Life Inspires Art, Art Inspires Life in Kash Goins’s 74 SECONDS… TO JUDGMENT

Kash Goins as Bill, Dan Hodge as Pat, Travoye Joyner as Brandon, Julianna Zinkel as Kim, Kala Moses Baxter as Ramona in Arden Theatre Company’s 74 Seconds…To Judgment. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Kash Goins as Bill, Dan Hodge as Pat, Travoye Joyner as Brandon, Julianna Zinkel as Kim, Kala Moses Baxter as Ramona in Arden Theatre Company’s 74 Seconds…To Judgment. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Kash Goins’s new play, 74 Seconds… To Judgment, gets its professional premiere this month at the Arden Theatre Company (read the Phindie review of last year’s world premiere). Set in a jury deliberation room, the play presents an insightful look at race and justice, scratching below the surface of one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Goins has been busy the last few weeks, rehearsing his own role in the production and going on a whirlwind press junket to promote the work. But an email from someone in Minnesota got his attention and showed the importance of his own play. He detailed the interaction in a social media post this week.

Almost two weeks ago, I was in rehearsal and right before going back on stage for a run through, I got an email that shook me to the core. It was a surprise email from Valerie Castile (Philando’s mother), all the way from Minneapolis. She’d read an article about my play 74 Seconds… To Judgment, and wanted to talk about it.

Valerie’s son, Philandro Castile was 32 in July 2016, when he was pulled over and fatally shot by a police officer near Saint Paul, Minnesota. A recording of the incident made by Castile’s girlfriend garnered national news and became part of the cultural conversation around the killing of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement. The shooting inspired Goins to create his 74 Seconds… To Judgment, which looks at a jury of white and black civilians considering whether to convict a police officer in a similar, though fictionalized shooting. Goins explains:

In every interview that I have about the play, I make sure to mention that Philando’s murder was the circumstance that pushed me to merge pain, frustration and anger with inspiration and creation. The more I learned about him, I just felt a connection that I couldn’t quite understand but I knew it moved me in a productive way. So my commitment back to him is to do my small part to make sure he isn’t forgotten.

To hear from Ms. Castile was humbling and overwhelming for me. I’ve seen her in videos and listened to her speak; I’ve read her words. But to have her reaching out to me and asking me for a phone call filled me with a sense of responsibility and gratitude that I haven’t experienced as an artistic creator. I joke that I’ve talked to her so much since then that she’s like an auntie.

She is coming to the east coast to see the show later this week, which is surreal to me. I make it a practice to momentarily acknowledge all of the special things that happen in the passage of time, but not dwell on them. This is one that … my cast mates, the entire Arden Theatre family, and I are so very blessed and thankful for. Ms. Val, I’m very grateful for this new friendship that we’ve begun.

See Kash Goins and 74 Seconds to Judgment at the Arden Theatre through March 3.

[Arden Theatre, 40 N. 2nd Street] January 17-March 3, 2019; ardentheatre.org

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Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.