Professor’s solo comedy performance transformed into memoir

Janna Goodwin had three decades of experience writing and performing for theater when she joined the communications faculty at Regis. As her attention shifted away from the stage and toward building courses, she decided to write one last piece before retiring from theater altogether.

After successfully performing the resulting hour-long, standalone, solo comedy piece at venues in New York, Denver and San Francisco and publishing short stories based on the material, Goodwin’s work caught the eye of a publisher, who asked if she had more.

The result is The End of the World Notwithstanding, a book of essays released in April.

The first chapter documents the beginning of the project: After a trip to the Grand Canyon with her husband, Goodwin returned home so inspired that she immediately set off to Wyoming for a personal writing retreat.

Once she got there, any plans for quiet reflection and writing were dashed by a wildfire that threated to encroach on the cabin where she was staying. In the chapter, Goodwin shares the worries that consumed her trip.

“I was journaling the whole time, and I thought, ‘This is what it’s going to be about,’ because I have a lot of stories where I am risk-averse, overly attentive to the environment,” Goodwin said. “I have a lot of stories where I was not attentive enough.”

Throughout the book, Goodwin details anxiety about the possibility of encountering a tsunami during a visit to the Pacific Northwest, struggles with an uncontrollable housecat, a near-encounter with a tornado and travels that took her from Oregon to Paris. The book also goes into deeper topics, including one chapter about sexual assault that never made it into the live performance.

“I wanted to tell these stories in the show, (but) my director and some preview audiences said it changed it from a kind of lively and light-hearted comedy,” she said. “‘I took it out of the show. The whole chapter was put back in when I realized that it might fly in a literary collection a little bit better. And I think it does. It may surprise certain readers because the rest of the material does kind of float on the on the top of the question of mortality in danger, and that one sort of sinks down a little bit deeper. I don't like to think of it as a dark chapter, but it is. I mean, fairytales are dark.”

Since it was published, the book has been highlighted by Kirkus, and Goodwin has participated in virtual and live events across the country. 

In addition to her work in the communications department, Goodwin is a playwriting mentor in the Mile-High MFA program. Although she has another novel in the works, for now, her main focus is on her work at Regis that includes building two new communications courses.