Cairo Dye and Henry Godinez

Recorded October 29, 2020 Archived October 29, 2020 40:30 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi003382


Cairo Dye (23) interviews her former professor Henry Godinez (62) about teaching theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subject Log / Time Code

HG talks about how COVID has impacted the theatre industry, but he says personally, he feels blessed to be healthy and employed.
HG describes some of the biggest challenges of teaching during COVID.
HG talks about teaching hybrid classes and how the phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention" has been true during this experience.
HG talks about bringing theatre into the community since the community can't come to the theatre.
HG reflects on resilience and shares a memory of an encounter with his 7th grade football coach that stuck with him.
They talk about perspective and what keeps them going.
They talk about the upcoming 2020 election and patriotism versus nationalism.
They talk about the need to not just be an ally but to combat Anti-Blackness in America.
CD thanks HG for being a great teacher.


  • Cairo Dye
  • Henry Godinez

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type



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00:03 My name is Henry. Godinez Henry Dominic godinez. I am 62 years old. Today is October 30th 2020 and I am in Evanston, Illinois and I am being interviewed by Cairo. Dye who was a former student of mine is a former student mine and that's our relationship.

00:29 Oh, my name is Cairo. Dye. I'm 23 about to turn 24. I'm in so it's October 30th 2020. I'm in Chicago, Illinois, and I'm with Henry godinez who is a former professor of mine who I admire very greatly.

00:44 Hi, it's so good to be here with you General. This is an absolutely Bonkers experience for everybody. But like how how are you? How where are you and what have you been up to kind of generally it in the last little while all of this? Well, you know, I have to say that all things considered I have been very well. I've been very blessed to feel fortunate, you know to have employment and that my family is well and healthy and the majority of my friends have been well and healthy, you know ours is a profession is a is a field and by that I mean the theater

01:37 That has been severely impacted maybe more than any other part of our society would be a possible exception of other similar Performing Arts Fields, like dance or music or what not but I've actually been super busy in particular with a piece that we were slated to do at the Goodman that would be in previews right now. That would be opening Monday night before the election. Which is a wonderful basically a one-woman show written by Cheryl West about Fannie Lou Hamer, you know, if Annie was such a huge remarkable voting rights activist at the thought of this piece not being done before the election was driving.

02:37 Crazy backing in the late spring or early summer. So I just started brainstorming of alternative ways to get it out into the world thought about my great mentor Luis Valdez and what they did with Jethro Campesino in California and taking, you know, short plays out to migrant workers in the fields to educate them about pesticides in there and their right to unionize and so forth on the back of pickup trucks, they would literally drive into the fields and stopped and the migrant workers would gather around they would perform and then they would hightail it out of there because usually the foreman and the owners would be chasing them literally chasing them out with guns shooting at the end of Subway. I borrowed that idea and I thought what if we did that what it because this is a one-woman show it and the script calls for a combo, but I thought we could just use one musician.

03:39 Get in the back of a big getting a pickup truck and driving to different neighborhoods around Chicago and just park in the middle of the block the end of the block invite people to come out and sit on their students bring their lawn chairs and and perform the show Carol Of course to the playwright and if a butler the actress that she wrote it for and and Johnson offered are our musical director musician. They were all like absolutely Cheryl just cut the piece down from its 80 minutes to 45 minutes or so, 40 minutes.

04:22 And we've actually we're able to do it partnering with the city in the Park District We performed in 9 different parks for free. It was really kind of remarkable and just such a gift and I and I think not just for me or issei or Cheryl or the Goodman which it was for all of us, but I think also for the communities that we went to and for families and people to come out and be able to enjoy life theater again and be hopefully inspired to to vote we had the League of Women Voters were with us at every performance registering people to vote. That's right. That's right. In fact

05:22 After we finished our run here, they they went to Washington DC The Arena Stage in Washington DC basically bought whatever, you know, I took the production and they closed today today. Is this afternoon right in about 10 minutes, they begin their final performance in Washington DC. So that's been a super cool thing. Right knowing that that oh my gosh, I think about Fannie Lou up in heaven, you know a woman who is 44 years old African American woman in Mississippi who didn't realize until she was 44 years old that she had a right to vote and then spent the rest of her life fighting and advocating for the right to vote and it cost her dearly she was severely beaten in jail.

06:10 Suffered long like, you know life-long injuries. So I think about her knowing that her words are actually being spoken in our nation's capital right now the E on the eve of the election.

06:26 Pretty awesome. And so but I'm sure it's happening too much and only if we are all very aware of how how this has been going really important many of the same tactics, by the way that they that they used in employed on her in 19 in the 1960s.

07:02 I realize that I I neglected to actually ask you to 2% what your position that your various institutions are. So I my apologies I do I am I am the resident artistic associate at the Goodman Theater, which is a fancy way of saying I am part of the artistic electives at the Goodman and I'm a professor in the theater department at Northwestern University and I am now I now work for a museum during doing events. So it's a little different but I I was a stage manager or that's that's if I realize that I had.

07:54 Put that up there, but I think it's really amazing that you guys have continued to find ways to do to do live performance, especially right now and it's and it's a Safeway as as well and I really admire your ability to do so intend to do so free as well as facility in theater is sometimes incredibly difficult in that sense. So I'm sure there were many challenges of that experience. But what what is there anything in particular that stood out to you or anything positive aside from all the way already touched upon of making that change for a production that was originally intended to be a more traditional production. It was the piece is already already was more of an event then it was really a play. I mean it was it always had the spirit of an event. So that's why it was easy for me or it came naturally to me the idea of doing it in this other way, but I would

08:54 You saying ironically that's did the biggest challenge for us was getting the okay from the actors Union from the union Actors Equity Association. We were sweating bullets all summer long are the good men created an incredibly rigorous safety protocol for the actor for the stage manager. Both of them were members of Actors Equity in a row with the park district for the audience's well in my union SDC the directors Union interest in me enough, they were one of the first folks to okay it so I don't know if that means it could care less about directors and actors, but I don't think so. But that was hard it was hard. That was really, you know, and we went through the wringer with the city in each of the park District's

09:47 Yeah, it was we actually I got to the point where we had to start rehearsal because if we were going to actually do we we had to begin and we actually started and didn't have the official official. Okay from Actors Equity until the end of the first day of rehearsal.

10:12 Well, that's remarkable. Yeah, they got those who say don't mess around it Actors Equity. They really don't and Barbara's class. We just we learned about the contracts just a little bit your ear off the teaching right now in Northwestern and you're teaching acting somewhat online during during a pandemic. What is that then like the crazy you just for you? But like if you know, you know, it's been in the spring colleagues and I spent you know, we had an elongated spring break. It was two weeks instead of the one and I was actually in Dallas at the Dallas theater center with a production from the Goodman co-production. We were

11:06 They're doing we got as far as final dress on March 13th that ominous day and we had to stop. So the next day would have been our first preview with American Mariachi. It's called.

11:21 And we they sent us home. So we never had a public audience. We never got to do it in front of an audience almost we had a few people invited for that final dress. So I came home and we spent two weeks my colleagues and I quickly learning everything we could about zoom and how to teach online and adjusting our curriculum and oh my gosh, how do you teach acting and you know, thanks to the collaborative efforts of my colleagues. We you know, we went into the Spring quarter and learned a lot really pretty darn successful. I feel like we do, you know, the students were in which they felt fulfilled. We got some great work done really some cool work. I did see a picture for of Brandon of him holding an iPad.

12:19 Embracing over assumed that was the craziest thing I've ever seen but you know you the great thing about human beings and I think especially the great thing about theater artist Artisan in general is that you know, necessity is the mother of invention then and if you're really committed to the effort than you can come up with some interesting Alternatives with at least my one of my classes. My junior is we were able to go what it's called a kind of hybrid model, which is mostly in person. Now when things have started to to the you know, the virus has started to sort of Dino rage again, we have shifted a little bit so that when students are not

13:19 Scheduled to work that day. I'm encouraging the others to Newman to observe just to mitigate, you know as much as possible the best bread or the possibility of it. One of the Silver Linings. I must say is it kind of a double-edged sword, you know on the one hand the pandemic has made it impossible for us to produce any plays in Northwestern. So we're theaters in sitting empty and dark.

13:49 The Silver Lining is that we get to use those big spaces for class, you know, which is helpful because in my class of 22 students now we can spread out in a 500-seat theater or 350c theater and it feels a lot more safe for them. It's a wonderful because as you recall is when we cover tragedy everything from the ancient Greeks to contemporary tragedies, so they have that space, you know, that that's a huge spaces to be able to really kind of practice that that really essential element of working on any kind of piece of epics go really extending themselves that's been hanging from the catwalk.

14:49 They were doing lysistrata like my roommates and I talked to Northwestern actors still and I still got everything by a year. I graduated in June of 2019. Like we just we just barely missed navigating online university just kind of a wild thing already from Silver Linings, but I think as as difficult as it is to say like Silver Linings and such an insane occurrence of math. There are some some things that we learn. Is there anything that yet that you feel like you got any situation that

15:49 Any changes you've made that you think you actually want to try to carry forward going going into the future that the changes in the way you think about things or do certain things that actually might be something that you would want to continue when things stabilize eventually, however, whenever that it ends up being hopefully, I think I think in terms of the Goodman, I think one of the really cool things we remember that we realized was you know, that old notion that sometimes if people can't come to the theater you got to take Petersburg people and I do hope that as we move forward that

16:36 Going into communities and taking theater into communities and not just sitting on our you know, in our beautiful comfy state-of-the-art theater and expecting people to know drive in and pay, you know, the zillion dollars to park and you know buy a ticket and you know, it's expensive. So I hope that we can always maintain some way of taking what we do in two communities around Chicago and doing it as cost-effectively years free frankly as possible because that's what it is all about, you know, and it's about to me it will always be rooted in that notion of Civic engagement and said the conversation in the sharing of of ideas in the Goodman really perceives itself.

17:26 Proudly precedes itself as a city. I think that we frankly have an obligation to always do that. So I'm hoping that we can continue to find ways to do that. But I think that's an experience that I'm I think I might be having a bit of a similar one. And in that sense. It's at the national Hellenic Museum. We've started doing online content and things like I'm hoping to interview Henry Ferrera, but we we have not really at least not since I've been here in an institution that has a lot of online programming but now we produce like a video of a week that just goes up on YouTube for free and we've had a lot of frustrations about what what our role is and things like that and I think it's been really great in some ways and it's actually, you know, again the positive spin is that it allowed us to reach people that we never would have reached before because now it's on YouTube and we have people in Greece telling us that they're watching our content or you know, so it's kind of

18:26 Again, I I am loath to say Silver Lining but it is.

18:32 In some ways allowing us to to engage in a wider conversation since we are kind of Zoom. A little bit more and I think that's a really kind of spectacular thing and says strange is this moment is I think that's life is funny. You know what I think I do. I do believe that to a serious extent that we as human beings have the capacity to look at a situation and decide

19:08 You know.

19:09 What we want to make up it and and I do believe in it. Maybe this is compass comes from my upbringing and you know, you know was an immigrant family with very I mean I grew up now looking back. I you know, I I used to think I grew up here for it because I thought it was just fun and cool. But you know, I don't ever recall, you know wanting anything. I thought having hot dogs and baked in a pork and beans for dinner was a cool thing that everybody had big cans of spam that the government would give them you don't drink hard times. So so I think that you can you know, even if the situation as horrible as this there there are ways to

20:09 Say, you know. Conant I'm going to look around the corner. I'm going to look at it from this angle is that angle and find the positive in some way, you know less bring my sophomores who you know, as you know, it's that third quarter with a get to engage with the text for the first time and you know, they patiently worked all year on on all that stuff. We do waiting to get to seem work and then film there we are by Jose Rivera from a piece of his called assignments for an old Century. It seemed incredibly appropriate for that time. And and I said to them one at what I'd like you to do is is reference these throughout the quarter, but then at the end of the quarter we will do seems via Xoom, but I want you to take the monologues and record them.

21:09 Film them in any way that you want in any context just go to town with your imagination. It's almost like saying make a short film road that that level of imagination was just amazing really amazing so created. So compelling so interesting some of them I would I would submit to film festivals. They were so cool. You know, I've never done it. We've never you never did it, but from now on it's always something that I've been thinking about a lot of how to find opportunity and what is otherwise a very inopportune moment. I think that's the only way out a little bit

22:09 It sounds exactly right for me personally for my roommates for being optimistic. No matter how many times I'm disappointed. I think that's that's that's one of the things that allows allows that allows resiliency in many ways. So I would love to ask you a little bit more about that boat in this experience. Like what are ways that you've experienced resilience during this whole thing does it have what does it mean to you? Does it mean something different to you now, then maybe it did before just like resilience doesn't have an idea in this moment.

22:50 The question refers to the notion that we that we get to choose to a certain extent what to make of things and and I guess what I would say is that resilience is is is a matter of determination, you know of just making a choice which is what we do as actors right to make a choice you make choices and the resilience is a choice that you make

23:28 Do not give up.

23:30 And I remember when I stopped playing football in I don't know if the end of 7th grade or something, which is crazy when you think of that but you know, I remember the code sing to me cuz I I said I'm going to I'm going to quit playing football cuz I had started that year. I'd started playing musical instrument in band and I wanted to go head-first into band the next year. You said joke, you just always going to give up you just always guards that what you're going to do. Just going to give up all the time and I felt so hurt by that, you know, it really liked was like a gut-punch and and I just I said no and so whenever I feel like I'm about to give up I always hear his voice and I'm like I said, I'm not going to let him win man.

24:21 So so yeah, so I think you you just maybe it's just my my my tissue but you know, it's part of that thing of looking around looking at the other possibilities Beyond giving up as a kid, but like it's everything basically that the way you look at things the way you decide to look at things changes your experience also need a cut but Henry knows very well that I'm a big Shakespeare fan. That was my favorite parts of his class. He's a wonderful Shakespeare teacher to a little bit he's asking any takes our place and have letting it's nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so there you go. That's the perfect quote that is right. And I think that I've been thinking about that a lot.

25:21 A lot lately there was there was a moment in time where with my desktop background when I was having a particularly low moment just like that reminder to that. There are some situations that may befall outside of it. But it but it's a good reminder for myself just to I am happier and when I think that way and remind myself that idea, yeah, I know I agree with you because I think we're you know, we're in the middle of an election where

25:53 You know to me it's undeniable that there is definitely there are definitely things that are bad and I thinking thinking at least, you know has nothing to do with it, but then clearly for some people.

26:08 That may not be true. So who knows maybe?

26:13 I appreciate you sharing a story about your at your coach. That's how you think about it. I still think about it, you know there on the days were you know, I'm running and it's toward the end of the run and I'm like, oh, maybe I'll just walk this last block on like do you know if you persevere beyond your beer coaches voice in your head goading, you not to give up good question. I was just thinking about this actually the last couple days but I love history. I'm I'm kind of a, you know, a mature history buff and

27:08 An inside look at our world today and I look back at the world in the 20th century. Right? And I look at McCarthyism and I look at World War II and I look at the UNAM and I look the world war one and you know, you know you look at Hiroshima you look at me and you think and I made me realize it's okay in some pretty bad things even just in the twentieth century. So so I I think I I think looking at history in the difficult situations that human beings have been in throughout history helps me sort of keep this current situation in perspective knowing that we have so many benefits that that others haven't we have social media? That's actually social media. Do you know?

28:08 We have we have technology we have technology, you know, we have the internet. We have Wi-Fi. We have Netflix goodness gracious, you know the week we have a lot available to us that others have not had in the past earlier how that experience must have been like this and me not only is it at about being bored but you know, we have cell phones my parents live in Florida and I can call them on the phone and then hit the hay but if your urine the influenza outbreak a hundred years ago and you don't live in the same place with your family, you don't know and you have no reasonable way to check in a timely manner if everyone is okay and thinking about things like that. I think we are similar in that way if I was a history major in school and get to the theater at so I also have been thinking about things like that quite a lot.

29:08 It really does but there are some things that kind of signal that this is also kind of an exceptional moment in the ways that those are as well when I learned the other day the national Herald which is the largest Greek American newspaper in the country has endorsed Joe Biden and that's great that kind of puts right now in perspective when you think about what was the one other time that that organization felt they needed to endorse a candidate. And what was going on. That's a big effing deal is a unique moment. I mean it to me, I mean, I think that there are

30:03 Two pandemics right now. And I know that that that that has been talked about, you know, it's not an original thought but it is it is crazy. When you think about the The Duality of the moment, you know in the fact that we have this physical pandemic this this literal disease, but we have you do and it's and it's very Insidious because it it's cloaked tends to cloak itself in the you know in the guise of patriotism in America what it is to be American and I was 18 when I became a naturalized citizen. I took a note I know exactly what I'm doing and I know I know what America means to me.

30:59 And I need that it is not that you know, he was much more eloquent than I am. But but the idea of it basically is that patriotism is not about not criticizing your country's about loving it enough to criticize it to want it to be better if we actually right and I said, he was much more eloquent than I just left the job my estimation of the idea, but he I think that that's been a thing that I thought about a lot that's been really poignant to me is like I think and this is not new to this moment. I mean it's definitely amped up right now, but I think it's just true around 9:11 and many other times in this country's history around Vietnam and all kinds of other moments of flocks and and

31:54 Somewhat chaotic I suppose but that I think patriotism or I think nationalism gets couch his patriotism. That isn't everything because nationalism is exclusive Patriots.

32:14 Yes, I I got that did nationalism has a really toxic Edge to it that ideally patriotism does not cater to this doesn't it's more of a misappropriation of the word patriotism to I spent a lot of this. Just kind of want to just reflecting not only on the worlds and all of this but also got myself. I've I've learned a lot about myself during this experience both in big ways and small think small ways. Maybe a slightly silly our way. I've learned that when I'm really anxious. I don't like watching new content only like watching things. I've already seen, you know to know where your butt

33:14 During this whole experience that maybe you didn't know before or or learn different things or newer and find newer things about your comparing us. This very is our moment. We're all in.

33:27 You know, I hope that I'm always learning things about myself, but I I think that during this particular moment which you know, very significantly includes the murder of George Floyd and the uprisings social uprisings that we've been witness to is that

33:52 Is that you can never be complacent you can never think you do know everything, you know, I spent nearly 30 years my 30 years of my professional creative life championing marginalized voices in theater, you know, really getting in in the nitty-gritty of what came to be known as diversity and inclusion, you know back then we didn't really have a name for it. We just thought we were doing you know new Latino work, you know that young people now are so incredibly aware of of what is appropriate and what is questionable. You know, what is maybe not appropriate and you know, I think right now it is pushed to an a hypersensitive extreme and and rightly so because it's the moment that were in but it's made me aware of like oh

34:52 I thought I knew what you know, I thought I knew everything about race relations or about diversity and the truth is there's always more to learn I learned that you can not be Cavalier about race. I learned that only only a black person in this country can know what it feels like to be a black person in this country that unless you are a black person. You don't know what it is to worry about is my son, you know walking around tonight with his hoodie up or down is my daughter if she gets pulled over if she going to remember to keep your hands on the steering, you know things that I never thought of before, you know, where I thought you know in a Cavalier way it's race I know about race.

35:43 We don't we don't and you know until all things are equal you we got to put a finger on the scale. There is no way that we're even close to making up for 400 years of enslavement. There's just no way you know, so I think I think I think we are we are right to be pushing hard against anti-blackness didn't mean there is no such thing as systemic racism.

36:23 You know, they're just not looking deep enough and they're not being and they're not being honest. But if it is just remarkable to me. No, I think I've learned a lot. That's just go around about the difference between you know,

36:43 What anti-racism means that as a thing then how important that is? Like I said, you know, that's an additional thing in the Lexicon. It's it doesn't mean it's not you can't you have to do more than just be like, oh no, I'm cool with black people know you got to actually fight on the behalf of black Americans because

37:07 Let's get serious. We got a lot to make up a lot of really interesting for me. I mean in regards both of my roommates are are black Americans in this has been a really

37:19 A really eye-opening time for everybody involved but it's been so it's been a very prevalent part of of my life lately and I'm grateful for that because I've learned so much that I already know and then dinner. Men sharing some of their experiences and things like that, but it's incredibly it's always incredibly important, but it's definitely in our faces right now and in a really specific way to try also I resonate with that stuff like I've been doing a lot of that kind of

37:59 Work good, and I have so much more to do we all have to do and that it needs to keep going. It's not it's not over on November 3rd October. We're getting pretty close to to the end here. So I want to if you have anything in particular that you want to feel like you didn't get to talk about than you think is important right now. I need any thoughts you want to share about any of your experiences. I would love to just open up for anything that you want to.

38:39 Address or share

38:42 You know, I don't think so. I just again, you know, I feel so blessed.

38:49 You know to to be in the situation that I'm in now, I feel blessed when I look at my time in Chicago on my career and if there's anything that I'm proud of its it's always been hopefully making room for others and I'm opening the door and keep my foot in it that you would never say that about yourself but it's someone who has had you as a teacher and things like that. I think you do a very good job of that and I know that I I mean I think you know this but I'm going to say it anyway, I admire you very much and I'm very grateful that I had you in school. I was not trying to be an actor even when I came to Northwestern but I stayed because of you so glad you did so glad you did. Well, that's what we all do. It's all about life is about ripples Ryan and dropping in creating as many ripples out as well as we can if each of us do that in a positive way.

39:49 Are you at home? That's how you make a difference? So I know that you've made a difference to many many people because I've had discussions about in the past me Michael Kelleher today.

40:01 I v. I know you haven't a lot of people's lives, but you have an impact on mine. So I'm I'm very grateful. Thank you. That means alot by preciate it.