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John Goodman loves theater and St. Louis. He's coming home to support both

John Goodman’s acting career spans nearly 50 years.
John Goodman’s acting career spans nearly 50 years.

John Goodman knows what it means to fail. Years before his rise as an acclaimed film and television actor, he had to audition for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis three times before landing a gig with the company. He flunked his first acting class at St. Louis Community College - Meramec.

“I didn’t turn in the necessary paperwork,” he said, laughing while recalling his early struggles on St. Louis on the Air.

Goodman, an Affton native, never lost his love for theater. On Dec. 17, he’ll return to St. Louis to help the Repertory Theatre with a holiday benefit performance aimed to close the company’s $2.5 million budget shortfall. The event will feature an intimate conversation with Goodman, a performance by the Lovettes and a silent auction and raffle.

While he eventually found fame in TV and film, Goodman said it was seeing the show “Flower Drum Song” as a high schooler that sparked his passion for performance.

“It was just huge in scope, and the immediacy of it hit me,” he said. “I kind of floated out of the place.”

From there, Goodman appeared in several plays throughout high school. After a brief stint at Meramec, he went on to study theater at what was then Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.

“I done got my doors open there — found out what theater can be, what the purpose is,” he said. “It took over my life.”

Goodman has enjoyed an extraordinary acting career since. He came to prominence with his portrayal of Dan Conner on the sitcom “Roseanne.” His credits also include unforgettable characters in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Monsters Inc.”

His screen chops make him famous. What’s made Goodman beloved in his hometown is the way he’s always kept St. Louis close to his heart.

When the Rep’s financial situation came to his attention, Goodman said he was happy to help however he could.

“Showing up is important to me,” he said. “I would hate to think of theater as just a luxury. It's such a special place. … There’s something about going into a place and the lights are going down, and you don't know what's going to happen. And what happens is immediate, and it's gone forever. It's never gonna happen the same way twice.”

To hear more from John Goodman, including his career highlights and how growing up in St. Louis has informed many of his roles over the years, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

John Goodman talks theater, St. Louis and Hollywood on "St. Louis on the Air"

Related Event
What: Rally for The Rep: A Holiday Benefit Experience
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves, MO 63119)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.