When Northwestern theater professor and actor Cindy Gold accepted a role on Kappa Force, a web series that premieres this month, she knew the writer was her former student. But a few days before shooting, she found out that three of the actors had sat in her classroom, too. For the professor, who’s been at Northwestern for 22 years, this kind of collaboration isn’t a fluke: In Spring Quarter, Gold will act in a new musical on campus, Painting Faye Salvez, directed by one of her current sophomores. The title of one of her spring classes says it all: The Art of the Business.
NBN sat down with Gold to discuss teaching while acting, dealing with Greek life and punching a former student on screen. This interview has been edited and condensed.
NBN: In Kappa Force, you were working with four former students: writer Addison Heimann (Comm ‘12) and actors Kyra Jones (Comm ‘14), Madeline Weinstein (Comm ‘14) and JJ Phillips (Comm ‘12). What was that like?
Gold: Yeah, Kyra was in my acting class for three years, and then we made this [web series] together, so it's so weird. This is happening to me a lot. I've auditioned for shows or TV stuff where I knew former students would be in it, and I've just begun to audition for students. They go on and they become the makers, and I work for them.
NBN: Your character, Rose, won an Olympic gold medal for shot put, and she’s the grandmother of the series’ protagonist, Jen (played by Weinstein). What were some of your favorite scenes to shoot?
Gold: I really enjoyed walking down the hall and wearing the Olympic sweatshirt and seeing Addison. He was dressed as the campus mascot, and he was trying to be funny, and I was like, "Get out of my way!" And I just punched him. That was so much fun, coming from her room and being filled with [annoyed] "kids," you know? It's a great, well-written, fleshed-out [role] – in a tiny character, I understood who she was, which is why Addison's a good writer.
NBN: Kappa Force features sorority superheroes at State University. What kind of experience have you had with Northwestern's Greek culture?
Gold: Not a whole lot. I've been a guest at meals sometimes, and I love when my students are in sororities and fraternities because all of their friends in the house come to see all the plays, and it's like a built-in audience. That, I love. Sometimes I get grumpy on rush week. I'm like, "Well, the reason you don't have a voice is that you probably stayed up all night." But I get grumpy around Dance Marathon. Any time kids don't use their instrument correctly, I will get grumpy. [DM is] for a good cause, it's all good – just, you know, you have a final scene due that day. You need to be able to talk. And then I remember, I know, we're in school, this is party time.
NBN: Do you ever wish you could be a full-time actor and stop teaching?
Gold: I honestly don't think I would want to do one without the other. That may change when I have trouble walking or – I don't know. Right at this point in my life, no. To me, I'm living the dream. I have exactly the life that I wanted to have. I didn't set out to be a teacher. I didn't set out to be a teacher-actor. It just happened, and it's the perfect life.