Idris Goodwin

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Idris Goodwin is an American playwright, rapper, essayist, and poet. He is most known for his play How We Got On (2013), a portrait of three African-American teenagers dreaming of power and fortune in the hip hop music scene. He also teaches Hip Hop Aesthetics and writing at Colorado College.

Early life[edit]

Idris Goodwin was born in Detroit, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Video, and Screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago. Goodwin also received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He continues his graduate work at the University of Iowa’s Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Goodwin consistently lectures at colleges, high schools/middle schools, and other venues all throughout the United States. Goodwin has said that his main inspiration is his family. He also credits “The playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright August Wilson, Chuck D of Public Enemy”.[1] Goodwin is also inspired by music, mainly Hip Hop, often using slang and song lyrics from the 1980s in his plays.


Goodwin has worked as a playwright or performer in multiple plays such as Blackademics (2012), Bars and Measures (2014), And in This Corner… Cassius Clay (2016), and was one of the seven playwrights featured in Hands Up! (2017). The first play he ever wrote was titled Braising in 2005, and was performed in the back of a coffee shop. Goodwin recalls that the play was “thrown together and done on a budget… and miraculously we got a great review.”[1]

Since then he has produced several successful plays such as And in This Corner… Cassius Clay (2016), which received the 2017 Distinguished Play Award from The American Association of Theater and Education, and How We Got On (2013), which was premiered in the Actors Theater’s 2012 Humana Festival and is being produced at theaters across the nation. The play was also nominated for an ATCA Steinberg New Play Award.

Both plays were well received by critics and the general public. The Chicago Tribune’s Kerry Reid describes Goodwin’s How We Got On (2013) as “a nostalgic snapshot of a cultural phenomenon about to go mainstream in a big way”.[2] Celia Wren from The Washington Post also recognized the play: “'How We Got On' contains many winning comic moments, and its sampling of the excitement that surrounded rap culture in the ’80s is flavorful and sometimes infectious.[3]

And in This Corner… Cassius Clay (2016) was commission by Stage One Family Theater in Louisville, KY, in partnership with The Muhammad Ali Center. During Metro Theater Company's follow up production, they initiated The Cassius Project, which included a website with details of Ali’s life, juxtaposing it with major points of the civil rights movement. In an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Goodwin said: “My whole objective with theater is to galvanize communities together, to get people talking”.[4]

Goodwin has earned awards from the Hip Hop Theater festival, The Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ford Foundation. In 2017, Goodwin won the Blue Ink Playwriting Award for his play HYPE MAN. The play takes place in wake of a controversial police shooting and it was selected as the winner in a pool of 543 submissions.[5] HYPE MAN received its world premiere at Company One in 2018.

As of summer 2018, Goodwin will become the Producing Artistic Director of Stage One Family Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.

Film and TV[edit]

Goodwin has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry, and was part of the cast on the documentary film What’s On Your Plate (2009), a provocative narrative about two eleven-year-old African-American exploring their place in the food chain. He also performed on PBS’s Sesame Street, and for National Public Radio (NPR).[6]


He published “These are the Breaks” a series of essays and poems in 2011. This was his debut collection of essays and it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the same year. Goodwin also released an essay titled “Where Broadway At?: Meditations On the Closing of the Tupac Musical” in the website HowIRound, which investigates and explores the potentials of Hip-Hop-oriented theater.[7]


  • Braising - 2005
  • How We Got On - 2012
  • Blackademics - 2012
  • Bars and Measures- 2014
  • The Raid - 2015
  • This is Modern Art (based on true events) - 2015
  • And in This Corner...Cassius Clay -2016
  • The Realness-2016
  • HYPE MAN - 2017
  • The Way the Mountain Moved - 2018


  • Break Beat Poems -2010
  • Break Beat Bars -2011


  1. ^ a b Brown, Joel. “Idris Goodwin, playwright with an ear to the streets”, “Boston Globe”, July 20, 2013.
  2. ^ Reid, Kerry. “Suburban hip-hop story told with heart in 'How We Got On”, “Chicago Tribune”, October 4, 2016.
  3. ^ Wren, Celia. “Idris Goodwin’s ‘How We Got On’ at Forum Theatre”, “The Washington Post”, November 5, 2014.
  4. ^ Siegman, Alex. “With the play 'And In This Corner...Cassius Clay,' Metro Theater wants to get kids talking”, “St. Louis Post-Dispatch”, February 7, 2016.
  5. ^ Blues. “2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Award Winner Announced”, “American Blues Theater”, January 17, 2017.
  6. ^ Lee, Bob. “Biography”, “IMDb”.
  7. ^ Goodwin, Idris. “Where Broadway At?: Meditations On the Closing of the Tupac Musical.”, HowIRound, July 24, 2014.