The Goodman was founded in 1925 as a tribute to the Chicago playwright Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, who died in theGreat Influenza Pandemic in 1918. The theater was funded by Goodman’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. William O. Goodman, who donated $250,000 to the Art Institute of Chicago to establish a professional repertory company and a school of drama at the Institute. The first theater was designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw (in the location now occupied by the museum’s Modern Wing), although its design was severely hampered by location restrictions resulting in a lack of space for scenery and effects and pooracoustics.
The opening ceremony on October 20, 1925 featured three of Kenneth Sawyer Goodman’s plays: Back of the Yards, The Green Scarf, and The Game of Chess. Two nights later the theater presented its first public performance, John Galsworthy’s The Forest.
In 2000, the company moved into its new building at 170 N. Dearborn in Chicago’s theater district. It has two fully modern auditoriums, named the Albert and the Owen, after two members of the Goodman family who continue to be major donors. In August, Associate Artistic Director Michael Maggio died and they renamed the Michael Merritt Award for young designers the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award in his honor
In 1992, the theatre company received the Regional Theatre Tony Award, joining Steppenwolf Theatre as Chicago-based recipients of the award. Since then, three other Chicago-based companies, Victory Gardens Theater (in 2001), Chicago Shakespeare Theater (in 2008), and Lookingglass Theatre Company (in 2011) have also received the award, making Chicago the most recognized city in the country by this prestigious live theater award. The Goodman has also won many Joseph Jefferson awards.
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