Goodman Theatre Honors Roche Schulfer for 40 Years with Star on 'Walkway of Stars' Today
Lifelong Chicagoan Roche Edward Schulfer's 40 years of distinguished service to Goodman Theatre-a rarely-exceeded tenure at a single American theater-will be celebrated with a star on the "Walkway of Stars" beneath the iconic Goodman marquee, and at the 2013/2014 Season Opening Celebration today, September 24.
One of the most respected theater producers in the country, Schulfer has been central to the Goodman's emergence as a major cultural institution and leading U.S. theater. He began his theater career in the Goodman's box office in 1973, and quickly rose through the ranks; he currently serves as Goodman Theatre's Executive Director (a position he has held since 1980) and, with Artistic Director Robert Falls, shares a 27-year producing partnership-one of the longest in the industry. Schulfer has overseen the production of close to 350 plays (including 125 world or American premieres), has negotiated the presentation of Goodman productions at national and international venues and established Charles Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol as an annual Chicago holiday tradition (marking its 36th production this season). He coordinated the development of the $46 million new Goodman Theatre complex from 1998 - 2000, which served as a catalyst for Chicago's Theater District. In honor of Schulfer's milestone anniversary, the Goodman's Boards, artists, staff and friends contributed more than $1 million in special gifts, bringing the $15 million Endowing Excellence Campaign near completion. Schulfer's star will be unveiled on September 4 at 11am.
"On behalf of the City of Chicago, I congratulate Roche Schulfer on four decades of leadership of Goodman Theatre," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "Roche's efforts at the Goodman have helped Chicago earn our reputation as a global destination for theater, and his visionary leadership has transformed the Goodman and introduced theater to thousands across our City. I congratulate Roche on this milestone achievement."
During the leadership of Schulfer and Falls, the Goodman's attendance has averaged 90% capacity; sales revenue has grown from $2.5 million to $11.5 million; and public support has grown from $2 million to $6.6 million. Under their leadership, the theater has made community engagement a core value of the institution, establishing a diverse array of youth and lifelong learning programs. The Goodman has received numerous awards and accolades for excellence, including the Pulitzer Prize for Ruined by Lynn Nottage (2009); "Best Regional Theater in the United States" by Time magazine (2003); the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater (1992); and numerous Joseph Jefferson awards for outstanding achievement in Chicago-area theater. Schulfer is a founder and two-time chairman of the League of Chicago Theatres and a founding member, past chair and current board member of Arts Alliance Illinois. "Schulfer's love for the theater is palpable, but his business skills have made the difference in what his loyalists believe is the Goodman's very existence" (Chicago Sun-Times).
"As the current Goodman Theatre Chair and on behalf of those who have preceded me in this role, it is a privilege to work with Roche Schulfer-a charismatic arts advocate with remarkable business acumen whose leadership led to the establishment of quality, diversity and community as the core values of the Goodman," said Ruth Ann M. Gillis, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Exelon Corporation, and President, Exelon Business Services Co. "Roche has championed cultural diversity and gender equality on and off the stage, and his entrepreneurial and strategic initiatives have made theater accessible to all."
Theater management as a career evolved during the 1960s and 1970s, after the founding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the rise of both public and private funding for the arts.
"Roche is among the early trailblazers of this work, and has set a towering and inspiring example for the field," said Teresa Eyring, Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for more than 450 not-for-profit theaters. "He is one of the only practitioners in the American theater field who has been elected to multiple separate terms on TCG's board over the last three decades, and is deeply respected by his peers and by emerging leaders-who literally soak up his wisdom. As a producer, Roche is well known for his fiscal brilliance, but he is also a tremendous advocate for artists-helping to ensure that artists have a home at the Goodman, and that the wider community is aware of the challenges faced by freelance theater artists. He has also been a committed, consistent presence at the national level advocating for the entire performing arts sector."