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Robert Falls

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Robert Falls
Born (1954-03-02) March 2, 1954 (age 70)
EducationUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BFA)
SpouseKat Falls[1]

Robert Falls (born March 2, 1954) is an American theater director and the current artistic director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.


Early years[edit]

Robert Arthur Falls was born March 2, 1954, in Springfield, IL to Arthur Joseph Falls and Nancy (Stribling) Falls. He grew up in a rural farming community in Ashland, IL. His family moved to Champaign when he was 12, and not long afterward to suburban Chicago, where Robert attended high school. In 1976, he received his BFA in Directing and Playwriting at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, after which he briefly studied acting with Edward Kaye-Martin in New York. Falls soon returned to the Midwest to direct his U of I production of Michael Weller’s Moonchildren for Apollo Productions in Chicago. Moonchildren‘s success earned Falls his first Joseph Jefferson Award, and when his 1977 production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men at Wisdom Bridge Theatre landed him a second Jeff Award, the company hired Falls, age 23, to be its artistic director. [2]

Under Falls’s leadership, Wisdom Bridge became known for its innovative interpretations and made a significant contribution to off-Loop theatre. Among the plays Falls directed while there were Arthur Kopit’s Wings (1979), Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (1980), Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children (1981), Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1982), an adaptation of Jack Abbott’s letters, In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison (1983), and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1985). He led Wisdom Bridge for eight years before being named the Goodman Theatre’s Artistic Director in 1986.[3]

Directing Career[edit]

Hailed as “Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), Tony Award-winner Robert Falls’ theater and opera work over four decades has included ground-breaking new plays, reimagined classics, large-scale musical works and more. He has been featured in American Theatre magazine as one of the "most powerful" individuals in the American theater.

Two of Mr. Falls’ most highly acclaimed Broadway productions, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (first staged at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre) were honored with seven Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards. Other noteworthy Broadway productions include Conor McPherson’s Shining City (Tony Award nomination); Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio (Tony Award nomination); The Rose Tattoo at Circle in the Square (Tony Award nomination); Desire under the Elms; The Night of the Iguana; and Horton Foote’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Young Man from Atlanta. Falls’ Broadway production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, for which he also co-wrote the book, continues to be produced around the world.[4]

Falls’ Off-Broadway productions include The Iceman Cometh, starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, for the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian; Rebecca Gilman’s Swing State and Blue Surge; Nicky Silver’s The Food Chain; Eric Bogosian’s subUrbia at Lincoln Center Theater (Obie Award); and David Cale’s We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time and the Public Theater. His other honors for directing include a Helen Hayes Award (King Lear) and many Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Falls made his operatic debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with his 1993 production of Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah, starring Renee Fleming and Samuel Ramey. In 1996, he directed Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul for the Lyric Opera.  His production of Susannah has also been performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Washington Opera, the Grand Théâtre de Genève in Switzerland, and the Palacio Euskalduna in Bilbao, Spain.  In 2019, he directed a new production of Don Giovanni  for Lyric Opera of Chicago, and again in 2020 for Dallas Opera.[5]

In 2015, Falls was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for his achievements as a Broadway director and pioneering artist in the American theater. Additional honors include: Savva Morozov Diamond Award (Moscow Art Theatre), O’Neill Medallion (Eugene O’Neill Society), Human Spirit Award (Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis), Governor's Award for Outstanding Contributions by an Individual Artist (Illinois Arts Council), "Chicagoan of the Year" (Chicago magazine), Artistic Leadership Award (League of Chicago Theatres), election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (Lake Forest College), Special Jeff Award for Outstanding Contributions to Theatre, Chicago Illini of the Year Award (University of Illinois), and in recognition of his visionary direction and impact on Chicago theater, the Joseph Jefferson Awards honored him with a special award in 2023. [6][7]

Goodman Theatre[edit]

From 1986 to 2022, Robert Falls served as the Artistic Director of Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. In 35 years of leadership, the Tony-award winner brought international prominence to the Goodman with ground-breaking productions; built a state-of-the-art theater and education complex; established acclaimed community programs; and turned Chicago’s largest not-for-profit theater into one of the nation’s premier arts organizations. Under his leadership, the Goodman received the 1992 Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater and, in 2003, was named “the number one regional theater in the U.S.” by Time magazine.

During his tenure at the Goodman, Falls directed more than 40 productions and produced/co-produced hundreds of plays including more than 150 world premieres. Additionally, he helped transfer more than two dozen shows to Broadway which earned over 20 Tony Awards. His productions of Eugene O'Neill plays, in partnership with the late Brian Dennehy, his longtime collaborator, were presented on Broadway, as well as at the Stratford Festival and at Dublin's Abbey Theatre. Productions include Galileo (1986); The Iceman Cometh (1990 and 2012, with Nathan Lane); A Touch of the Poet (1996); Death of A Salesman (1999); Long Day’s Journey into Night (2001); Hughie (2004); and Desire Under the Elms (2009). Under Falls' leadership, the Goodman also received more than 160 Jeff Awards.

Falls’s previous Goodman productions include, most notably, the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey for which Falls wrote a new book; the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden; the world premiere of Richard Nelson’s Frank’s Home; Rebecca Gilman’s Swing State, Luna Gale, and Dollhouse; Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside; King Lear; Measure for Measure; The Tempest; The Winter’s Tale; The Misanthrope; Landscape of the Body; Three Sisters; Uncle Vanya; Pamplona; Eric Bogosian’s Griller; Steve Tesich’s The Speed of Darkness and On the Open Road; John Logan’s Riverview: A Melodrama with Music; the world premiere of Arthur Miller’s final play Finishing the Picture; David Cale’s We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time; his own adaptation of The Seagull; his own adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People; the world premiere of Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño’s epic work 2666, which Falls co-adapted and co-directed with Seth Bockley; and his own adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. [8]

Falls stepped down as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director at the end of the 2022-23 season, which culminated with his award-winning production of Anton Chekov's A Cherry Orchard.[9][10]

Personal life[edit]

In 1993, Falls married Kathleen Moynihan, an American novelist specializing in young adult science-fiction (pen name Kat Falls.) They have three children: Declan, Vivienne, and Connor Falls.


  1. ^ "Kat Falls Rights and Coeditions". Scholastic Corporation. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Robert Falls | Award-Winning American Theatre Director | Britannica". 27 February 2024.
  3. ^ "Robert Falls - Previous FAA Legacy Award Recipients". College of Fine and Applied Arts - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  4. ^ "Robert Falls - Artist Bio". Goodman Theatre.
  5. ^ "Director's note: Robert Falls on DON GIOVANNI".
  6. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Announces 2015 Inductees". 23 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Artistic Director Robert Falls Celebrates 20 Years at the Goodman - Theatre News - Theatre in Chicago".
  8. ^ "5 Novellas, 5 Hours, 5 Years: The Goodman's '2666' Adds up". 10 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Robert Falls to Depart Goodman Theatre in 2022". 15 September 2021.
  10. ^ Jones, Chris (15 September 2021). "Exclusive: Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls is stepping down". Chicago Tribune.

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