Acacia Theatre Company

Milwaukee Theatre Veteran Returns from Retirement to Direct at Acacia

Rob Goodman is founder of Milwaukee’s First Stage. He recently came out of semi-retirement for a new project, Searching for David’s Heart, at Acacia Theatre. He sat down with Off the Cuff to discuss flowering trees, directorial itch and bold new plays.

You moved in 1979 from Chapel Hill, N.C., to become Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s resident director and production stage manager.

Yes. But when the Rep moved (into the new Milwaukee Center), I stayed put. Richard Gallagher (PAC board chair) and Archie Sarazin (managing director) faced an empty theater, and market research showed a metro-area need for young professional arts. I founded First Stage to fill the gap in 1987.

In more than 25 years in the Milwaukee theater world, how many companies have you worked with?

Surprisingly few. Other than the Rep and First Stage, I did one show at Carroll University. That said, I have colleagues at all the theaters in town. Nationally, I’ve done summer stock from New England to Minnesota, and directed at NYU and the Kennedy Center.

What is an acacia, exactly?

It is a tree, or large bush found mostly in the arid parts of the world. Why the theater is named that? I don’t know. I will say it is a great theater. Even semi-retired, I get the itch to direct and it is nice not having large-budget institutional pressure.

Who is Cherie Bennett?

Cherie wrote for TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) that were well received nationally. (She also has an Emmy, for work on “The Young & the Restless.”) I commissioned her to write a new play—Zink the Zebra—for First Stage. We had a great time.

She then asked me to direct David’s Heart for the Kennedy Center’s New Visions New Voices, a conference for new works. Four to six American plays are selected every two years. The plays are then rehearsed for a week, and performed or read. Competition is strong. I directed Cherie’s show, at her request, the year it was selected.

How would you describe David’s Heart?

A drama, with a great deal of humor. It centers on Darcy, a 12-year-old girl who feels responsible for her older brother David’s accidental death. She goes on a journey with her best friend, 12-year-old Sam, to find peace.

Why should people come?

Great acting, engaging plot. Real people in real situations. Not didactic, but gripping. Asks the questions we all face, but does not try to answer them. It just tells a story. Lends itself to metaphor, and ends with hope for the future. It is the type of play I love.