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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Goodman Audio Clip and Transcript

Goodman Audio Clip

Interviewer: Jeff Friedman. 

DG: Well, I think when I joined the Seattle Rep, that’s when I began to have a political consciousness.

JF: And this is [age] nineteen?

DG: Yeah. No, no, I was eighteen.

JF: Eighteen, okay.

DG: Eighteen.

JF: So young!

DG: Yes. I grew up in a strictly Republican background, not too right wing, sort of the middle-of-the-road. But when I joined the Seattle Rep, I began to become aware of a lot of things that I hadn’t been aware of in this little town in Eastern Oregon where I grew up. And in fact, during the fifties, the directors of the Seattle Rep were caught by the Canwell Committee - which was comparable to the McCarthy Committee [HUAC] - because of their liberal views. Their theater finally went down the drain. They were Burton James and Florence James, his wife. Mrs. James particularly was a champion of mine. She was a director; she was a teacher who had seen me at the University of Washington and had wanted to hire me to work there [at Seattle Rep]. With them I began to develop a political consciousness. And they were accused of being Communists and holding cell meetings at the theater. But (laughs) I never saw anything like that. I knew that they were quite liberal politically. But anyway their theater went down the drain because of that. Burton (we all called him “Pop James”) - it killed him finally. But Mrs. James was a very strong woman. She went to Canada and she lived and worked to quite an old age, well into her nineties in Canadian theater. But I developed a political consciousness when I was with that theater.

JF: I’m curious; does that emerge in the actual action of creating theater? Was it any sort of political theater? 

DG: Well, they did. One of the things that put that theater on the map was (before I joined them) when they did a production of Clifford Odets’s Waiting For Lefty. And the Seattle Times refused even to review any of their plays after that.

JF: Say why that was controversial.

DG: Well, Waiting For Lefty, of course, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the play or whether people listening to this are. But it was a play about taxi drivers going on strike.

And a labor movement. And so this was against the establishment at the time. Actually, the plays that we did at the first Seattle Rep, many of them were quite innocuous little comedies (chuckles) and we did some serious things. I was in an Ibsen play there, and then in, as I said, Our Town. Ah, but there was a play of Elmer Rice’s called Judgment Day, which dealt a little bit with the Third Reich. This was during the time, of course, that the war was going on in Spain. And Hitler was rising to power and there was a great deal of unrest and concern about what was happening in Europe during that period.

But I was grateful and I’m still grateful for that political consciousness that that theater gave me. But they did not… I could not say that their work was infiltrated with any Communist leanings or anything of that sort.

JF: Just the ideology in general?

DG: No, no.

 ©Museum of Performance + Design

Dean Goodman
Goodman Audio Clip and Transcript