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Acting faculty member lights up stage and screen for charity and fun

Cindy GoldSometimes, in class, Cindy Gold’s students will ask her to perform for them. “They’ll say, ‘Cindy, do a monologue.’ But I make it a rule never to act in class,” said the associate professor of theatre and head of the School of Communication’s acting program. “It’s not that I have a small ego, believe me,” she joked, “but it would feel inauthentic somehow. I’d rather them see me do an actual play.”

Thanks to her thriving career off campus, Gold’s students have plenty of chances to see her in action. The actress, who won a Joseph Jefferson Award for her role as Gertrude Stein in the About Face Theatre and MCA Chicago production of Loving Repeating, recently appeared in the Goodman’s Measure for Measure and stole scenes as Parthy in the Lyric Opera’s production of Show Boat.

Earlier this fall, she was chosen to perform for the Survivor Mitzvah Project, a humanitarian effort that provides financial aid to elderly Holocaust survivors in remote parts of Eastern Europe and Ukraine. Gold joins the ranks of past Mitzvah performers like Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, and two of Sex and the City’s male leads, Chris Noth (Mr. Big) and David Eigenberg (Miranda’s husband, Steve). The latter performed alongside Gold in Chicago in October.

“We read letters written by the survivors,” she said. “These are people who went back to their villages after being released from the concentration camps, rather than emigrating. Many found their homes burned to the ground.” Now very elderly, most live alone in extremely harsh conditions, in need of food, medicine, heat, and shelter. Their letters describe their experiences during the Holocaust and how life unfolded for them afterwards. “The founder of the project calls them ‘the unluckiest generation,’” Gold explained, and their letters—which serve as the script for the performances—are, in Gold’s words, “so moving, so sad, so extraordinary.”

While she channeled voices from halfway around the world for that project, another of her upcoming endeavors will hit much closer to home. After the holidays, Gold will workshop In The Garden, written by Sara Gmitter. The play, a love story about the naturalist Charles Darwin and his wife, will have its world premiere at The Lookingglass Theatre in April, directed by assistant professor of theatre Jessica Thebus.

Before it does, though, Gold, Thebus, and “a number of other Northwestern folks,” Gold said, will embark on a workshop process that promises to be wildly creative and improvisational. “I’ve been told I’ll be doing all kinds of different characters, including men.” For those students who’ve tried to goad her into doing monologues for them? Now’s their time.

“All our students, Jessica’s and mine, will be invited to sit in on rehearsals,” she said. Gold describes this overlap between acting and teaching as “the gift that keeps on giving.” And it’s especially good for her students, she said, to see her working with other artists who’ve taught at Northwestern or attended school here.

For instance: Alex Weisman (C10), a former student with whom Gold recently appeared in an episode of Chicago Fire.

Did Weisman, who’s won two Jeff Awards himself, ask for any tips from his teacher before the cameras started rolling?

“Oh, no,” Gold said. “He’s a very accomplished performer. We just had fun.”