Bill Goodman of Chevy Chase spent more than 30 years as an economist for the federal government—now he’s devoting his time to words rather than data by pursuing his passion: playwriting. Supported by an accomplished cast and crew, his latest production, Atheist’s Paradise, runs through Nov. 25 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC.
“I think a live play can be a powerful medium for illustrative stories that teach you something,” Goodman said. “I also love the excitement and immediacy of theater.”
Although Goodman spent his career examining data, he’s no stranger to playwriting. In 1988, he wrote the play RE-SUR-REK, which explored similarities among three worlds: a corporation, a house of counter-cultural spirits and a fundamentalist Christian church.
“I explore serious themes in my plays because I’m hoping to influence the world for the better,” Goodman said. “While no one ever proved that theater can affect the future of civilization, I think it can.”
His latest company, The Edge of the Universe Players 2, is currently performing Atheist’s Paradise, an unconventional performance characteristic of Goodman’s style. Set at a small Christian college in the Midwest, the play follows the story of “Doc” Johnson, an aging yet defiant faculty member who is both head football coach and philosophy professor.
Although tasked with coaching, “Doc” dedicates most of his time to teaching critical thought, which he believes is vital in a changing world. Along the way, he mentors troubled students, encouraging them to challenge their traditional religious beliefs and values.
“In “Doc,” I created a modern, Socrates-like character who's dedicated to education and concerned about troubled students, to the point of helping them with their crises,” Goodman said.
As “Doc” prompts a change of identity among his students, he is pressured to change his own path in life when a new college president, concerned with image and finances, pressures him to create a winning football team and scale back his teachings.
“I think it's fair to say that a broad, high-powered education for more people can result in better societal decisions,” Goodman said. “Unfortunately, many people, including myself, agree that a present-day higher education is often shallow, inadequate and too specialized. So I'm trying to advocate more powerful teaching, among other things.”
Atheist's Paradise runs through Nov. 25 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Melton Rehearsal Hall in Washington, DC. Tickets may be ordered online at AtheistsParadise.com.