This space is typically devoted to Robert Falls’ thoughts about the current play on stage, and why he felt it important to share it with audiences. His reflections on Uncle Vanya are contained elsewhere on this site— which allows me to offer my own thoughts about Bob as a director, artistic innovator and leader in the American theater, as he celebrates his 30th anniversary as the Goodman’s Artistic Director.
When Bob stepped into this role in 1986, he brought a host of ideas that would transform our theater and industry. At a time when the notions of diversity and inclusion were just beginning to be explored, Bob realized that the Goodman should be a place where all members of our community could see themselves and their experiences reflected on stage. As such, he created an “Artistic Collective”— theater artists whose varied cultural and aesthetic identities would ensure a variety of visions would be evident in each season. At the same time, Bob advocated for a program for Chicago public school students that would allow them to see a variety of plays each season—free of charge. The Student Subscription Series, our flagship program, remains at the center of our community and educational efforts, which have been widely imitated across the country. His desire to explore the vast expanse and resources of the Goodman itself resulted in large-scale productions not possible in any other Chicago theater. His love of musicals brought the classics of this American genre to our stages, as well as outstanding new works from contemporary masters as Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, and Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie—whose War Paint appears on Broadway starting March 7. He insisted classics be produced with the same freshness and topicality afforded to new works, resulting in powerful modern interpretations of Shakespeare, Molière, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill. His desire to create bold new works for the stage brought about a robust system of play development, resulting in such triumphs as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined. And his advocacy for parity for women, artists of color and new generations of theatermakers has made the Goodman a leader in our field.
Central to Robert Falls at the Goodman is his extraordinary work as a director. His innovative investigations of American classics have made him the acknowledged master of works by Miller and O’Neill, and his long-time working relationship with actor Brian Dennehy has brought the Goodman international attention for Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh. His continued collaborations with contemporary playwrights such as Rebecca Gilman have resulted in the premieres of Dollhouse and Luna Gale, not to mention last season’s epic 2666 (which he adapted and directed with Seth Bockley). Musicals, classics, spectacular new works: Bob does them all, with characteristic passion, boundless imagination and endless dedication. No wonder he has been hailed as “Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune). It has been my pleasure and privilege to collaborate with Robert Falls for three decades. As an artist, colleague, friend and leader, his vision and generosity are unrivaled. I look forward to a continued partnership with the best artistic director in the country.