When the first shelter-in-place orders were issued back in March 2020, local artist Cindy Goldfield was in the middle of rehearsals for a theater production of “9 to 5.” Theater being her full-time job, she was also booked to perform in San Francisco Playhouse’s production of “Follies” that summer. To her dismay, what initially seemed to be a one, then two-month halt on her line of work grew increasingly endless and uncertain.
“I was like, what happens if we don’t come back, and I can’t afford to cover expenses for (my family)?” Goldfield shared in an interview with The Daily Californian. She was forced to do what she does best — get creative.
Goldfield, a Bay Area native, has been working in local theater for over 30 years. Though she is mainly a performer and director, Goldfield has worked in just about every theater position there is, from makeup to hair to costumes to props. Suddenly, there were no more opportunities to put these numerous talents to use. Luckily, she wasn’t out of marketable skills.
In an act of resilience and ingenuity, Goldfield capitalized on the opportunities available in her home and paired her passion for baking with the cooking expertise of her partner, Chef Willi Nordby, to start Martha Avenue Home Cooked Meals. To test the waters, Goldfield shared their operation on Facebook. “People started ordering,” she said. “People started ordering more and more and more.”
In addition to providing homemade food for the area, Martha Avenue has also created opportunities for connection during a lonely and isolating time. The power of communion grew alongside Martha Avenue’s popularity.
“There’s an older couple down in Palo Alto who heard about us and then found out we were doing a Passover menu,” explained Goldfield. “And they weren’t able to spend Passover with their family.”
The business offers a way for loved ones to send each other meals without contact and allows charitable individuals to help out hungry strangers as well. “There’s a community support button where people have donated to make it possible for us to give some food away when we hear about somebody who’s suffering or needing a lift,” she explained.
Martha Avenue is here to stay, but now that COVID-19 cases have decreased, Goldfield is ready to return to her greatest calling — theater. She is ambitiously busy, directing and choreographing 42nd Street Moon’s “A Grand Night for Singing” while simultaneously performing in American Conservatory Theater’s “Fefu and Her Friends.”
Goldfield admits that it’s a crazy schedule, but as a seasoned theater veteran, she’s not too worried. “There’s going to be a three week period that’s insane,” she said, “But I also know for myself that creativity breeds creativity.”
For this latest local production of “A Grand Night for Singing,” a musical revue featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Goldfield has a distinct, modern vision. “I started coming up with this idea that we were going to lift or rip all of these songs out of their original connotations and pair them with how they relate to our life now,” she explained. “How can we make connections between what these songs meant in 1957, when they were written, versus how it affects us in 2022?”
Goldfield also took inspiration from a coffee table photograph collection that her family had when she was a kid. “What if we paired these songs with evocative photographs that help us tell a new story?”
Goldfield is very excited about returning to directing and performing, and has no plans to stop any time soon. “My life’s work is in the theater,” she shared. “It is where I am happy. I’ve learned so many lessons from having two years away from it, of just realizing how much it has fed me and comforted me and given me structure. I understand now why I gravitated so strongly to this world.”
She recalls participating in the “scrappy theater” of her childhood — low budget, DIY productions that have taught her how to do just about everything onstage and backstage. The space often offered Goldfield solace from her chaotic early life. “Growing up, theater provided a place where I knew I was valued. And I knew that it was a place where there was order, ritual and sacredness.”
Having experienced first-hand the restorative potential of theater, Goldfield wishes to spread this power to audiences through performance. “I think fundamentally, people have a need for connection. People have a need to see stories played out and to see an experience,” she said. “I think the importance of real theater is this moment of human connection of seeing yourself or seeing the world in a new way.”
Joy Diamond covers theater. Contact her at [email protected].