Erin McAuliffe | Monday, October 6, 2014
Goodman Theatre has been named Best Regional Theatre in the U.S. by Time magazine and won the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre under Schulfer’s leadership. He has overseen more than 335 productions, including nearly 130 world premieres, at the Goodman Theatre. He implemented the annual Christmas Carol production in 1978, which has garnered 1.5 million in profits and stands as Chicago’s leading holiday arts performance.
Schulfer has spent 50 years in the arts without being an artist. Although he had a brief stint with the organ as a child, when it came to the arts he was more inclined to watch. He talked about the different jobs in marketing, public relations and production that allow one to get involved in the arts if he or she expresses an interest but not necessarily a talent in the arts.
His interest in pursuing a career in the performing arts industry came about during his time at Notre Dame. After coming to Notre Dame, despite his desire to attend the University of Dayton for its party school ranking, he said he decided to major in Economics so he could take English classes without the worrisome employment implications that come with declaring an English major.
While on campus, he managed the cultural arts commission, gaining early exposure to the challenges that would come with producing the performing arts.
During a routine study session in Saint Mary’s library – Hesburgh Library was too big and too bland for his liking, he said – he found a book, “The Economics of The Performing Arts” in the stacks. He said he realized it was a sign for where his future should head and promptly stole it.
Schulfer stressed the importance of America’s national theatre program, specifically non-profit theatres, and the creativity and artistic quality they promote. He addressed how money is not as important as diversity, creatively and community drive in the performance arts. He encouraged the audience to think beyond Broadway when considering American theatre.
There are 1800 non-profit theatres in the Unites States, whose productions have reached 32 million people, he said.
He emphasized the necessity of support for non-profit theatres through attendance, involvement and directed philanthropy. Increased financial backing, through the government and advocates for the arts, would encourage greater participation in theatre as compensation for actors and others involved in production would rise, he said.
Schulfer illustrated the difference between theatre and cinema and highlighted the creative process of playwriting, saying “In the theatre, the playwright has the final cut.” Playwriting allows for more freedom and creative ownership, he said.
He mentioned playwrights, such as August Wilson, whose works have inspired acceptance and racial equality, reaching mainstream audiences.