Magazine article American Theatre

Russell Vandenbrouke & Susan Booth: Thumbs Up for Access, Equality and the Socratic Approach

Magazine article American Theatre

Russell Vandenbrouke & Susan Booth: Thumbs Up for Access, Equality and the Socratic Approach

Article excerpt

Russell Vandenbroucke was surprised to learn that artistic director Susan Booth of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre considered him her mentor. Their relationship sprang up informally in the early 1990s when Booth was Vandenbroucke's student at Northwestern University. During his tenure as artistic director of Chicago's Northlight Theatre, Booth joined that theatre's staff as a fellow, eventually becoming the associate artistic director. Although Booth left Northlight to join the artistic staff of the Goodman Theatre and eventually helm the Alliance, her artistic leadership style was greatly influenced by Vandenbroucke.

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BOOTH: I knew early on that being an artistic director was what I wanted to do. One of the things that Russell afforded me was the ability to work in just about any area. The deal was, if you can do it and do it well, you can do it. A simple idea, but not in common practice.

VANDENBROUKE: That's a good lesson, true of any door that cracks open. Once you get your nose in it, or your foot, whatever appendage you choose to stick in it--then it's what you make of it.

BOOTH: There are people in leadership positions whose egos are not always intact enough to look at somebody and say, "Wow, you're really good at what you do--let me give you an opportunity because it will benefit me." One of the direct applications of that way of thinking is that now I surround myself with people who are really, really good at what they do.

VANDENBROUKE: We learn how to be parents from our parents, teachers from our teachers. I learned from Robert Brustein and Gordon Davidson--you learn positive things and negative things.

BOOTH: There is a way of thinking horizontally as well as vertically about an institution that was a particular way Russell did his job: everything affecting something else. An awareness of how what you do resonates with the field. …

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