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Student Blog: Sharing Their Stories: An Interview with Maria Manuela Goyanes

Student Blog: Sharing Their Stories: An Interview with Maria Manuela Goyanes

Hello Broadway lovers, creators, and theatre students around the world! Welcome back to the blog, and to my ongoing segment: Sharing Their Stories. For the past year, I've shared the journeys and artistic discoveries of notable artists in my DC area, and around the world. Every person I've had the honor to speak with, carries unique experiences and perspectives about the constantly changing world of the arts. I hope their stories serve as inspiration, demystification of the road to artistic success, and as fuel to keep creating.

The true magic of theatre lies in its ability to bring us together. From production meetings to final bows, artistic teams form bonds that change the lives of those on and offstage. Yet, in a post-pandemic world where competition proves fierce, we often forget the collaborative power that theatre holds. As a rising senior, focused solely on my future theatrical pursuits, I started viewing theatre as a solo endeavor. I had lost sight of its greatest strength without even realizing. Then, I interviewed Maria Manuela Goyanes.

A brilliant producer, teacher, and director, Maria Goyanes embodies the deep joy and connection behind a successful theatrical career. While her current position as Woolly Mammoth's Artistic Director strengthens the DC theatre scene, her past accomplishments span the East Coast and beyond. An established creator like Goyanes could have only talked about herself in our interview...and I still would have been starstruck. But what amazed me most about Maria? Throughout our time together, she attributed much of her success to countless friends and mentors that created alongside her. In addition to her own intellect and talent, the love she held for her fellow creators deeply moved me. This sincere generosity and collaborative spirit define a true artist. People like Maria make the theatrical community a better place. This may be Maria's story, but she reminded me that theatre is all of ours.

Goyanes's theatre journey began at Brown University. Originally an English major, she got involved in student theatre productions, earning board positions and valuable career experience. "What I've realized is most of the American Theatre is just like producing plays in college with more money and more people. I always marvel at that, [the professional world] feeling very congruous to my college experience." After graduating with her B.A, Goyanes secured a literary internship position at Trinity Repertory Company. "My parents are immigrants, I'm a first generation American. My dad fixed the buses for the New York transit, my mom was a kindergarten teacher. I didn't want to ask my parents for money, so I wanted to try out making a living in theatre." As a literary intern, Goyanes read plays, wrote reports, and helped stage readings. Her first (of many) shoutouts to other creators went to Craig Watson, her literary manager at the time. "He taught me how to read plays...it was fantastic. I had a job to read!" Trinity Repertory soon promoted Maria to Associate Producer, "an insane title for a 22-year-old." Undaunted, she continued working at Trinity for another year.

In addition to producing at Trinity, Maria directed plays on the side. "I conned...or you could say asked...the office of cultural affairs [at The Arcade Providence, a historic indoor shopping mall] to be my fiscal sponsor, I raised money and we put on a play." It was this production that led Maria to her next opportunity. "The playwright I was working with, Donna Di Novelli, knew someone leaving The Public Theatre, the amazing Bonnie Metzgar. One of Metzgar's parting gifts to the Artistic Director, George Wolfe, was getting him to meet with the top 25 up-and-coming producers in the country. And I made that list." Not only did Goyanes have the expertise that warranted making it on that list, but true gratitude and respect for the artists who helped her get there. This gratitude continued as Maria initially met George Wolfe...who told her she wasn't yet ready to be Associate Producer of The Public Theatre. Maria viewed this feedback in a wonderfully positive light. "I was like...oh my gosh! This is amazing. This is great feedback. He thought I could make a living in the theatre. He was just very honest with me." Inspired by his words, Maria took a leap of faith.

"I didn't have the job at The Public when I left Trinity. I decided that, while this was a wonderful job, I needed to go back home to New York. I had the privilege of having family and friends there...and I worked at every single theatre I could get my hands on." Whether it was licking envelopes or striking sets, Maria "did everything that I possibly could while continuing to meet with folks at The Public." She promised her parents that she would "get a normal job" if she remained unemployed after a year. Luckily, almost one year later, The Public offered her an Artistic Associate position.

Once at The Public, Maria continued to grow and expand her theatrical community. It began with Oskar Eustis (Maria's previous Artistic Director at Trinity), hired by The Public after Wolfe left his position. "I like to say Oskar followed me to The Public, not the other way around. You can print that!" His appointment at The Public gave Maria the comfort and space she needed to thrive in her new role. "I would not be where I am without Oskar."

Over the course of 15 years, Maria steadily rose through the ranks until reaching Associate Producer, then Director of Producing and Artistic Planning. While she wore many different hats along the way, Maria "always thought of myself as a producer. I'm a person who gets it done." Maria helped produce countless plays while at The Public, including Hamilton and Fun Home. She also created the theatre's producing office, hiring more employees to help with the demands and projects of an ever-expanding theatre.

Maria relied on her artistic community not only to acquire work, but to delegate it. She embodies an oft-forgotten aspect of the arts: valuing each other as human beings, not just job titles. As artists, but also people, we sometimes need space outside of theatre. Or as Maria states, "I think it's important to say this, because this happens to college students when they get out. There's no balance, everything is all in. I learned that my way, the grind myself into a pulp kind of way, was not the only way to get better outcomes." She emphasized the importance of boundaries, relying on each other to create but also rest. "I think about it from the place of...how do we take care of each other?"

Maria continued learning and working at The Public until 2018. Today, she serves as Woolly Mammoth Theatre's Artistic Director. "What's amazing about the DC theatre culture is that they're so open and have been so inviting. The fact that our budget is a 1/6th of the size [of larger theatres] but we're still at the table helping each other work through problems that our industry faces in the city...I feel very welcome."

When looking forward to the future, she hopes the next generation of artists continue to establish theatre as this increasingly welcome space. "I don't want the limits of my imagination to limit yours. Young artists coming into the theatre have a facility with kinds of conversations that my generation had to learn. I hope that [the next generation] can continue to stand in their power...I hope that they can let their imaginations run rampant because I can't even dream for them all the things they're going to change in American theatre."

Maria Goyanes personifies the teamwork and love behind all excellent artistry. In addition to producing some of the most influential performances in American theatre history, she created lifelong friendships that continue to teach us the power of collaboration in theatre. Her passion for the arts and those who create shines through in everything she accomplishes. If we can live life like Maria, one surrounded by both creation and connection in the theatre, we can create a stronger artistic tomorrow.

TodayTix Black Friday

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