After a celebrated 21-year tenure as artistic director of Atlanta’s Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre, former Goodman Theatre director of new play development Susan Booth returns to the Windy City institution as its first female artistic director. We check in with Booth at the top of what promises to be a historic tenure.
What does it mean to you to be the first woman to lead the Goodman Theater?
Once upon a time, female artistic directors, particularly at large theaters, were seriously rare. Happily, it’s become a common occurrence, and I have a great cohort of female colleagues around the country. It delights me that young women coming up in this field see female leadership as an available option.
What can we expect from you in your new role?
I’m interested in deepening our work in theater for very young audiences. It’s a practice that has quantifiable effects on literacy levels for early learners, and I think it’s work we have a responsibility to provide. I’m also committed to making professional pathways for folks who’ve been underrepresented in leadership roles in our processes and organizations. And I’m deeply committed to expanding the definition of what constitutes theater—listening to both our current audience and the one we’re seeking as they tell us what moves them.
How did you select this season’s shows, such as The Nacirema Society, Female Troubles, and Lucha Teotl?
I love that you chose those three because they share a common denominator of a super vibrant welcome. I want this season—and the ones that follow—to have as many open doors and windows for as many people as possible.
How is the theater scene in Chicago different from anywhere else?
Oh, it is so, so juicy here! I love that on any given weekend you can bounce from avant-garde experimentalism in a 60-seat basement to classical work on Navy Pier to, say, a ginormous musical at the Goodman.
What’s next for you?
At the moment I’m answering these questions and prepping for previews for a world premiere I’m directing for the Contemporary American Theatre Festival. It’s a psychological thriller with nudity, gun play and a messy, emotional mystery. So, I’m pretty much in heaven.
The Nacirema Society runs Sept. 16-Oct.15 in the Albert Theatre; Lucha Teotl runs Sept. 29-Oct. 29 in the Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.