Back of the Yards, A Play in One Act by Kenneth Sawyer Goodman | Newberry

Back of the Yards, A Play in One Act by Kenneth Sawyer Goodman

Pigeon House, Stock Yard Inn, Chicago, early 20th century, Percy Sloan Photographs

Pigeon House, Stock Yard Inn, Chicago, early 20th century, Percy Sloan Photographs

Back of the Yards

Title page of the first edition of the play.

Donald Robertson, Thomas Wood Stevens, Kenneth Goodman, April 1912, The Cliff Dwellers Photographic Album 1910-1940

Left to right: Donald Robertson, Thomas Wood Stevens, Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, April 1912. From The Cliff Dwellers Photographic Album 1910-1940, Newberry Library Modern Manuscripts.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

10 am

Ruggles Hall

Free and open to the public. Registration required.
Open to the Public
Chicago Studies Programs

A gritty realist drama about Irish Americans in one of Chicago’s toughest early 20th-century neighborhoods, in which a cop and a priest collaborate to save a young man at risk.


  • Welcome
  • A brief introduction to Kenneth Sawyer Goodman and his plays: Florice Whyte Kovan
  • Theatrical reading of Back of the Yards
  • Talkback discussion with the audience about the play and Goodman’s contributions to Chicago literature: dramaturg June Skinner Sawyers and the director and cast

Directed by Peter Garino, and featuring actors from the Shakespeare Project of Chicago: Kayla Carter, Deborah Clifton, John Kishline, Daniel Millhouse, and Randy Steinmeyer

Cosponsored with the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, the Phantom Collective, Snickersee Press, and the Newberry’s program in Chicago Studies.

About Kenneth Sawyer Goodman

Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, born in 1883, was involved in Chicago’s Little Theater movement that developed in the early 1900s. From 1910 until his early death in the influenza pandemic of 1918, 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 theater directors Thomas Wood Stevens and B. Iden Payne. Goodman’s best 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 family lumber business during those creative years, he began to formulate plans for a theater that would combine a repertory company with a dramatic arts school, with faculty made up of actors in the company. After his death, in tribute, his father established the Goodman Theatre. It 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.

Download a PDF poster for this event to share and distribute, and explore the inventory of the Newberry’s Kenneth Sawyer Goodman Papers, 1883-1971.

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Cost and Registration Information 

Free and open to the public; registration required. Register using this online form by 8 am Saturday, February 23.

Doors open half an hour before the program begins, with first-come, first-served seating for registered attendees. If seats remain available, walk-ins will be admitted about ten minutes before the event’s start.

People with disabilities and other accessibility concerns can request to be seated first. To reserve an access-friendly space in the room, first register using the link above, then email at least 48 hours before the event. Seats arranged in this way will be held until 10 minutes before the event starts.