Yank! Director Reflects on a Goldin Career
Name aside, IT Award-recipient Igor Goldin is a true-blue indie theater artist. He has toiled in many an Off-Off-Broadway show for more than two decades, and his perseverance has paid off in a smash hit. Yank! has been running in various houses throughout not just New York but also across the country. I spoke with Goldin, and found the conversation to be a lesson in the life a show can have.
The life of Yank! began early last decade, after Goldin struck up a relationship with David and Joe Zellnik. The team did a workshop production in 2005 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005. “It was a sleeper hit,” Goldin explained. “We were very green, we had no producers, we weren’t sure where we were.” Several key players helped Yank! find its identity, including Jeffry Denman, part of the show’s supporting cast, who also took on the role of choreographer, and Nancy Anderson, who plays the distaff cast members in the show. But Goldin credits lead actor Bobby Steggert with steering the show the most. He had turned the role down, but after the end 110 in the Shade’s Broadway run, he called and asked if he could do the show. “I have never met anyone so devoted to a project,” Goldin said. “He was lovely to work with, present all the time, respectful, smart, wonderfully collaborative. I was lucky to have a team that understood each other well and got along, and he had a big hand in that.”
In the fall of 2007, Yank! received a full production at Brooklyn's Gallery Players; it received the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. “The award made a huge difference,” Goldin said. “We started talking to many producers at that time. I took it seriously as a great honor and a wonderful compliment.” It was at that point that the show landed on the radar of James Morgan, with the York Theatre.
Meanwhile, the first regional production of Yank! was produced by the Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, where it won L.A. Stage Scene Awards for Best Musical (intimate theatre) and Goldin won for Outstanding Direction of a Musical. Throughout these incarnations, Goldin says he and his creative made many changes to the structure and content of the show, learning what worked and did not for the various audiences it played. He said that times their original instinct even proved correct.” Sometimes you have to go in the other direction to see what needed to be,” he explained. “[These changes] weren’t a waste of time. You just have to be brave enough and ask, ‘What do we have to lose?”
Apparently, very little: Yank! began preview performances at the York Theatre on February 16, 2010 and opened on February 24. Originally slated to run through March 21, the show extended through April 4 due to high ticket sales. “The show broke every single York Theatre record in 41 years,” Goldin exclaimed, but is quick to credit everyone connected to the show for its success, even the fans who sang its praises in chat rooms. “It takes a village to help make it a presence.” And this success is enduring; Yank! received seven Drama Desk nominations last week (including an Outstanding Director nom for Goldin), and there is talk now about the show moving all the way to Broadway. Still, Goldin considers the show a work-in-progress. “I’m not fixing something that isn’t broken, but helping something already good along.”
Meanwhile, the director is also workshopping a new Off-Broadway musical called Liberty, about the Statue of Liberty’s arrival to the United States. Denman is again onboard. Goldin also announced his next work, the musical With Glee. It's with Prospect Theater Company, and runs from July 10 to August 1 at Theatre Row. Goldin credits his early years in Off-Off-Broadway theater – he arrived in New York in 1987 from Seattle – for the governing principles that pervade his more prominent work. “That indie spirit continues,” he said. “I can trust that we’re going in the right direction. We laugh a lot, and it reminds me of what I love about theater. I see things daily that move me. “It took a long time to find where I needed to be, that my strengths lie in directing. But I loved exploring Off-Off-Broadway. Yank! would have never happened without it.”