Director Steve Scott has been a significant presence at the Goodman Theatre since 1980, working his way up from director of educational programs to his current titles of producer and a member of the Artistic Collective. But as he turns 67 this month, Scott has decided to step away from his administrative duties at Chicago's flagship regional theater.
"I felt like it was really time for the younger staff to have a chance to help guide the ship in a more meaningful way," Scott said. "And I realize that I'm not going to be alive for another 37 years, so there were some things I wanted to do and some stuff I wanted to see, and to spend more time with my husband, Ted [Hoerl]."
Scott was quick to emphasize that he isn't retiring entirely. He has many directing projects this season lined up for other theaters including John Patrick Shanley's comedy Outside Mullingar for Buffalo Theatre Ensemble in Glen Ellyn and Tennessee Williams' drama Summer and Smoke as part of his teaching duties for Roosevelt University. Also in the cards is Scott's revival of the Kennedy matriarch solo show Rose. It will not only play Chicago's Greenhouse Theater Center, but also in Palm Beach, Florida.
"Just down the street from Mar-a-Lago," said Scott with a laugh, referring to the much-in-the-news Trump-branded resort. "So that should be interesting."
Scott will also continue his association with the Chicago storefront companies Redtwist Theatre and as part of the ensemble of Eclipse Theatre Company.
"I'll be around a lot," Scott said. "But the nice thing is that I won't have to go rehearsals at Eclipse at night after working a 10-hour day ( at the Goodman )."
Scott's day-to-day duties at the Goodman was often to represent the theater in place of Falls for a variety of administrative dutiesbe it on community discussion panels or meeting with donors.
"For somebody who has a short attention span, it's almost the perfect job because no two days are the same," Scott said. "I never know in the morning when I come in what I'll need to do in whatever capacity. It's been really fascinating."
During his time as the Goodman's producer, Scott has overseen more than 200 productions as well as directed dramas and comedies himself ranging from Margaret Edson's Wit to Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
"I've been very proud of the way that the Goodman has grown in the last three-and-a-half decades since I've been here," Scott said. "It's been a been a real trip to be a part of that growth and to see all of those changes that have come not only at the Goodman, but also in the Chicago theater community in that time."
Scott is also glad to have contributed to the Goodman's Artistic Collective with his perspective as an openly gay man. The Artistic Collective was spearheaded by Falls and the late Michael Maggio to install diverse artists into leadership and planning roles for the theater.
"If we're going to be a major arts institution in a city that is so diverse itself, we need to make ourselves available to as many different points of view as we possibly can," said Scott, referring to fellow Artistic Collective members like Chuck Smith, Mary Zimmerman, Regina Taylor, Henry Godinez and others. "It's also quite frankly good business, because the more points of view that are represented on our stages, the more people want to come in and see those different points of view and see themselves represented."
Scott's administrative farewell to the Goodman coincides with a revival he directed of Eugene O'Neill's classic 1933 Broadway comedy Ah, Wilderness! Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls was originally announced to stage the production, but Scott took over directing duties at Falls' request.
Scott said the switch was in part to Falls wanting to rethink the direction of the Goodman in light of the 2016 presidential election. Then there was the opportunity for Falls to direct the world premiere of Jim McGrath's Ernest Hemingway-inspired play Pamplona in the Goodman's Owen Theater space. Unfortunately, the run of Pamplona was cancelled after star Stacey Keach suffered a minor heart attack on opening night.
Scott's production of Ah, Wilderness! prominently features colorblind casting. Scott also wanted to stage the play in this political climate as "a kind of healing thing and the idea of family being so important." Scott also was struck in previews by the final speech by the character of Nat Miller about the seasons, and how it related to his own life.
"I'm kind of in the fall entering the winter, I guess in some ways in terms of my own relationship. I've been with my husband for about two months less than I've been at the Goodman Theatre," Scott said. "And still celebrating how rich the world still is when you're older and have a perspective on what happenedyou win some things, you lose some thingsand now it gives me a chance to learn even more what that's about. It turned out to be a great metaphor for leaving my post and experiencing my own 'wilderness' in the wintertime, which is feel is very exciting."
Ah, Wilderness! continues through Sunday, July 23, at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays ( no matinee July 20 ), 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20-$75; call 312-443-3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org .