Introducing Susan V. Booth

"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 Chicago. I know she’ll bring inspired leadership, energy, and fresh ideas to an exciting new chapter for the theater." —Robert Falls

The Board of Trustees names nationally acclaimed artist Susan V. Booth as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director, becoming the first woman to lead Chicago’s 97-year-old flagship not-for-profit theater company. Ms. Booth succeeds Robert Falls, who steps down after 35 years.

The appointment follows Ms. Booth’s 21-year Artistic Directorship at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, where she led the Tony Award-winning company to unprecedented growth and acclaim: doubling both the theater’s annual operating budget and its endowment; earning national recognition for artistic excellence, including the Regional Tony Award (2007) and six world-premiere musicals that later opened on Broadway; completing a multi-year campaign to build a new mainstage theater and new rehearsal studios (opened in 2019); and a two-time citation by the U.S. Department of Education as a national leader in literacy development for Education programming.

“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.

It's also a Chicago homecoming. Earlier in her career, Ms. Booth 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.”

In addition to directing nearly 50 productions, Ms. 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.”

Ms. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Falls and Mr. Schulfer. This input led to the development of a Needs Assessment that helped guide the search.

Ms. Booth begins her new role as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director on October 3.

 
  • Susan V. Booth

    joined the Alliance Theatre in 2001 and has initiated the Palefsky Collision Project for teens, the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, and the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab, as well as commercial partnerships on such projects as The Prom; Tuck Everlasting; Ghost Brothers of Darkland County; The Color Purple; Bring It On: The Musical; Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away; Sister Act: The Musical; Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk; and Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL. She has directed nationally at Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Ford's Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, New York Stage and Film, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Northlight Theatre, Victory Gardens, Court Theatre and many others. She 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 Northwestern, DePaul and Emory Universities and is a past president of the board of directors for the Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for the field. She has been a grants panelist for the Doris Duke, Mellon, Heinz, USAA, and NEA, and has been a frequent TEDx speaker. Booth’s leadership is underwritten by the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, an initiative to support and promote women’s theater leadership funded by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. She serves on the board of the Emory Center for Ethics and is a member of the International Womens’ Forum. She is married to Max Leventhal and is the proud mother of Moira Rose Leventhal.

    Susan V. Booth, Goodman Theatre Artistic Director

Photos by Joe Mazza—Brave Lux inc.