Most 8-year-olds don't see many theater productions, let alone more-than-G-rated ones like Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire, but it was this experience that solidified Dylan Godwin's desire to become a performer. He remembers sitting in the front row, being absolutely absorbed into the world created by actors on the stage of his community theater in Athens, Texas.
"It was this hot, humid New Orleans world, and I was completely sucked into it. I mean, you see people acting and going up on stage to do a show all the time, but it was the first time I'd ever seen someone onstage just living a life," says Godwin. "It was so interesting to watch them because it was like they weren't aware that we were watching them. It was just absolutely captivating to me."
Godwin's big, excited personality was pretty conducive to the culture of storytelling in the small town where he grew up. Every day after school, he and his friends would stay at the community theater until 10 p.m. and spend their weekends there. Athens, he says, "has a real sort of oral tradition. I always grew up with stories. And that's how my brain works."
For him, it's the universality of storytelling--the getting lost in a world that comes with reading a really great book or watching a poignant movie--that draws him to performance as an art. "Something about using your body, your voice, through dance and through singing and through whatever else feels like a real culmination of everything that storytelling is about. It just feels like a very natural thing."
And he's definitely a natural at it: he won our award for Best Breakthrough performance for his role in Good People at the Alley Theatre.
What He Does: "I'm an actor and a performer. I also teach. I'm a musical theater guy, that's what I went to college for, but for the last 5 or 6 years I've been doing straight plays. And I do that pretty much full-time. I also teach at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, I direct some shows for them. And I also choreograph over at Houston Theater in the Heights [HITS], so just a little bit of everything."
Why He Likes It: "Ever since I was a little boy, I've just really liked the storytelling of it all. The whole idea of creating a world, and people being able to sort of come into that and get a view into it. And then being able to put that down and create another world. It's good for someone who's a little ADD like I am, who likes to bounce around and do a bunch of different things. "
What Inspires Him: "Depending on what I'm working on, I'm inspired by different things. But I think it sort of all comes down to storytelling, again. I'm getting ready to direct a play for HSPVA next month that takes place in the 20s and it's all about Cuban-Americans and Cuban refugees from that time period. So right now I'm really inspired by the Latino voice and Latino storytelling and things like that. That culture's so rich, and there's just so much there to work with.
Godwin's students also inspire him: "Acting is such an ephemeral thing. We create these moments and once it's done, you sort of forget about it. But watching for the first time when [kids] stop saying the lines and start acting, and seeing that click on their face--it's cool and very exciting."
If Not This, Then What: "I love to cook but I don't know if I could handle the regimented world of the kitchen. I think it would be fun to be a chef, because I find cooking very calming, and it's just an extension of the creative anyway--in a different way, I guess.
"Either that or I would just teach full-time because I love working with kids. I work with little kids at TUTS [Theatre Under The Stars], where my classes are for 7-12 year-olds and then at PVA I'm with 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds. And it just sort of teaches you so much about what you do on stage by showing somebody else how to do it. I feel like theater is one of the last remaining things where you learn it through an apprentice relationship. You just sort of hand it down."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I guess if I wasn't here I would probably be in New York. I did a tour for a year and was up there on and off for the year, and I really liked it there. But the whole time I was there, I was working and we would never really get to take in the city. I would be there because that's sort of the hub for what we do. But Houston is my home and I love Houston. I think it's a great, under-appreciated place--well, it's becoming more appreciated every day.
"There's incredible stuff happening here that, unless you're here, you don't really know about. When you go to New York, people audition all the time to come down here and be in shows at the Alley or be in shows at TUTS, and it's cool to have it in your own backyard and not have to go there to get it."
What's Next: "I'm going to start working on Reefer's Madness, which is based on a 1920s film about marijuana and is a crazy satire about the criminalization of marijuana in the 20s and what we thought it would do to us, at Theater Under The Stars on Tuesday. It will be on at the end of September into the beginning of October. And then I'll be doing A Christmas Carol after that.
"So just performance opportunities right now is what I'm thinking about next. That's always what I'm thinking of. What else I can do, what I can get lined up after that. It always keeps me excited and sort of terrifies me at the same time."
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