Goodman Theatre announces new Artistic Director

Goodman Theatre announces new Artistic Director
Susan V. Booth. Photo: New York Tomes

Hot off the press.

NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED ARTIST SUSAN V. BOOTH IS NAMED ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF GOODMAN THEATRE, BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO LEAD CHICAGO’S 97-YEAR-OLD FLAGSHIP NOT-FOR-PROFIT THEATER COMPANY

**BOOTH’S NEW APPOINTMENT FOLLOWS HER TWO+ DECADE ARTISTIC DIRECTORSHIP AT ATLANTA’S ALLIANCE THEATRE, LEADING THE TONY AWARD-WINNING COMPANY TO UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH AND ACCLAIM**

***BOOTH RETURNS TO THE CITY WHERE HER THEATER CAREER BEGAN TO SUCCEED ROBERT FALLS***

(Chicago, IL) Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees proudly names award-winning theater artist Susan Booth as the next Artistic Director of Chicago’s largest not-for-profit theater company—marking the 8th creative leader in the company’s 97 years, and its first woman. Booth departs Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre Company where, in 21 years as Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, she doubled both the theater’s annual operating budget and its endowment; earned national recognition for artistic excellence, including the Regional Tony Award (2007) and six world-premiere musicals that later opened on Broadway; completed a multi-year campaign to build a new mainstage theater and new rehearsal studios (opened in 2019); and was twice cited by the U.S. Department of Education as a national leader in literacy development for Education programming. Booth succeeds current Artistic Director Robert Falls, who previously announced his departure after 35 years of service; she assumes Goodman leadership on October 3, following her final production at the Alliance (EVERYBODY by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, co-directed with Tinashe Kajese-Bolden).

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are thrilled to welcome Susan Booth, an incredible artist and civic leader of national repute, as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director following her long tenure at Atlanta’s most important theater company. Her breadth of innovative leadership experience, artistic triumphs, depth of creative connections, and the unparalleled care and commitment she’s demonstrated to the creative community makes Susan a great fit for the Goodman. She will be a dynamic force to lead us towards our Centennial Anniversary in 2025, and beyond,” said Goodman Chairman Jeff Hesse and Board President Maria Wynne in a joint statement.

Her appointment is a Chicago homecoming for Booth, who directed widely throughout the Chicago theater community, taught for both Northwestern and DePaul Universities and, as the Goodman’s Director of New Play Development (1993-2001), shepherded new works from writers including Luis Alfaro, Rebecca Gilman, José Rivera and Regina Taylor.

“The Goodman has long played a foundational role in my work as an artist and as an artistic leader. To have come up in a theater so deeply committed to bravery, authenticity and muscular aesthetics was a gift—a gift I’ve been able to take with me and build upon over the last twenty years in Atlanta,” said Susan Booth, who also counts a Theatre on the Lake co-artistic directorship and artistic and outreach roles at Northlight and Wisdom Bridge Theatres. “Now, to come home to this place as its next artistic leader—particularly at this moment of seismic and invigorating change in our field—is profoundly moving and humbling. I’m beyond grateful to the Board, the staff, the artists and the leadership of the Goodman for this extraordinary opportunity.”

Said current Artistic Director Robert Falls, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to pass the ‘Artistic Director baton’ to Susan Booth. She’s an inspired choice with outstanding qualifications, a keen aesthetic eye and long-standing ties to the Chicago community. Having worked with her for almost a decade when she was the Goodman’s director of New Play Development, I know she’ll bring inspired leadership, energy, and fresh ideas to what I’m sure will be an exciting new chapter for the theater. I’ve no doubt that Susan will build upon the company’s legacy of artistic excellence and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. Atlanta has been bettered by Susan’s innovative programming and civic engagement—as I am certain Chicago will be.”

In addition to directing nearly 50 productions, Booth has developed distinctive community programming at the Alliance. Four stand-out programs, among a host of others initiated during her Alliance leadership, include:

  • The Spelman Leadership Fellowship, founded in 2016, an annual partnership with Spelman College for three outstanding students to gain artistic and executive leadership opportunities;
  • The Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab, founded in 2013, provides developmental resources for three performance projects selected from the Atlanta artistic community each season;
  • The Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, founded in 2003, supports one early-career playwright with their first full production and up to five others with a developmental reading. The program has supported artists Tarell Alvin McCraney, Mike Lew, Madhuri Shekar, Alix Sobler, Jireh Breon Holder and more;
  • The Palefsky Collision Project, founded in 2001, a summer program which pairs Atlanta teens with a professional playwright and director to develop a new play.

“Susan is an artist who truly understands what it means to be an ‘arts and community’ organization,” said Executive Director Roche Schulfer. “With the innovative programming she’s initiated, she has set new industry standards for the ways a major theater can successfully collaborate with its city and citizens. In addition to her gifts as a director, I’m excited to collaborate with Susan on programming that expands the work we have done over four decades.”

Booth holds degrees from Denison and Northwestern Universities and was a fellow of the National Critics Institute and the Kemper Foundation. She has held teaching positions at Emory University, and is a past president of the board of directors for the Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for the field, is a trustee of Denison University, and a member of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors.

The Goodman’s national search for Robert Falls’ successor began in November 2021 with a Search Committee, including trustee leadership and artists, and the search firm Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA), selected for their depth of experience with leadership transitions at major cultural organizations. The Search Committee and RRA sought input from the Board of Trustees, Women’s Board, Life Trustees, key community stakeholders, Artistic Collective members, Staff Leadership Team, Staff Committee and Falls and Schulfer. This input led to the development of a Needs Assessment that helped guide the search.

ABOUT GOODMAN THEATRE

Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement.

Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earner two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades. The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” Its longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters.

Using the tools of the theatrical profession, the Goodman’s Education and Engagement programs aim to develop generations of citizens who understand the cultures and stories of diverse voices. The Goodman’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement is the home of these programs, which are offered free of charge for Chicago youth—85% of whom come from underserved communities—schools and life-long learners.

As a cultural and community organization invested in quality, diversity and community, Goodman Theatre is committed to using the art of theater for a better Chicago. Goodman Theatre’s Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Access (IDEAA) was born out of the belief that progress means action, which includes building on the decades-long commitment to using art, assets and resources to contribute to a more just, equitable and anti-racist society.

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation on the new Goodman center in 2000.

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership also includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Rebecca GilmanDael OrlandersmithHenry GodinezSteve ScottKimberly SeniorChuck SmithRegina Taylor and Mary ZimmermanJeff Hesse is Chairman of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Fran Del Boca is Women’s Board President and Craig McCaw is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.

Filed under: Theater in Chicago

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