exist and what do we do to kind of move past them? Right? So that the play serves as the start of a conversation as opposed to an answer to one. Yeah. And it's making that clear to people that you know, in the post-show whatever the post-show, um, experience is, which I must add that it's being developed by students. Um, we've got, um, um, Delmar Fears, um, who is serving as a, as like a second assistant director, community engagement specialist on this. She's kind of bringing together students to kind of work on, you know, uh, what the post-show experience is connecting with, connecting with the audience. What's the pre-show experience? What do people see when they walk in? What are people wearing or what are they, how are they greeting the, you know, the, the audience and the like, um, how are they handling the seating arrangements and everything. So they're coming, you know, students are getting engaged and kind of in creating this. Um, so yeah, I'm excited about seeing what happens with that. The conversation that comes out.

Matt:

I mean it seems like the play is kind of a provoking, it's there to provoke and then the conversation starts.

Godfrey:

Right, exactly.

Matt:

Because the play doesn't answer the questions.

Godfrey:

Absolutely.

Matt:

Or maybe it does, I don't know.

Godfrey:

Um, no I mean it doesn't do it. What it does is, is that it answers it. There's fallout right from the question and these two characters respond to it. The only way that they know how, and uh, and sometimes it's not very pretty. And our job is as audience members is to take that whatever that cautionary tale is and kind of remix it for our times now and go like, okay, where are we going? How does this, how does society impact on individuals? How, yeah. How, how, how does, how do the machinations, how do the, you know, the, um, judgment, how do the, the groupthink, right? That pack mentality, how do they affect individuals who are trying to live their lives?

Matt:

And trying to keep a relationship together and trying to—

Godfrey:

Have a life? You know, the great thing about the play is that it goes from the public to the private. It actually moves in a way where the world gets smaller and smaller and smaller until the very end and it's just those two.

Matt:

Yeah.

Godfrey:

And so I think that's very purposeful. Um, uh, in terms of O'Neill and we're going to really kind of, um, you know, like highlight that a bit, but yeah. What is, what are we doing and how is what we're doing affecting us individually because I don't think people think about that in a fundamental way.

Matt:

About anything. I mean, anything political and it's all very grand and abstract, right? But it's affecting people on a very—

Godfrey:

Yeah, what do these things really mean to people, you know, and it's a problem that neither conservatives, moderates, centrists, or certainly not progressives have really kind of dealt with in a fundamental way. It's a, it's a problem. It's a real problem across the board. Um, and I think that's why you have art, right? Is that, that's what we're focused on. How do these, how do, how do these things affect people? And, and, and then to drill even a bit deeper, how does this stuff affect that person, that particular person who might just be your neighbor, who might be your son, who might be your grandmother? How is this going to affect them? And, and, and how do we, how do our decisions, you know, either add to that or subtract to that?

Matt:

Well, I think that's a great place to end. Did a great job.

Godfrey:

Well thanks.

Matt:

Thanks so much for coming in. Not bad for a first—

Godfrey:

Hey man.

Matt:

It's a big, uh, precedent you're setting for the next guy.

Godfrey:

All right. Well, yeah, right. Well, yeah.

Matt:

Thank you so much for coming in again. All God's Chillun Got Wings opening April 29th running to May 7th, uh, if you want to get tickets, schwartztickets.com or email Godfrey.

Godfrey:

Yeah, you can, you know, you can also go to, um, Civic Ensemble's website at civicensemble.org to find out more information about, uh, Civic Ensemble and what we're, what we're doing and, uh, and what we're bringing in terms of the, in terms of this production. So, yeah.

Matt:

Well, thanks again.

Godfrey:

Thank you, sir.

Matt:

Alright

Godfrey:

Thank you, Chris.