BY HEDY WEISS | THEATER CRITIC
and FRAN SPIELMAN | CITY HALL REPORTER
The Goodman Theatre, led by board of directors chair Joan Clifford, artistic director Robert Falls and executive director Roche Schulfer, announced Tuesday morning that it plans to establish the Alice B. Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement.
The $15 million expansion effort (of which more than $10 million has been secured) will enhance the theater’s long commitment to “using its art as a tool for education, and for empowering and inspiring individuals through the process of creating and experiencing live theater.” It also will make the Goodman the first Chicago theater to establish a facility specifically devoted to educational programs.
Working with Wheeler Kearns Architects on a lease agreement with Friedman Properties, the Goodman will connect its current facility at 170 N. Dearborn with an adjacent upper-level space (at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Randolph, above Petterino’s restaurant) and transform 7,800 square feet into classrooms, a hands-on STEM learning lab, rehearsal spaces and more.
The new facility will enable the Goodman to expand its education and outreach programs by 30%—tripling the number of educators who are served in its teacher training program, doubling the number of young people reached through youth intensive activities, and enabling year-round adult and intergenerational activity. In addition, the Center will provide greater space for audiences to engage in performance-related dialogue and discussion, with theater patrons able to reach the Center though the Goodman’s second-floor lobby.
Private contributions from the theater’s longtime education and engagement supporters include: A naming gift by Michael A. Sachs in memory of his late wife and Trustee Alice B. Rapoport; Trustee Roger and Julie Baskes (naming the “Baskes Rotunda” meeting room); Trustee Joan and Robert Clifford (naming the Center lobby); and Trustee Kimbra and Mark Walter (Walter Family Foundation naming the Director of Education and Engagement’s position and endowing PlayBuild Youth Intensive). Under the leadership of Trustee Michael O’Halleran, the theater will launch its “Engaging Community, Expanding Minds” fundraising campaign for the Center. In addition, the Goodman announced the completion of its “Endowing Excellence” campaign begun in 2011—a $15 million initiative designed to ensure permanent resources for the theater.
Speaking at the press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged an audience of deep-pockets donors to dig even deeper into their pockets to help the Goodman Theatre bridge a $3.5 million fundraising gap needed to establish the center.
“S.T.E.M. is one thing. But the truth is, it’s S.T.E.A.M. It’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Because the arts are a way of exploring something and figuring out something that nothing else in life or education really does. All of us need that exposure—whether we want to do it professionally or not. It’s essential for a complete education,” the mayor said.
“Goodman has enriched the city for 90 years. This center will complete Goodman’s mission…..When you come to see a play or you come to put on a play, you explore the possible. What you never thought could be, can be. What you didn’t think you knew—not just about others, but most importantly about yourself—that is what happens when you create art. So I ask you ,although you’ve been very generous and there’s a lot of demands on your time [and] also your money, to reach deep down and know that you’re not just helping the Goodman build a center. You’re helping the city change lives.”
Emanuel talked about what he learned about himself as a ballet dancer “much to my mother’s chagrin. She hasn’t let me forget it for the last forty years.”
Ballet was a turning point for the then-under-achieving New Trier High School student who could never measure up to the academic achievements of his older brother, Ezekiel. It was the first thing that Rahm Emanuel was ever really passionate about.
“The fact is that dance very much prepared me for my life. It gave me the discipline. It gave me the ability to take criticism. I’m working on that still. It prepared me in many ways in the sense of being able to see life, experience life, work with others. I can’t tell you how important it is,” the mayor said.
“The importance is not just putting on a play, although there’s no doubt about it. But I saw this as a dancer, as a former dancer whose daughter is now taking up dance and has started dancing.. It’s the discovery–not to see, but to participate…This cultural enrichment will allow people to come and participate with Goodman in a way that you cannot imagine. Touching kids’ lives and communities’ lives in an ability not just to put on a play, but to explore places that we want people to go see in themselves around them and to talk about things and engage things and see things in a different way.”
In a prepared statement, Robert Falls, the Goodman’s artistic director, who established the theater’s education programs when he assumed that position in 1986, said: “This is an exciting moment for the Goodman, as the Center actualizes our long term commitment to being an institution that is dedicated to artistic achievement and community engagement in equal measure. As demand for our programs has increased in the past decade during the leadership of Willa Taylor—a remarkable artist, educator and activist—our ability to meet our participants’ needs has become limited due to lack of space in the current facility. It’s time to grow.”
Executive director Roche Schulfer added: “The Center is a major development in our history as it builds on our values as a cultural institution — investing in the highest quality on stage, promoting aesthetic and cultural diversity, and forging an intrinsic connection to the Chicago community. The Center will enable us to engage with a wider range of education, business, social service, health and civic organizations and audiences in ways that stem from the content on stage.”
“Arts education means using our art to move our community beyond the volitional acts of looking and hearing to more transformative acts of seeing, listening and witnessing,”said Willa J. Taylor, the Goodman’s newly retitled Walter Director of Education and Engagement. “Every adult and teen who builds a spoken word piece together witnesses the commonalities in their shared experience—and learns to be less afraid of each other. I am grateful to all who have made the Center possible, and particularly thrilled that this special space will bear the name of one of our greatest advocates, who radically transformed the way we approach our work with schools.”
Chicago civic leader Michael A. Sachs’ gift honors Rapoport, who was an active Goodman Trustee and past chair of the theater’s Education Committee. She was heavily involved in the theater’s education and outreach efforts from 2000 until her untimely death in 2014.
Noted Sachs, chairman of TLSG, Inc., an investment advisory and consulting firm: “Alice loved nothing more than to see young people exposed to the magic of theater. She would marvel at the interaction between students and the artists. ‘The Alice’ will provide the Goodman with a unique venue to carry on Alice’s dream of bringing people together, helping students achieve their potential and making Chicago a better place.
The Goodman’s Education and Engagements programs include:
Student Subscription Series (SSS), the theater’s longest running program, a unique process-oriented series that serves 2,800 students and 70 teachers currently, primarily from Chicago public high schools. The SSS unites Goodman staff with teachers—two to three per school, including at least one non-humanities teacher—who attend professional development workshops to learn how to use the tools of the industry to differentiate instruction, build curriculum that connects the plays on stage with students’ classroom studies and activate student engagement. Students attend special matinee performances with post-show discussions. The new Center will enable the Goodman to triple the number of teacher training participants working with Golden Apple Foundation and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.
PlayBuild: Youth Intensive, a comprehensive six-week summer workshop focused on empowering young people through the act of creating theater. This program currently serves approximately 80 young people, between the age of 14 and 18, from a wide variety of backgrounds. The new Center will enable the Goodman to expand to a year-round program, at least doubling the number of participants.
PlayBuild: Third Age, a program for older adults that combines writing personal narrative with the act of creating theater, culminating in a performance.
GeNarrations, a personal narrative performance workshop for adults 55+over. Using the themes of Goodman productions as a foundation, participants develop personal performance pieces which they are able to present to an audience.
InterGens, an intergenerational summer program in which participants in GeNarrations collaborate with youth in PlayBuild to create performance works. It will expand to a year-round program in the Center
Stage Chemistry, the Goodman Theatre’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards-based curriculum developed in partnership with GCE Lab School. Stage Chemistry introduces teachers and students to the math, science and technology of theatrical production. The Center will enable the Goodman to develop STEM in theater lab space to provide students with interactive experiences in the geometry, chemistry and physics of technical theater<.
Cindy Bandle Young Critics Program, named for the Goodman’s longtime press director Cindy Bandle (1955-2005), an initiative that increases awareness of arts journalism and involves 25-30 teenage women each year from the metropolitan area, working with the guidance of mentors from the Association of Women Journalists. These young women receive full press credentials and review each Goodman production. The Goodman and mentors then work to place the reviews on a Goodman blog and in a variety of media outlets.
Community Engagement Series, which offers five annual events at which specific constituencies are celebrated and/or a free performance is provided for military families, first responders and community-based organizations. In FY13, this diversity effort attracted over 1,000 people, most of whom were attending a Goodman production or program for the first time. The Center will enhance the experience of the series for participants by providing room for ancillary activities such as lectures, classes, receptions and artist encounters.
Goodman Youth Arts Council, which allows young alumni of Goodman programs to stay involved with the theater by being ambassadors in their communities and schools, promoting young audience development events and volunteering at major events at the Goodman (such as opening nights and benefits). The Center would provide the opportunity for more gatherings of the YACS throughout the year
CONTEXT: Discourse and Discussion, a series involving approximately 500 participants each season in public discussions with artists and civic leaders about contemporary issues related to each Goodman productions. The Center will provide space for additional CONTEXT events, increasing the annual participation.
Teaching August Wilson, a weeks-long blended learning course for teachers to develop skills and techniques to incorporate August Wilson’s work into high school curricula. Goodman teaching artists will conduct classes in the Center to “teach the teacher.”
Teaching Artists Training. The Center will provide classrooms that will lead to an expanded roster of qualified Goodman teaching artists which in turn will allow us to work more closely with community organizations around the city.
Emanuel joked that Goodman Executive director Roche Schulfer was introduced Tuesday with words the mayor of a city grappling with a $30 billion pension crisis seldom hears: “We have some exciting fiscal news.”
“Nobody’s ever come into my office and said, `We have some exciting fiscal news’ Usually, the word ‘fiscal’ reminds me of an Edvard Munch painting called, `The Scream.’ But, I’m correcting my staff from now on. Next time you walk into my office and say, `We have fiscal news,’ I would like you to say, `It’s exciting,’ “ Emanuel said.
He added, “The last time I was here four years ago, we actually helped complete that $15 million. The mayor would like his commission now. That’s exciting fiscal news. Since I’m back for a debut , I don’t know where the Goodman would be if I was neither Jewish or a former ballet dancer. It’s what I’m doing for the appeal here for the fundraising.”
The Goodman Theater has earned numerous awards for its productions: two Pulitzer Prizes; 22 Tony Awards, including Outstanding Regional Theatre (1992); and nearly 160 Joseph Jefferson Awards.