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A World of Art

Biographical Sketch: Goat Island's Lin Hixson and Goat Island

Goat Island
Lin Hixson, director of the performance group Goat Island, has led what Jacki Apple has described in a survey of her life that appeared in The Drama Review in 1991, as a "personal history [that] reads like fiction, movie fiction, a montage of American dreams and nightmares, from The Magnificent Ambersons to The Dear Hunter." Hixson was in fact raised in the same 50-room Tudor-style mansion in Lake Forest, Illinois, where two decades later they made the film Ordinary People. When she was 14 years of age, her mother tried to kill herself, but survived only to spend her remaining ten years in a state institution. In 1969, when her father, a Chicago coffee importer died of cancer, Hixson, then a sophomore at Wittenberg College in Ohio and a former high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, married a recently returned Vietnam veteran. She moved twelve times in the next seven years, from Ohio to Colorado, Mexico, New Mexico, and Oregon, where she managed to graduate from the University of Oregon. In 1977, she left for Los Angeles to become an artist.

It was around Hixson that the new art of performance coalesced in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. In 1978, she enrolled in the Otis Art Institute's graduate program, began to take classes with Rachel Rosenthal, one of the innovators of performance art, and formed a collaborative performance group called Hangers. The group stayed together for two and a half years. With the breakup of the group, as people were debating whether her work was art of theater, Hixson gave up performing herself and began to concentrate on directing. Because she was interested in increasing her theater vocabulary, she began to spend her summers working at the Padua Hills Playwrights' Festival in Los Angeles. There, in the summer of 1984, she met Matthew Goulish, who received his undergraduate degree in theater arts from Kalamazoo College, and whose Chicago theater company, Scan, included the brothers Timothy and Greg McCain. In 1986, Hixson came to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to do a residency and worked with both students and Scan. Within a year, the group Goat Island had been formed.

In 1990 the group was joined by Karen Christopher, a theater arts graduate of Pomona College who was also involved with the Padua Hills Playwrights' Festival and had been working with Chicago's Neo-Futurists. In 1994, the group began working on How Dear to Me the Hour When Daylight Dies. In order to provide research and a shared group experience from which to begin work on the new piece, the Goats (which is what they call themselves) traveled to Ireland to participate in the massive Croagh Patrick pilgrimage, a 4-hour climb up a mountain on the western seacoast outside of Westport, County Mayo, to a tiny church on the summit. While they were in Ireland the McCains' father, Richard Williams McCain, suddenly died. It was a turning point in the McCain brothers' lives, perhaps a moment of self-realization. At any rate, not long after their return, in early 1995, both withdrew from Goat Island in order to go back to school and complete their education. They were replace by Antonio Poppe, a Portuguese who had little formal training performance, and Bryan Saner, who had worked for many years in theater in Chicago. How Dear to Me the Hour When Daylight Dies was, in large part, conceived by this new version of the Goats.


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