Curtain Call: Robert Reid Goodson







Robert Reid Goodson came to Tifton from New York with a fire not in his belly but in his heart. He drove down Main Street burning with a love of theatre and all things related to the arts. Robert Reid—like Trampus in my novel, Dogwood Blues, a man who swore to restore a decaying house—walked into the historic Art Deco-styled building and said he would resurrect the place with the arts.

And he did.

It wasn’t easy. A stranger in Tifton, Robert Reid spent a great deal of time getting to know the people of the community and creating business relationships and partnerships. Tricia McCann of Classic Art and Frame offered time, resources, and friendship. Robert Reid said, “These relationships were vital to the theatre’s survival. Bistro. Classic Art and Frame. There are too many to list. Just know that many businesses and volunteers helped support the theatre.” 





Robert Reid introduced Risen Voices, an event that celebrated and honored Black History Month. He reached into the community and pulled into the theatre a diverse group of talent that included song, dance, and spoken word.  Determined to celebrate diversity, he collaborated with Arts in Black. And he made a point to bring in new talent.

“I met Julie Smith when I first got here, and I asked her if she had ever acted,” he said. “She hadn’t. But when Steel Magnolias opened—my first play production at the Tift Theatre— I had cast Julie as M’Lynn. And she owned that role.” 

Under Goodson’s accomplishments he includes: the implementation of a high school internship program; the creation of a volunteer database; his establishment of a summer youth theatre; his work in developing a program that offered honor hours for students; the implementation of Directions, a Tift County Youth Company for grades K-12; his introduction of the Penny Awards, an award ceremony honoring the best actors, musical numbers, and performances. Under Robert Reid’s direction, the stage was booked nonstop, week after week. Rushing to handle last minute preparations before the opening of his final production, 9 to 5, he told me he couldn’t concentrate long enough to remember all his achievements. His mind whirled with thoughts of props and costumes. And he was in a rush; his opening-night volunteer for the box office had canceled, and he needed to find a replacement soon. Robert Reid smiled. “Good thing I created that volunteer database.” 

After making a few phone calls, he paused, and said, “Back to my accomplishments. I’m proud that I got the buses to unload the kids in front of the theatre instead of in the alley like a bunch of second-rate citizens.”

Smiling, he told about ghostly experiences involving him and others in the theatre. His first encounter happened a few days after Hometown Holidays. He walked downstairs and, near the bathroom, the undeniable scent of Old Spice wafted in the air. “The scent was overwhelming,” he said. Later, he discovered that several years earlier another person had smelled Old Spice in the same location when the building was empty. “It wasn’t just me. Several of my actors were spooked by shadows, footprints, and orbs.” 




In December 2013, Robert Reid Goodson drove into Tifton and walked into Tift Theatre for Performing Arts determined to bring her back to life. In his position as managing director, he did just that. Now, he will soon be driving away. To a new job. To new challenges. But a part of him will always remain in Tifton. Using the word theatre several times, as though the word was sacred, he said, “I hope Tifton will continue to support downtown revitalization and this jewel of a theatre. I hope they will continue to have programs for the youth. The theatre pulls in people from all walks of life. The theatre—it’s the heart of it all. I believe without an active theatre, downtown suffers. I want to look back and see the theatre continuing to thrive and pulse with life.”

Good luck, Robert Reid Goodson. And thank you for breathing life into Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts. 

His final production, 9 to 5, runs tonight, July 24, and Saturday night, July 25, at 7 PM. I will be there Saturday night. I wouldn’t miss it!


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An Evening with Local Authors: Books Allowed!





Robert Reid Goodson, Director of Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts, has unveiled a lineup of local authors for An Evening with Local Authors

In 2000, after claiming the title of Reading Capital of the World, Tifton hit the national headlines for something as nurturing and inspiring as reading. I was living in Illinois at the time. Imagine my surprise when I turned the channel to CNN and heard Tifton—my hometown—being reported on for reading. Not football. Reading.

I have since discovered we are a reading community, and our local library is the center of it all. In Tifton, we pride ourselves in reading everything from chick flick to fantasy to science fiction to southern fiction to the classics and a great deal more. And poetry: let us never forget poetry.

Goodson aimed for a broad section of authors for this literary event to be held in downtown Tifton. He’s lined up authors of children’s books, Christian fiction, mystery, young adult, poetry, southern fiction, and other genres. Nine authors will be reading, discussing their works, and signing and selling books. I'll be one of them.

Let’s rattle our imaginations Friday night!

Where:  City Hall at the Myon, Tifton, Georgia
When:  Friday evening, March 20, 2015
Time:   7 PM
Admission fee:  $5



Authors:
Kat H. Clayton
Tracey Cox
Beth Hallman
Janie Hopwood
E.M. Knowles
Rebecca Hagan Lee
Raven H. Price
Brenda Sutton Rose
Pamela Williams

What else do I need to know? Light refreshments will be served.


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Moaning with the blues: DOGWOOD BLUES


The Alapaha River flows through DOGWOOD BLUES.


Told through the voices of its eccentric characters, DOGWOOD BLUES depicts life in Dogwood, Georgia, a small town near the soothing waters of the Alapaha River, struggling with change.

When Kevin Kilmer, award-winning New York author with deep roots in Dogwood, purchases a Craftsman in the historic district and moves back to his hometown to write his memoir, he shocks the community with his lifestyle and comes face to face with his past.

As spring blooms with the miracle of new life, Boone Marshall, a farmer and blues pianist, stirs gossip by bringing home a new bride, a nightclub singer from New Orleans, six months after his ex-wife’s suicide.

Every week, the women of the Honeysuckle Bridge Club gather at homes in the historic district to play cards, share gossip, and argue about local issues. Playing bridge has never been more fun. And Nell Sauls, a bridge club member for thirty-five years and a gossipmonger who keeps her nose in everybody’s business, creates gossip and drops it like bird poop all over town.

Dogwood residents draw battle lines over the upcoming liquor referendum, a vote that threatens to turn dry Creek County wet. Tommy Stone, a construction worker from Willacoochee, makes extra money by building unique Vote Yes and Vote No signs for residents to display their views on the issue in their yards.

The Alapaha River holds the novel together with liquid grace and the sound of ancient life. Spanish moss hangs like witch’s hair from the arms of native trees, and spring blooms with the magnificent beauty known only in the South. A new goat is born near the river. Music grows from the soil and from the bleeding heart of Boone Marshall. He plays the piano with a farmer's hands.

Brimming with opinionated and irreverent characters, and told with the mournful sound and rhythm of the blues, DOGWOOD BLUES is a story of betrayal, prejudice, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a love song to southern Georgia, a prayer played out with the blues.
DOGWOOD BLUES sings of the beauty of the southern landscape.




Praise for DOGWOOD BLUES:


This sassy first novel from Brenda Rose captures some of the conflicted and captivating characters of a rapidly changing South. The book poises on a fulcrum between cultures, between those digging in and those racing onward. It would be serious business if it weren't so light-hearted and funny. And like most Southern writers, Rose is obsessed with the mysteries of place -- the landscape comes fully alive beneath her pen. ~~Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, winner of the American Book Award, 2015 inductee into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame

Spring comes to Dogwood with a multitude of heavenly blooms. Much of the story takes place in Dogwood, Georgia and at a cabin on the Alapaha River.
DOGWOOD BLUES by Brenda Sutton Rose is a work of classic small-town fiction, evoking memories of "Cold Sassy Tree," by Olive Ann Burns. At the heart of Rose's fetching story is Lottie's Beauty Shop, where rumors come and go with its good-hearted customers. And then there's Nell, whose 60th birthday unleashes a bitter mood that runs dog-wild throughout the town. ~~Pulitzer Prize nominated Author Janice Daugharty, Writer in Residence at ABAC, in Tifton, Georgia, author of Earl in the Yellow Shirt

DOGWOOD BLUES weaves a tapestry of mysteries that are revealed one by one in a small Georgia town where everyone has at least one secret. Filled with humor and pain, bitterness and redemption, this atmospheric novel offers glimpses of wisdom in unlikely places and invites the reader to choose compassion above all else. ~~Elizabeth Jennings, author of THE BUTTON COLLECTOR

DOGWOOD BLUES is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Later, it will be available on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, numerous local stores, and some B&N stores. It will be available on Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and Diesel. Dogwood Blues is sold at Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at the Country Store. It is also sold at The Cabin Shop and Moon's Pharmacy in Tifton. In Nashville, it can be purchased at Nana's House Quilt Shop.

You may contact me about DOGWOOD BLUES at brendaroseatbellsouthdotnet. When emailing me, please type the address above in the proper email format. It is listed in a manner to avoid Spam.

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Stains


(I wrote this poem about my mother, after her death.)


With red clay between my toes,
and the sun setting over my head,
the ghost of my mother blows in,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze, oh lord,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze.
Her teeth, the keys of a piano.

I play her grinning ivory notes
with cadenced fumbling fingers,
splattered with paint, textured with scars.
A song rises up from the belly of my past
and rocks me in the bosom of buried memories.

My mama’s dress bears the stains of her life:
blueberries, blood, bleach, and breast milk;
She cradles in her arms a lifetime of love and sorrow;
Its brilliance nearly blinds me.

My fingers tire, 
as though I've played this song for years.
The tune swells red, 

dying around the edges of a setting sun.
A magnolia breeze blows in strong, 

a heavenly taxi sent to carry my mother home. 
She will not say goodbye.
For there is no truth in spoken farewells.

I am pregnant with a poem,
my life lost in its stanzas.

My mama steps out of her dress
and drops it, an inheritance falling to my feet.
She stands alone: bathed, blooming,
burdened with nothing of this world.
Her body is naked and beautiful,
her wings gray and scorched,
her brown eyes piercing the brown of mine.

I watch her departure, her flapping wings:
She doesn’t look back, not even once,
not even to whisper my name: Brenda.

I lick the teeth of my piano mouth.

With a painter’s hands,
with a writer’s hands
with rusty wrinkled hands,
with hands soaked in the joys,
the sorrows, the spills
of my mother’s life,
I pick up eighty-one years of stains
And pull her dress over my head.

Her stains look good on me.




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A Poem: Road Trip to Snow







Road Trip to Snow
published by Flycatcher Magazine.


I swear we will never find the place. A right off
Highway 41 South. South, you tell me, nearly 
pleading, softly praying, always south.
We cruise past corduroy fields,
freshly plowed,
grooves, ridges, rows,
pressed, creased,
like brown school pants across a summer landscape. 
And I ask you
when will we arrive.
    Too late, you tell me,
                        too late.

Take a right on this dirt road,
Curling into a day splattered among four colors
and no sign of a mailbox.
By startling the crows
we paint the sky black.
This is the place,
oh God, this is the place.
Look at the birds, you say,
look at the birds.
And
      I look, I stare,
                        I shudder.

I follow your footprints
to the back yard and watch
you peer inside where
a door is torn away
to reveal your childhood.
Floors collapsing, boards rotting:
A room, red as liquid guilt.
A boy, a brother. A father.
A pair of brogans.
A sister (you),
a daughter (you)
crouched,
praying under this starving,
broken porch.You. You. You.
The 1930s turned into the 1940s, you whisper,
    The depression
                        wouldn't let go. It wouldn't let go.

You tell me it snowed one day
and you tasted the miracle of the color white,
a handful, scooped up,
melting like hope in your mouth.
You called for your brother
who pulled himself from the silence of death,
snow dripping from his warm mouth,
a smile lifting his face, and came to
you one final time. He told you,
his little sister, a secret:
Angel's wings melt into snow.
Together, you ate handfuls of the stuff.
You tell me,
             I never tasted snow again.
                     It would never feel as good as it did that day.

Did you feel hope melting icy in your mouth
when I dampened your dying lips?
Did your son's voice cool your fevered flesh?

Did you dream of a snowy day in the 1940s
before you wore gray in your hair, and did you
savor the color white as you drifted away?
These thoughts come
storming at me like falling
angel wings after we
blanket you in the ground.

I brew, knowing the answers will not be found here.

I slide my car into reverse
but I can’t turn around;
                   I am stuck in a snowstorm.


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