Stagestruck City: Chicago's Theater Tradition and the Birth of the Goodman | Newberry

Stagestruck City: Chicago's Theater Tradition and the Birth of the Goodman

Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, for whom the Goodman Theatre is named, was an active participant in Chicago’s theater scene at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1916, he co-wrote The Wonder Hat with Ben Hecht. In 1925, the play was published along with other one-act plays.

Friday, September 18, 2015Thursday, December 31, 2015

Smith Gallery


Chicago’s heritage of live performance and popular amusement is almost as old as the city itself. In the second half of the nineteenth century, palatial theatres in the Loop catered to the appetites of an entertainment-hungry public. Vaudeville, burlesque, melodrama, musical comedy, Shakespeare, and opera dominated the scene, but there was also a developing desire for more “authentic” productions that might address the social, cultural, and economic issues of the modern world.

Stagestruck City explores how Chicagoans' demands for more and for better entertainment led to the birth of the "little theatre" movement and, eventually, the Goodman. By the turn of the twentieth century, African American theater was prospering, shows first staged in Chicago were winning acclaim on Broadway, and little theatres were offering experimental works often performed by amateur actors. With the opening of the Goodman Theatre in 1925, the values of an insurgent collection of actors, writers, and directors were institutionalized more firmly in Chicago.

Through a selection of Newberry items such as colorful posters, programs, scripts, letters, and photographs, Stagestruck City traces the evolution of Chicago's theater tradition, driven as it was by a combination of creative ambition and Second City angst.

Stagestruck City is organized by the Newberry Library with generous support from the Rosaline G. Cohn Endowment for Exhibitions and the Edith-Marie Appleton Foundation.

Curator-led Exhibition Tours

  • Tuesday, September 29, 6 pm
  • Thursday, November 12, 6 pm
  • Saturday, December 12, 11 am
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This exhibition is free and open to the public. See our hours to plan your visit.