'Ring of Fire' actor/musician finds greater purpose in performance through faith
BY SYRACUSE STAGE
American music icon Johnny Cash renewed his Christian faith after a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction. According to "Johnny Cash: The Biography" by Michael Streissguth, the reemergence of religion in Cash's life electrified the musician's artistry. From then on, Cash started working on gospel-oriented projects such as the book, "Man in White"; a film, "The Gospel Road"; and an album, "The Holy Land".
Actor/musician Michael Monroe Goodman in Syracuse Stage's "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash", is also a man of Christian faith. Similar to Cash, Goodman faced many challenges growing up, an alcoholic father and emotionally distant mother due to mental illness, and turned to religion as a means to survive hardship.
"I grew up with a lot of confidence and support issues," said Goodman. "My mother was clinically depressed and was never there for me. And though my father was a Godly man, he wasn't able to be the father he wanted to be because of his alcohol addiction."
As a result, Goodman spent most of his youth navigating life on his own, looking to religion for the support and confidence he desired.
"It was only because of my faith that I was able to come into my own as a person and performer," said Goodman. "When I was a teenager I didn't have any social skills because of my toxic home life. It wasn't until I reached my 20s, that I really started studying the gospel and developing a relationship with God that helped build a confidence within myself to overcome the kind of negative stigma I grew up with. It was through my relationship with God that I felt like I could hold my head up high and live through my struggles."
Goodman further explained how his faith gave him the encouragement to pursue a career in music and entertainment.
"Once I realized that I could sing I felt like I was in sync with what God wanted from me," said Goodman. "A lot of times as humans we get caught up in our own thinking, as if we somehow know all of the answers to everything, especially about our purpose in life. But many times the answers haven't formulated yet, so to me, my faith helps guide me towards those answers."
After spending many years as a musician in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, Goodman moved to Chicago to study acting, improv and comedy at 30 years old. Chicago was also where the aspiring performer pursued musical theatre and was first cast in "Ring of Fire." The Chicago production of the show won six Jeff awards (the equivalent of a Tony Award in Chicago).
Goodman said he believes it's an individual's personal journey that shapes his or her own faith. For Goodman, that meant finding self-assurance in who he was as a performer.
"Everyone's relationship with God is different," said Goodman. "You don't have to attend a certain style of church or practice a certain type of tradition to have a personal relationship with God. I know for me, I always knew I had a gift to be an entertainer, but often found it difficult to believe in myself. But once I found my faith, I really started believing in the gifts God had given me and gained the courage to look towards taking bigger steps in my career."
Those bigger steps, according to Goodman, involve continuously seeking opportunities in music and performance. Goodman explained that performance and music are what connect him to his faith.
"I always feel like I'm closest to God when I'm performing," said Goodman. "It's similar to being a preacher who feels compelled to speak about a certain aspect of the bible, someone in the congregation always ends up touched by it, and so by performing I'm also touching other people's lives and brightening their day somehow."
"Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash" runs through June 25. Tickets are available at www.SyracuseStage.org, by phone 315-443-3275 and in person at the Box Office.