25 years at Stage One Theatre,
Goldberg will work at his own pace
(January 2006) Moses Goldberg always knew
he wanted to help children. As a teenager, he spent his summers working
as a camp counselor and decided to pursue a career in mental health.
A New Orleans native who now resides in Madison, Ind., Goldberg graduated
from Tulane with a bachelors degree in psychology, then earned
a masters degree in developmental psychology from Stanford University.
It wasnt long, however, before Goldberg decided to change his
by Levi King
retired, Moses Goldberg
had a long career in theater.
I began to think it would be more fun to keep kids
healthy than to try to fix them once they had problems, Goldberg
Goldberg had participated in theater productions during his high school
years, and once again found himself interested in drama, this time as
a means for engaging children emotionally. So he returned to graduate
school, earning a masters degree at the University of Washington
at Seattle and a PhD. at the University of Minnesota, both in theater.
Goldberg taught at Texas, then at Florida State University as an associate
professor of theater.
Thats where I began experimenting, he said. Goldberg
started a professional theater company there and developed a childrens
tour. He eventually left for New York City, where he worked in theater
for more than two years.
Goldberg published Childrens Theatre: A Philosophy and a
Method in 1974. It was widely used as a textbook by universities
across the country and began Goldbergs reputation as the
father of developmental theater. The concept, Goldberg explained,
emphasizes that plays should be aimed at appropriate age groups, which
he breaks into 4-7 years, 8-11 years, and 12 and older.
In 1978, Goldberg was hired to the position of producing director at
the Louisville Childrens Theatre. Goldberg soon changed the name
to Stage One, giving the theater an appeal to broader audiences.
When I took over, I wanted to get the word children
out of the name, Goldberg said. I use the term theater
for young audiences, because that includes adolescents. They dont
like to be called children.
Goldberg was hired at a time when the theater was expanding, so he was
charged with setting a new course for the company no small
task considering that Stage One was then one of the nations three
largest theaters for young people. Goldberg again developed a professional
company of actors and crewmembers who embraced his philosophies and
worked together to bring high quality productions to young audiences.
He also started a national tour through Stage One, which lasted for
eight years and traveled from Maine to Iowa to Texas.
One of Goldbergs earliest tasks as producing director was consulting
with designers of Stage Ones new home, the Bomhart Theatre, which
opened in 1983 as part of the Louisville Center for the Arts. A few
details make the facility extra kid-friendly for example,
the seating is built at a steep grade to allow shorter viewers to see
over others, and no seat is more than six from an aisle, allowing children
easy access to restrooms.
At Stage One, Goldbergs theories about developmental theater further
coalesced. The most important thing about working with children
is that you have to respect your audience, he said. Children
deserve our best.
Through developmental theater, Goldberg treats his audiences with honesty
and respect, and tries to strike a balance between challenging them
and losing their attention. You dont want to be condescending,
but you dont want to go over their heads, either, Goldberg
said. Children know when youre talking down to them. I try
to give them something to stretch for.
While Goldberg has written several successful original plays, he is
also widely known for his adaptations of popular books and folktales.
His production of Pinocchio was recorded by the British
Broadcasting Corp and is available on DVD. Goldberg worked with popular
youth authors, such as Katherine Patterson, to adapt her books Bridge
to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins for the
stage. Knowing your audience and using subject matter within their range
is vital, Goldberg stressed. Take Shakespeare, for example,
he said. Young people can understand a simple story like Romeo
& Juliet, but King Lear will lose them anyway
you do it.
Whether watching or participating, theater allows young people an important
emotional outlet, Goldberg said. I noticed that a lot of kids
problems had to do with putting up emotional barriers, he said.
I felt like the arts were a good way to approach that and to help
them know themselves as whole human beings.
While many dramatic presentations carry a message, if they arent
entertaining, they wont be successful. It cant just
be a lesson you get turned off if its boring and pedantic,
Even so, Goldberg said he doesnt have all the answers to success
on the stage. My favorite productions are often financial disasters
but artistic successes, he said, laughing.
Goldberg lists working with talented artists and maintaining a successful
company as his greatest achievements at Stage One, but he also has significant
honors to his name. Last summer, Goldberg was recognized with a medallion
from the Childrens Theatre Foundation of America and Gov. Ernie
Fletcher recently named him Kentucky Artist of the Year.
Since Goldberg retired in 2002, the Kentucky Center for the Arts took
over Stage One, which was previously independent. The Theatre
is in really good hands now, he noted.
Now Goldberg keeps busy writing, directing and consulting for various
projects. He said hes interested in working on television or film
projects and acting again something he hasnt tried in many
In October, Goldbergs The Sapphire Comb debuted at
the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library and was performed at area
elementary schools. Riverrun Theatre Co. of Madison commissioned and
produced the play, with support from Arvin Sango Inc., the Rivers Institute
at Hanover College, the Arts Council of Southern Indiana and the National
Endowment for the Arts.
The Sapphire Comb is the story of a family living in a small
river town. A young girl, Hannah, and her friend, Corwin, explore the
river and attempt to uncover the mysterious details of her mothers
death. Goldberg and Riverrun director Jim Stark incorporated elements
of fairy tales and kabuki to give the play a timeless appeal.
Goldberg just completed a new book, Essays on Theatre for Young
Audiences, which is scheduled for release in January. His wife,
Patricia, recently retired from her post as chairman of the education
department at Hanover College, and the two are planning a move to the
Baltimore area in December to be closer to their grandchildren.
Back to January 2006