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Photo: Zack DeZon
Photo: Zack DeZon

A Day in the Life: Maria Manuela Goyanes

There won’t be an ice age at Woolly Mammoth anytime soon. The theatre company’s new artistic director, Maria Manuela Goyanes, is DC’s latest creative transplant from New York. She’s bringing a decades-long theatre career and her first-generation, Latinx-American perspective to champion Woolly’s inclusive mission and edgy productions.

While artistic direction usually entails reviewing performance options for the upcoming season and executing creative decisions, my interview with Goyanes was one of her many scheduled meetings during the first few weeks in her new role. On our call, intermittent laughter made its way between her words. She answered immediately and honestly – and without taking herself too seriously. But Goyanes is absolutely serious about her passion for Woolly and what it means to succeed the company’s co-founder, Howard Shalwitz.

On Tap: What do you think has really prepared you for this role?
Maria Manuela Goyanes: Does anyone ever feel really prepared? [Laughs] I think I stand on the shoulders of giants, there’s no question [about] that. I think one of the things that makes me uniquely connected to Woolly and [our] mission is that I have both the experimental, innovation side with the work that I did with 13P [Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.], which is a playwrights’ collective, coupled [with] having been at the Public Theater for 15 years.

OT: What aspects of a story are you immediately drawn to when selecting productions for the upcoming season?
MMG: I’m looking for two different things. The first is trying to push the art form, so plays that are really  interesting, exciting or new – pushing the aesthetics [or] experimenting with an idea in terms of structure or language. But then on the other side, I’m also really looking for something that is going to be challenging or provocative to an audience. The reason why I feel so aligned with Woolly Mammoth – I’m really pinching myself, I’m the luckiest person in the world to have this job – is because I am a huge fan of all of the writers that Woolly has [featured].

OT: What’s different about your perspective and influence at Woolly compared to your predecessor, Howard Shalwitz?
MMG: I love Howard, and this has been the smoothest transition probably in the history of American theatre. But I will say, I am  a short Latina from New York! [Laughs] What I experience and how I walk through the world is very different from Howard. I think that my perspective is going to stem from my own life and what I care about. Who gets to tell what story? Does it really reflect the world around us? Is it pushing the boundaries of theatre and what people expect? How can we make the biggest impact?

I’m really excited about the mission statement of Woolly. It’s about galvanizing artists and audiences. “Galvanizing” is so powerful and aspirational, and something for us to live up to and attempt to make happen for every single one of our shows and every single one of our experiences.

OT: I’m also a first-generation American, and it’s exciting to interview someone with this identity who is making an impact.
MMG: It’s important for me that people know I do identify as a first-generation American. It’s a big wave, a big change happening in the American theatre and culture right now, and my hope is that the people who are leading these arts organizations all across the country are going to start to reflect the diversity of the country. I know that I am part of that wave, and I feel that responsibility and the excitement about that too.


Maria Can’t Live Without

Her husband and partner Dave
He keeps everything real for me with his witty sense of humor.

FaceTime
This is how I stay in touch with everyone I love, especially my family in NYC, Spain and the Dominican Republic.  

Theatre
Some of the most transformative experiences of my life have been in theatre. I believe in the power of theatre to deeply impact our lives and shape our relationship to the world around us. 

Producing
I love connecting people and artists, creating events and works of art, and generally making sh-t happen. It’s in my bones. The possibilities are endless! 

Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother
I began meditating because of her books. Her words ground and center me. I actually bought 100 of her books to give as gifts to my favorite people. You know I like you if you get a Pema Chödrön book.


OT: Why is it important to be a leader in the DC theatre scene?
MMG: I am just now getting to know the DC theater scene. I just had a great dinner with [Arena Stage Artistic Director] Molly Smith, who is the bomb. Everyone has been so welcoming and generous with their time and words, so it’s made me really excited to be here and get to know everybody. It feels like a really tight-knit community, which is exciting too. I’m going to be doing a lot of listening and getting to know the artistic community [and] the people in our audience, and understanding what it is about DC’s arts and culture [scene] that might be missing that we need to tap into. Woolly stands for being alternative to the mainstream, and the mainstream is starting to do more provocative plays. How can Woolly stay at the vanguard and leading edge of provocative, challenging and explosive work?

OT: Tell me about Woolly’s October production of The Fever by theatre experimentalists 600 HIGHWAYMEN.
MMG: It is a [performance] that the audience actually has to participate in to create. I think there’s some people who think of that interactivity as really scary. There is nothing difficult, embarrassing or confessional about what [the audience does]. It is actually about the power of the collective and our humanity and responsibility toward each other. It’s beautiful. It’s nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced and I’m so excited to bring this to Washington, DC right now. It’s not just about changing minds but also changing hearts. What this piece is attempting to do is lead from the heart before leading from the head, and that is a really interesting thing to experiment with.

The Fever runs from October 23 to November 4. Tickets are $20-$35. Learn more about the daring production, and the rest of Woolly’s
2018-2019 season, at www.woollymammoth.net.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; 202-393-3939; www.woollymammoth.net

Photo: Lindsay Galatro
Photo: Lindsay Galatro

A Day in the Life: Instafamous Navy the Corgi

Imagine creating a social media account for your pet just for fun, and having it attract almost 40,000 followers within the first year. Your pup’s Instagram is swarmed by likes and comments from dog lovers, brands and fellow Instafamous canines in the District and across the nation. For couple Alex Hibbs and Zach Hopf, posting photos of their pup quickly led to Navy the Corgi’s resounding online success. Now Hibbs, a Department of Defense employee, and Hopf, an IT consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, devote most of their free time to one-year-old Navy and her booming Instagram account, @navycorgi. We caught up with the Insta celebrity and her parents in Capitol Riverfront’s Yards Park after her photo shoot for our May cover.

On Tap: How would you describe Navy’s personality?
Alex Hibbs: Yap queen, very high energy. She’s a diva. She loves to meet and play with everybody. Her tail wags a mile a minute. People get intimated because she barks a lot but it’s all very playful, like, “I want you to pet me and run around with me.”

OT: When and how did Navy first start to receive social media attention?
AH: I figured making Navy her own account was the easiest way to share photos of her with my friends, family and coworkers. We started posting and didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but it did. She’s a pretty unique puppy, so people definitely caught on. We started [the Instagram account] the day we picked her up. Big corgi accounts on Instagram posted a few puppy photos of her. The American Kennel Club contacted us after we posted a little video – our third post – and asked, “Can we share on our social media?” They have thousands of followers and a huge online presence.

OT: Have most of her photos and videos been easily circulated?
Zach Hopf: Reposts are a big thing. Alex is great at using hashtags depending on the brand and the areas. Through that, reposts happen.
AH: It really comes naturally for us. We try to be strategic with it and use hash tags for big accounts, so they will repost it and tag bigger accounts. Some people use a tactic of direct messaging. But we say if she gets followers, she does and if she doesn’t, she doesn’t. We aren’t going to directly go after people to have them repost our content.

OT: Do you feel pressure to post every single day?
AH: It can be super overwhelming. Instagram is a highlight reel – we’re only showing the best parts. Navy can be a terror. She barks a lot. We also have a lot of fun with her that we don’t really post [about]. Sometimes there’s so much pressure to post every day, and in ways, it can get competitive.

OT: What’s it like as influencers to go out in public where people might recognize Navy?
ZH: It can be so surreal. One time, we were walking through Georgetown and we were walking across the street, and this car slams on the brakes in the middle of traffic. This young girl gets out and starts screaming “Navy, Navy!” And she was like, “I made my mom stop in the middle of traffic to come say hi.”


Navy the Corgi’s Can’t Live Without
Favorite place to nap
Between the pillows and the headboard in Mom and Dad’s bed
Favorite place to play
Dog Run Park at Carlyle in Alexandria, Virginia
Favorite place to shop
Kriser’s Natural Pet
Favorite thing to play with
ZippyPaws Burrow squeaky toy
Favorite thing to eat
Duck
Favorite things to chase
Frenchies, birds, squirrels


OT: Do you ever interact with followers outside of Instagram?
AH: We recently went to Portugal and I had sent a message out. [A few owners and their corgis] came out to meet us and took us on a little tour of their town. They gave us a bandana for Navy. Navy’s not necessarily [always] with us, but the Instagram dog community is so nice – they want to meet you and not just your dog.

OT: Do you guys devote most of your time to Navy when you’re not working?
AH:
Outside of work, we are really big on working out so we’ll go to the gym. But other than that, everything is focused on Navy and we’re like, “Oh, let’s take a trip. Let’s make sure it’s dog-friendly.” Our lives really revolve around her.
ZH:
We have to be at so many events for Navy: birthday parties, guest appearances, photos or other opportunities, or going to the dog park, doggy play dates, or going to dinner and making sure it’s dog accessible.

OT: How does Navy use her platform to support animal rescues and other
pup-focused organizations?

AH: There’s an organization called the East Coast Corgi Rescue. On Sunday, we went to a fundraiser for them and we donated a bunch of the free stuff that Navy gets like extra bags of treats. We told them, “If you want to give it out as a raffle or keep it for the rescue dogs, please go ahead.” And donate money too or let them use Navy as a source to promote it. Then there’s We the Dogs DC – we’ve gone to their events and held the handle on Instagram.
ZH: We did a small thing for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. They had an event where they sold tickets. Three dogs and a cat came, and [their owners] talked about social media influencing. We helped promote that event for them too. If people do have something going on, we’re more than willing to help out in any way we can.

Follow Navy the Corgi on Instagram at @navycorgi, and learn more about her at www.navycorgi.com.