Goodman Theatre has announced plans to establish the Alice B. Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement—a $15 million expansion effort that realizes the theater’s 30-year commitment to using its art as education, "empowering and inspiring individuals through the process of creating and experiencing live theater." the theater said in a press announcement. 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 grow its education and outreach programs by 30%—tripling the number of educators 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 new center provides greater space for audiences to engage in performance-related dialogue and discussion.
Private contributions from what the theater calls its' "longtime education and engagement champions" exceed $11 million, including: 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 facility's 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 launches its “Engaging Community, Expanding Minds” fundraising campaign for the facility.
In addition, the Goodman announced its completion of the “Endowing Excellence” campaign initiated in 2011—a $15 million initiative designed to ensure permanent resources for the theater.
“For 90 years the Goodman has been one of the biggest stars on the Chicago stage—an essential cultural asset to our city—and I congratulate them on this ground-breaking next step,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “This expansion will provide even greater arts opportunities to reach deeper into our neighborhoods, providing thought-provoking and innovative education programs, engaging a new generation.”
Robert Falls expressed excitement in the announcement as the center will actualize the theater's “long term commitment to being an institution that is dedicated to artistic achievement and community engagement in equal measure.” Falls established the Goodman’s education programs when he became artistic director in 1986. “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,” said Falls.
Chicago civic leader Michael A. Sachs’ gift honors Rapoport, an active Goodman Trustee and past chair of the theater’s Education Committee who was heavily involved in the theater’s education and outreach efforts from 2000 until her untimely death in 2014.
“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: bringing people together, helping students achieve their potential and making Chicago a better place,” said Sachs, Chairman of TLSG, Inc., an investment advisory and consulting firm.
The Goodman's Education and Engagement Programs offer a variety of access-oriented initiatives that not only expose the larger community to the benefits of live theater, they draw the community into the process and power of live theater. They include the Student Subscriptions Series (SSS), the theater's longest running program which serves 2,899 students and 70 teachers from Chicago public high schools; PlayBuild: Youth Intensive, a comprehensive six-week summer workshop focused on empowering young people through the act of creating theater; GeNarrations, a personal narrative performance workshop for adults 55+; and InterGens, an intergeneration summer program in which participants in GeNerrations collaboratee with youth in PlayBuild to create performance works. (InterGens will expand to a year-round program in the Center.); and Teaching August Wilson, a weeks-long blended learning course for teachers to develop skills and techniques to incorporate legendary playwright August Wilson's work (with which Goodman Theatre as long maintained an association) into high school curricula. A veritable host of other initiatives that support teaching and training, discussion and practice in theater will round out the program the new Rapoport Center will offer.
Now celebrating its 90th year as Chicago’s flagship theater, the Goodman has demonstrated a distinct dedication to the art of theater and to civic engagement in the issues of the contemporary world. The Goodman has transformed over the past 35 years into a world class theater and premier Chicago cultural institution distinguished by the quality and scope of its programming and its culturally and aesthetically diverse creative leadership; artistic priorities include new plays, reimagined classics, culturally specific works, musical theater and international collaborations.
For more information about the new Alice B. Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement initiative, visit goodmantheatre.org.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Goodman Theatre's home in Chicago's downtown Theatre District (photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre).