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Goodman Kenneth Sawyer


Princeton Memorial


Kenneth Sawyer Goodman
Serial Number:
United States Naval Reserve
Date of Death:
Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,

Graduate of Princeton.

Playwright. The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois is named for him.
Chicago playwright known for his work in the Little Theatre movement, son of lumber magnate William O. Goodman. Kenneth Sawyer Goodman was born on September 19, 1883. He was the only child of William O. Goodman and Erna Malvina Sawyer. He grew up on Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Greenwood Avenue and attended school at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and then Princeton. While at Princeton he served as editor on both the Nassau Literary Magazine and the Princeton Tiger, where he contributed short stories and illustrations. He also wrote poetry during this time, but Princeton Dean Christian Gauss, who became a mentor to Goodman, steered him in the direction of playwriting. After graduating from Princeton in 1906, Goodman entered the family lumber business. He continued to write plays, and became involved in the Little Theatre movement that was developing in Chicago in the early 1900s. The movement sought to produce more authentic, experiemntal work, and featured amateur actors and playwrights. From 1910 to his death Goodman wrote, directed, and acted in numerous theatrical productions in Chicago. He collaborated on several plays with Ben Hecht, then working at the Chicago Daily News, and also noted theatre directors Thomas Wood Stevens and B. Iden Payne. Goodman's most well known play was The Game of Chess, which has appeared in several anthologies. His one-act plays covered many genres from light comedy to melodrama to social criticism. Although he continued to work in the Goodman lumber business during those creative years, he began to formulate plans for a theatre which would combine a repertory company with a dramatic arts school with faculty made up of actors in the company. Goodman married Marjorie Robbins in 1912 and they had one daughter, Marjorie Sawyer Goodman. During World War I, Goodman was a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve Force, and was a senior aide to Captian William A. Moffett, commandant of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. In 1918 while attending a football game in Annapolis with Moffett, he contracted pnuemonia, and died later at the home of his parents. In tribute, his father in 1922 established the Goodman Theatre, which opened in 1925 as part of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is now an independent entity. The drama school affiliated with the Goodman Theatre was acquired by DePaul University in 1978.