You loved these stories on our stages. Now read up on the books that inspired them.

By Jaclyn Jermyn

War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry by Lindy Woodhead

Who could forget Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole’s glamorous turn on the Goodman stage in our 2016 production of War Paint? Doug Wright’s musical retelling of the intense rivalry between beauty titans Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden was based on Lindy Woodhead’s biography of the same name.

Patti LuPone in War Paint (2016)

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough 

Celebrated historian David McCollough’s tragic and true account of the 1889 flood that devastated Johnston, Pennsylvania became the basis for Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman’s world-premier production of A True History of the Johnstown Flood. This captivating tale of class inequality was directed by Robert Falls and graced the Albert stage in 2010. 

Cliff Chamberlain and Heather Wood in The True History of the Johnstown Flood (2010)

The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales by Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer’s 1960 novella about the conflict between maternal love and responsibility inspired our 2004 world premiere production of the musical The Light in the Piazza, directed by Bartlett Sher, which went on to Broadway in 2005 and earned a total of 11 Tony Award nominations, ultimately winning six.

VIctoria Clark and Celia Keenan-Bolger in A Light in the Piazza (2004)

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

Like ghost stories? Then Pedro Páramo is the book for you! As Juan Preciado travels to the hometown of his deceased mother to meet his father for the first time, he encounters a town full of spirits. In 2013, Goodman Theatre and MCA Chicago co-commissioned a theatrical adaptation of the novel from Cuba’s Teatro Buendía, which the Chicago Sun-Times hailed as “spellbinding” and “hypnotic.”

Carlos Cruz and Henry Godinez in Pedro Páramo (2013)

My Sister Eileen by Ruth McKenney

Author Ruth McKenney originally published the stories within this 1938 collection in The New Yorker. Based on Ruth and her sister Eileen’s adventures moving from Ohio to New York, the book was the inspiration for the 1953 musical Wonderful Town. Director Mary Zimmerman brought this truly effervescent show to live with our 2016 production, which the Wall Street Journal called “a fizzy, festive, Champagne cocktail of a musical.”

Bri Sudia and Lauren Molina in Wonderful Town (2016)

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

This five-part epic written by Chilean-born author Roberto Bolaño, and published the year after his death in 2004, matches the sheer power of Robert Falls and Seth Bockley’s nearly five hour long adaptation which took over the Owen stage in 2016. This unflinching look at the nature of evil, especially the unsolved murders of young women in Mexico, posthumously won Bolaño the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2008. You can stream our five-part production for free HERE.

The cast of 2666 (2016)

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

Nathanael West’s 1933 novel about a male newspaper columnist writing relationship advice as the anonymous “Miss Lonelyhearts” served as the jumping off point for Seth Bockley’s play Ask Aunt Susan, which took over the Owen stage in 2014. The play takes the book’s premise and brings it into the internet age with “Aunt Susan” becoming an online advice guru for the lovelorn. 

Alex Stage and Meghan Reardon in Ask Aunt Susan (2014)

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

Chinese-American journalist Leslie T. Chang traveled to Dongguan, China to document the lives of two female migrant workers over the course of three years in her award-winning book Factory Girls. Playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig took inspiration from this non-fiction account in her play The World of Extreme Happiness. The play, which appeared at the Goodman in 2012, is an examination of a country in the midst of rapid change and the people struggling to shape their own destinies.

Jo Mei and Jennifer Lim in The World of Extreme Happiness (2012)