In the Spotlight: Ben Gougeon
The Quad City Arts team is growing and we are happy to welcome to our group a new Events Coordinator, Ben Gougeon! Ben has had a very decorated acting career but at the root of his passion is creating theatrical experiences for the public to enjoy. We can't wait to see him add flare to all of our events. Get to know a little bit about Ben and his incredible roles!
Are you a Quad Cities native? What brought you to the Quad Cities? I actually grew up in northern Michigan, but did go to grad school at Western Illinois University in Macomb. After spending 11 years living and working in NYC as an actor, I relocated to the QCA in 2019 to raise a family with my amazing partner Liz, who was born and raised in the area.
What is your biggest achievement/goal/moment of success to date – personal or professional? Oh gosh. I mean, the most recognizable would certainly be some of the TV acting work I’ve done. One of my favorites there was getting to be on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I love that show! I got to do a scene with Alex Borstein, who plays Susie. She won an Emmy for that season, so I like to think I hold a tiny, tiny part of that…ha! Also, getting to work with Maggie Gyllenhaal on The Deuce was incredible. To work with someone of her stature, and seeing the excellence, professionalism, and grace with which she goes about her business was amazing to witness firsthand. Personally though, it’s hands down the birth of my son. He’s 18 months old and just the most incredible little fellow.
Video clip from Golden Globes Nominated film "The Deuce" (2019)
How did you first learn about Quad City Arts? We live in the Broadway District in Rock Island, so frequently walk through the downtown area. I knew it was there, but my first real ‘experience’ with the organization was attending last year’s Chalk Art Festival. We brought the kids down, watched the artists at work, danced to some great music, and had a wonderful time! But as I’ve learned more about the organization, it’s truly amazing all the work and programs that Quad City Arts plays a role in: MetroArts, Riverssance, Festival of Trees, Visiting Artists and the Performing Arts Signature Series, among others. They have such an incredible reach into so many facets of our community.
What are you most excited for in your role at Quad City Arts? Getting the chance to see and meet all the incredible artists that Quad City Arts works with, both locally and those they bring into our community. One of the things I really miss about New York is the sheer amount of cultural events, performances, and experiences that are at your fingertips, and it’s great to see an organization that’s dedicated to supporting and promoting artists in so many mediums.
What is your favorite arts experience in the Quad Cities? That’s a tough question to answer, as I moved here just a few months before the COVID struck and the world shut down, and with our little guy, we’ve been very selective with what sort of public experiences we’ve engaged in. But I really love the Figge, and saw a wonderful production of The Goat; or Who Is Sylvia? by the QC Theatre Workshop. Also, the QCSO is phenomenal!
What is your favorite arts experience outside of the Quad Cities? One that really sticks out is The Hypocrites production of Marie Irene Fornes’ Mudin Chicago in 2007. Also, I was travelling in Poland in 2012, and stumbled upon a production of Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s Anonymous Work by Teatre Witkacy in Zakopane. It was all in Polish, and I didn’t understand more than a handful of words, but the work was so specific and impassioned that it didn’t matter. Both were incredible examples of alive, immediate theatre. Art-wise, seeing Jackson Pollack’s One: Number 31, 1950 in person at MoMA was pretty overwhelming.
Who is your favorite artist? (This can be any artist – visual, performing, etc.) Visually, I love Picasso. The lens through which he paints is so unique and insightful, even today. His work always jumps off the wall for me. Seeing Guernica in person is on my bucket list; that piece is incredible.
What is one thing that might surprise people about you? I’m an avid Detroit sports fan, especially the Tigers and Pistons. I love fantasy sports, especially basketball, and consider myself a bit of an NBA junkie. Also, I’m amazingly good at Candyland.
This wouldn't be a true questionnaire without throwing a few questions in from our Seven With Kevin Series! What are you currently watching on Netflix or TV? We just finished watching the first half of Ozark’s final season, and I absolutely love that show. Also, Somebody Somewhere on HBO has very quickly leapt into my pantheon of favorite series, which includes Transparent, I Love Dick, and Breaking Bad.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars all day. I was born in 1977, so it’s in my DNA. Part of the reason I wanted to be an actor was because I wanted to be the next Harrison Ford. I’ve ended up shooting for Sean Astin or Stephen Root, but hey, genetics (and a love of cookies)!
Where is the best pizza in the Quad Cities (or where you are from)? Well, I’ve not had Harris Pizza yet, which I’ve heard great things about, but we’re partial to Happy Joe’s and Papa Murphy’s. However, Monarch is hands down the best meal I’ve had in town, and Red Band’s Egg and Chorizo Sandwich is addictive!
What is your favorite book? I’m a big LOTR fan, any Samuel Beckett, and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. That book blew my mind with its construction. Phillip Roth’s American Pastoral is also really high on the list.
Where is your go-to place for inspiration? Nothing is more exciting than an empty space. Walking in and imagining what might fill it. Anything from store fronts to warehouses to homes. I’m always looking for a place to create a theatrical event.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? So many!! I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist or oceanographer, and then realized it wasn’t the right fit the first time I got into open water. But I’d love to swim with and study and photograph blue whales. The sheer majesty and scale of them makes you realize your place in this enormous world. Maybe I’ll settle for being a crew member with Sea Shepherd.
If you could have a drink with any artist living or dead who would it be? Samuel Beckett. His writing hits me in such a visceral way that, to me, always speaks to the hope in humanity that we need to continue to cultivate.
When you see Ben around, make sure to welcome him to the Quad Cities! He is currently hitting the ground running and planning our summer events, as well as helping out with the Visiting Artist Series. We're lucky to have such a cool new team member!
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