Susan V. Booth, Artistic Director of Alliance Theater in Atlanta, has been named the next Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater of Chicago, a leading force in that city’s vibrant theater scene and one of the region’s nonprofits. most influential in the country.
Booth, 59, who will take up the role in October, will be the first woman to lead the Goodman, founded in 1922. She succeeds Robert Falls, who announced last September that he would step down after 35 years on the helm.
The Goodman, which has an annual budget of $22 million and a staff of around 200, won the 1992 Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater. Under Falls, he has directed more than 150 world or US premieres, while helping to transform Chicago from a theatrical scene known primarily for actors to one recognized as a hotbed for directors with artistic visions “too massive to be contained in a showcase theatre”. as Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, wrote Last year.
The move will be something of a homecoming for Booth, who went to graduate school at Northwestern University, ran theaters across the city and was Goodman’s new play development director from 1993 to 2001. Her husband even proposed to her on the catwalk on the Goodman’s main stage on her last day at work.
In a phone interview, Booth said she was looking forward to getting back into Chicago’s rich theater scene, which she describes as marked by a muscular, democratic and “radically diverse” aesthetic.
“It was always a very fluid ecosystem, where artists bounced between freshman punky start-ups in the back of bars and on the Goodman stage,” she said. “That fluidity meant that if there was any hierarchy, it had to do with your chops. It was glorious.
His arrival at the Goodman comes at a time of widespread turnover among Chicago theater executives, due to retirement and upheaval around diversity and inclusion. She said one of her first tasks would be to figure out “where Chicago is now,” both artistically and civically, to figure out how best to reach the widest possible audience.
She said she also wanted to work with theater artistic collective continuing the Goodman tradition of “treating the classics as if they were new pieces” and giving pride of place to stimulating new works.
“I love a classic, and I have no interest in relegating that work to other theaters,” she said. “But I like the level playing field that is created when you produce new work.”
Booth led the Alliance in Atlanta for 21 years, where it doubled the operating budget (currently $20 million) and endowment, and led it to a 2007 Tony Award for Regional Excellence. The theater has performed more than 85 world premieres, including six musicals that later went to Broadway, including “The Prom” and “The Color Purple.”
He has also worked to develop relationships with young playwrights, while cultivating new voices through programs such as the Spelman Leadership Fellowship, a partnership with Spelman College in Atlanta aimed at addressing the lack of diversity in the theatrical leadership.
Asked about a signature project, she cited a staging of “Native Guard” the cycle of poems by former American Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey exploring both her family history and the history of Black Civil War troops, which was originally staged at The Alliance, then later at the Atlanta History Center, amid its Civil War collections.
“The dramatization of it was as much about how the audience engaged with the work as it was about the source narrative,” she said. “It was a community event.”
It was “a theater designed to catalyze dialogue, to evoke action,” she added. “It meant a lot to me.
The Goodman’s 2022-23 seasonprogrammed by Falls, includes the world premieres of Rebecca Gilman’s play “Swing State”, about a Wisconsin community divided by political polarization (one of two productions directed by Falls), and “the ripple, the Christina Anderson’s ‘wave that took me home’, about a family struggling to fit into a swimming pool in Kansas in the 1960s. There will also be a 30th anniversary production of ‘The Who’s Tommy’ , directed by Des McAnuff.
As for her own programming, Booth said she wanted Goodman to be part of the mature political and social debates of the moment, without losing sight of the pure enjoyment of the theater.
“I don’t know of a theater community in the country that doesn’t create the weird joy bomb,” she said.