Jason Goodreau died July 25. Only 37 years old, he had a wealth of experience, community involvement and friendships on his list of accomplishments. He was actor, director, technology guru, musician, teacher, coach and more. Roxy Theatricals Producer Scott Richardson recalls Goodreau fondly with respect as “a co-dreamer and talented guy” instrumental in getting The Legacy Theatre going again. The “relentlessly cheerful” Goodreau was “one of a handful of folks who brought it back to life” in April of 2011. He was musical director of The Marvelous Wonderettes, the opening production at the restored theater.
Scott and Jason met in 2000 working on Cinderella at the Muni. Scott was assistant director and set designer; Jason was in the ensemble. “We just hit it off. We both laughed at the same stupid things and had some of the same perceptions. We also believed in creating experiences for the young.” That shared dream culminated in High School Musical in 2006 and a sequel in 2008, both at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS. With packed audiences and rave reviews for the productions comprised of a large cast of students from numerous area schools, both shows were touted a success. The pair felt they had accomplished their goal. They had expanded their “magical” world of theater to youth in the community.
Before his death, Jason was living in St. Louis teaching and coaching but still commuting to Springfield for theater work. He lived in central Illinois for two decades prior, working as a Pleasant Plains teacher and coach and as technology director at Sacred Heart-Griffin. Up until his death, in addition to working on local productions, he was an actor in the Ghosts of the Library presentation at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. He had been one of its most consistent actors since the museum’s opening in 2005.
“He was a genius,” remarked Phil Funkenbusch, ALPLM director of theaters and shows, “in acting and as a human being. He would lose himself in the role and become that character. He really moved people onstage and off.” In his honor, the ALPLM theater placed Jason’s Civil War jacket upon the coat tree on the Ghosts of the Library set.
Funkenbusch also worked with Jason in community theater since the early 90s. Remembering the Muni’s moving comedy, Over the River and Through the Woods, that Funkenbusch directed and in which Jason played the lead, Funkenbusch recalls that Jason superbly “took the audience on a journey that made them laugh and cry.”
That was what hundreds of folks did who attended a Sacred Heart-Griffin memorial service. There were numerous stories and lots of laughter recalling the fun side of the multi-talented young “Renaissance man.” Friends loved his humor and compassion. The Legacy Theatre opened its doors immediately after Jason’s death for an impromptu meeting place for those grieving in the community and the Legally Blonde cast. Turnout was a testament to how well-liked Jason was. Talking about Jason’s goodwill and nice demeanor, Funkenbusch explained, “it was part of his personality as a human being, and you just can’t fake that.”
In the Bellville News-Democrat online obituary, a comment by an Athens parent echoes other parents’ comments. “Jason was my son’s sixth-grade basketball coach. My son and his teammates really liked Jason. Jason was a big kid at heart and was very nice to the kids. My family went and watched Jason in a play at New Salem in Petersburg and he is a very talented young man. I cannot remember seeing Jason without a smile on his face.”
Whether hockey coach, music teacher, musician, set director or whatever, Jason’s life roles were as varied as the roles he played onstage. He embraced and enjoyed life. Friends were amazed when he went to Oxford to study for a master’s degree at Cambridge University. While obtaining a degree that focused on the arts and technology in education, he was active in the Oxford theater community.
Survived by his mother and brother in St. Louis, Jason’s home away from home will always remain the theater. At whatever location – Theatre in the Park, the Hoogland Center for the Arts with Springfield Theatre Center, The Muni, ALPLM, The Legacy Theatre – there will be an emptiness onstage and in the hearts of many in Springfield for quite a while. Friend and ALPLM coworker Patrick Russell feels that emptiness. “Jason was a warm, engaging and passionate person who lived life with a fervor that was contagious. I will miss seeing Jason’s eyes light up when he was excited about a project; I will miss his unique brand of humor; and I will miss losing hours of time in a conversation with him.” A student’s comment repeats the sentiment, “Coach Goodreau, you will be missed.”