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Robert Falls stepping down as Goodman Theatre’s artistic director

Falls amassed one of the most successful and critically acclaimed careers in theater over the course of his more than three decades at the Goodman.

Robert Falls, photographed in 2017 at the Goodman Theatre, is stepping down as the theater’s artistic director.
Robert Falls, photographed in 2017 at the Goodman Theatre, is stepping down as the theater’s artistic director.
Max Herman/Sun-Times

Robert Falls, who spent 35 years as the creative force behind Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, is stepping down as artistic director effective next summer, it was announced Wednesday. The move will coincide with the end of the 2021-2022 season.

In addition, Falls will program the 2022-2023 season and direct two productions therein.

“A new chapter of professional opportunities awaits,” says Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls, about stepping down from his post in 2022.
“A new chapter of professional opportunities awaits,” says Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls, about stepping down from his post in 2022.
Flint Chaney Photo

“After what has been a thrilling and rewarding journey, I feel it’s time for us both to move on to new adventures. For me, a new chapter of professional opportunities awaits — including creative projects I’ve previously been unable to accept. I love this theater with all my heart; it’s been an artistic home, and it will be a bittersweet departure,” Falls said via statement.

Falls amassed one of the most successful and critically acclaimed careers in theater over the course of his more than three decades at the Goodman. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2016. Industry accolades for his work include multiple Jeff Awards, Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards. Most notable: his Goodman-to-Broadway Tony Award-winning productions of “Death of a Salesman” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” The Goodman produced more than 150 world or American premieres under his leadership.

“When Robert Falls became artistic director in 1986, he brought a host of ideas that would transform our theater and our industry. Bob believed that the Goodman should be a place where all members of our community could see themselves and their experiences reflected on stage,” said Goodman Theatre’s executive director Roche Schulfer.

In a 2017 interview with the Sun-Times, Falls reflected on his then 30-year tenure at the helm of the theater company, specifically the evolution Goodman experienced under his leadership. “Over the 30 years I’ve tried to balance the seasons between new works and classic plays, and enlarge the repertoire with [a wide variety] of writers. Clearly diversity has played a greater and greater role in our seasons. The complexity of Chicago needed to be reflected on our stages. And over the years, works by writers of color, works by women, works by people whose voices may not have been heard on stages before became and still are increasingly important here.”

In early script-reading sessions for Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” in 1986, Brian Dennehy (left) and director Robert Falls discuss the actor’s approach to the role.
In early script-reading sessions for Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” in 1986, Brian Dennehy (left) and director Robert Falls discuss the actor’s approach to the title role.
Sun-Times File

Other highlights of Falls’ credits at the Goodman include “Luna Gale,” “King Lear,” “Galileo,” “The Seagull,” “Dollhouse,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Desire Under the Elms,” “The Night of the Iguana” and “Pal Joey.” It was his creative relationship with the late Brian Dennehy that produced some of his greatest work, notably their collaborations on “Death of a Salesman” and “The Iceman Cometh.”

“I’ve been very lucky to work with the extraordinary people I’ve worked with, from actors to playwrights to set designers and everyone who brings a production to the stage,” Falls said in that 2017 interview.

“His career at the Goodman has been a triumph,” said Northlight Theatre artistic director BJ Jones, who has known Falls since their work in the late 1970s at the now-defunct Wisdom Bridge Theatre, and who starred in Falls’ production of “The Guys” at the Goodman in 2002. “He’s bought tremendous national recognition to Chicago theater, Chicago playwrights, actors and designers. He’s left an astonishing legacy and he’ll be passing the torch onto the next generation in the form of a very healthy theater company financially and artistically.”

Wednesday’s statement said the Goodman will undertake “a wide-ranging search” for Falls’ successor.