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Sam Theatre Major Gets Touring 'Fiddler' Role

Dylan Godwin
Dylan Godwin

By Elise Mullinix
Athens Review

No doubt many of you have watched Dylan Godwin grow up on-stage.

"Dylan's big debut was as the lead in 'Pinocchio,'" said Dennis Gilmore, executive director of the Henderson County Performing Arts Center. "He was about 8 or 9 years old."

Flash forward some 12 years and countless roles later, and look at him now.

Godwin -- son of Lanny and Debbie Godwin of Athens -- is a 20-year-old sophomore theater major at Sam Houston State University, and he's just signed a 10-month contract to play a major role in the national touring company of the hit musical, "Fiddler on the Roof."

Rehearsals begin Aug. 6 in New York City, and the show opens in September in Biloxi, Miss. (Stay tuned for further details on "Fiddler" tour dates.)

"It's all happened so fast," Godwin said. "I still really can't believe it."

It all started innocently enough, when New York casting director Dave Clemmons conducted a workshop at the Sam Houston theater department.

"He took our headshots back with him, and he thought of me when he was casting the show," he said. "He was looking for a specific look, and I guess I fit it."

Clemmons' assistant called Godwin in March, asking him to fly to New York that month to audition for the role in "Fiddler."

"Believe it or not," he said, "I really didn't want to go, at first. I mean, it was going to be the week of spring break, and I didn't want to blow spring break doing an audition, you know? I was going to just be happy with the idea of being asked, and let that be the end of it."

But Dennis Gilmore would hear nothing of it.

"He made sure I went. If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't have gone," Godwin said. "He said, 'No, you're going,' and immediately got on the phone and made hotel reservations for me and my mom."

Godwin and his mom, Debbie, arrived in Manhattan on a Monday night and the first audition was the next morning.

He was vying for the role of Motel (pronounced MO-tel, not Mo-TEL), who marries the eldest daughter of the leading character, Tevye.

"I walked into the room and it was full of 11 or 12 other guys who looked just like me," he said. "Kind of surreal. But they were all older than me, so I didn't think I had much of a chance."

Over the next few days of singing, dancing and acting in front of the show's director, casting director and dance captain, the field was narrowed to five Motel hopefuls, then to two.

"It came down to me and this guy who's a drama teacher at a college in New Jersey," Godwin said. "He was probably about 28 or 29."

The Godwins returned to Athens that Thursday, then on Friday the casting company called.
"They said not to make any plans for the next 10 months," he said.

He was told an official offer would have to be made by the show's producers, but that he had a great chance at the job and should keep his schedule open.

Over the next few weeks, deadlines for summer and fall college registration passed, and Godwin let them go by without signing up.

"It was probably a dumb thing to do," he said, "but I didn't know what else to do. I mean, if I had registered for college, then gotten the role, my parents would've been out a lot of money."

On April 16, the official call finally came.

"I was in Athens, in a car with (fellow HCPAC alums) Heath Schwartz and Angela Weatherford," he said. "They said, 'I know you've been waiting for this call,' then they told me I got the part. We all went nuts, then drove straight to my mom's office."

The casting folks also told Godwin that he's contractually bound to not change his appearance.

"That means I have to keep my hair long and grow back my beard and mustache," he said, "but I can't get a tan, which is kind of a bummer."

His first phone call was to Dennis Gilmore, who couldn't be prouder of his former student.

"Dylan is one of the most talented kids ever to come through here," Gilmore said. "He's a real triple threat, which means he can sing, dance and act; and those are the people who can really do big things in the theater.

"What people might not know about Dylan is that he's just as adept at directing and scenic design as he is performing. He's one of those theater people who can do everything. I know this is going to be a great experience for him and I also know this is just the beginning."

At the moment, Godwin is finishing his sophomore year at Sam Houston.

"The college has been so great about letting me take a year off to do this," he said. "My parents made me promise to go back and finish my degree."

He's also anticipating his alma mater's first crack at the UIL One-Act Play State Meet next week.

"I am so going to be there cheering them on," he said of the Athens High School drama department's first time at state. "I saw the play a few weeks ago, and I just sat there and cried from beginning to end. It is so amazing."

In August, he'll leave for New York and he'll be bunking with Schwartz, who just got an internship with The Marketing Group, which handles most of the shows on Broadway.

"The company will pay for my room and board when we're on tour, but we have to provide our own for the three or so weeks when we're in rehearsal. By the grace of God, Heath just got an apartment up there, so I'll have a place to stay.

"Everything has just fallen into place. I still can't believe this is happening."

- END -


Published with permission from Elise Mullinix and The Athens Review

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
May 6, 2004
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