Goodman Theatre to Hold Celebration of Actor Howard Witt
Witt, whose six-decade theatrical career began and ended at the Goodman, passed away peacefully on June 21 at the age of 85. The celebration includes remarks and artistic presentations by Witt's family, including his three children-Deborah, Robin and Joshua Witt-close friends and artists.
A Chicago native, Witt is notably known for his Tony, Drama Desk and Ovation Award nominated portrayal of Charley in Robert Falls' 1999 revival of Death of a Salesman at Goodman Theatre. Along with his extensive theater credits, he appeared in more than 75 television dramas, series' and movies, including the title role of Disney's 1987 horror/comedy cult cinema classic, Mr. Boogedy.
The tribute program takes place on October 2 at Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn); doors open at 6:30pm, followed by remarks, artistic presentations and a post-event reception. The event is free and open to the general public.
"On behalf of Goodman Theatre, we're honored to host a life celebration for Howard Witt, one of the American theater's finest actors," said Artistic Director Robert Falls. "Howard's extraordinary talent and true friendship have been closely intertwined with the arc of my own career as a director, and it has been my great privilege to share the sweet smell of success with him on more than one occasion. Most importantly, he inspired not only his contemporaries, but countless young theater artists as well, to pursue their ambitions with the same rigor and passion for which this quintessential Chicago actor will always be dearly remembered."
Witt's theatrical career began during his time as a student at the Goodman School of Drama (now the Theater School at DePaul University) which launched a long-spanning theatrical career and would later include: his Tony Award nominated performance as Charley in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, directed by Robert Falls (1998/1999); Rebecca Gilman's Boy Gets Girl (1999/2000) directed by Michael Maggio; Falls' critically-acclaimed King Lear also starring Stacy Keach (2006/2007); and his final performance in Cándido Tirado's Fish Men, a co-production with Teatro Vista at Goodman Theatre, directed by Edward T. Torres (2011/2012).
In lieu of flowers, the Witt family would like to encourage friends and extended family to donate to the Joseph Slowik Scholarship Fund at DePaul University-Witt's alma mater-in their father's name. Donations can be made at alumni.depaul.edu/SlowikScholarship or mailed to the Office of Advancement (1 E. Jackson, Chicago, IL 60604).
ABOUT Howard Witt (1932 - 2017): Born in Chicago, IL and a native of Albany Park, Witt began his theatrical career at the Goodman School of Drama (now the Theater School at DePaul University) and appeared in his final theatrical performance at the Goodman in Fish Men during the 2011/2012 Season. Other Goodman credits include his role as Doctor Chebutykin in Robert Falls' Three Sisters during the 1994/1995 Season; his role as porn director Les Kennkat in Rebecca Gilman's Boy Gets Girl (1998/1999) and later reprised his role off-Broadway, for which he received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination; and The Fool in Falls' King Lear (also at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC) (2006/2007). He appeared as Charley in both the Broadway and London productions of the Goodman's Death of a Salesman, for which he earned Tony, Drama Desk and Ovation Award nominations. Witt also appeared on Broadway in the role of Shelly in the original production of Glengarry Glen Ross and toured with Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of The Time of Your Life in the role of Kit Carson. He has appeared in most major US regional theaters including 10 years at Arena Stage, where he played 50 roles, including Gogo in Waiting for Godot, Walter Burns in The Front Page and Leopold in Forever Yours, Marie-Lou. During his time at Arena Stage, he collaborated with fellow artists in the development of new works that would go on to Broadway and beyond-often working with dramatists like Arthur Kopit (Indians) and Christopher Durang (A History of the American Film)-including Elie Wiesel for the premiere of Zalmen, or The Madness of God, which was also adapted for PBS films. Witt moved to California in 1977, where he focused his career on lucrative TV appearances including his title role in Walt Disney's 1987 horror/comedy cult cinema classic, Mr. Boogedy, By 1993, Witt returned to Chicago and continued his work in the theater. His love for the theater was also vividly expressed in his work with theater students. As his own stage career came to an end, he continued as a coach and mentor, bringing full circle a career that plumbed the depths of the theater experience, from performative theory to what happens when the stage phone doesn't ring. He is survived by his three children: Deborah, Joshua and Robin Witt.
Goodman Theatre is a premier not-for-profit organization distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater's artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres in the past three decades), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics (celebrated revivals include Falls' productions of Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh). Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, over 160 Jeff Awards and many more accolades. In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson's "American Century Cycle" and its annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this season, has created a new generation of theatergoers. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production partner with local off-Loop theaters and national and international companies by providing financial support or physical space for a variety of artistic endeavors.
Committed to three core values of Quality, Diversity and Community, the Goodman proactively makes inclusion the fabric of the institution and develops education and community engagement programs that support arts as education. This practice uses the process of artistic creation to inspire and empower youth, lifelong learners and audiences to find and/or enhance their voices, stories and abilities. The Goodman's Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement is the home of such programming, most offered free of charge, and has vastly expanded the theater's ability to touch the lives of Chicagoland citizens (with 85% of youth participants coming from underserved communities) since its 2016 opening.
Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago's cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family's legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth's family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.
Today, Goodman Theatre leadership also includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, ReGina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. David W. Fox, Jr.is Chair of Goodman Theatre's Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women's Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.