Daryl Roth, a Broadway producer who has won 10 Tony Awards and produced seven Pulitzer Prize winning plays, is the recipient of this year’s award from the Dartmouth Centennial Circle of Alumnae.
The Centennial Circle is a donor recognition society under the Dartmouth College Fund, which was founded in 1914. According to executive director of the Dartmouth College Fund Sylvia Racca, the fund was started by a group of alumni who donated funds to rebuild Dartmouth Hall, which burnt down in 1904.
In 2014, on the 100th anniversary of DCF, the fund’s committee chair Catherine Briggs ’88 co-founded the Centennial Circle with the aim of including female alumni in the financial support of Dartmouth students. The original goal was to reach 100 female alumni as members of the circle, with each donating $100,000 toward financial aid primarily for female students in both the undergraduate and graduate schools at the College. To date, 152 women have joined the circle, with alumni ranging from ’76s to ’04s and including prominent individuals such as Shonda Rhimes ’91.
From April 20 to 21, the group will hold the Third Annual Centennial Circle Forum, the latest iteration of the main fundraising event for the circle. In 2015, the forum was centered around experiential learning, and the award was given to Leymah Gbowee, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as an activist leading the women’s peace movement in Liberia, and whose son attends Dartmouth. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters and also gave the 2016 commencement speech.
According to Racca, 2016 was the 25th anniversary of the Women in Science Project, so the 2016 forum was centered around women in STEM. The winner was Heidi Williams ’03, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This year, the Centennial Circle decided to center around a woman in theater, although they originally considered focusing on a woman involved in politics, Racca said.
“Actually, we were going to do politics, but then we decided there was too much politics in the world today, so we focused on the arts,” she said.
Once they decided the theme for the forum, the group consulted with faculty, volunteers and other members of the circle to identify an award recipient. The circle then presented suggestions to College President Phil Hanlon and provost Carolyn Dever, who made the final decision for the Centennial Circle Award recipient, Racca said.
Roth is connected to Dartmouth through her husband, Steven Roth ’62 Th’63, and her daughter, Amanda Roth Salzhauer ’93. The Roths were the principal donors to the Roth Center for Jewish Life. Roth said she has had a passion for theater since her childhood in New Jersey, when her parents would often take her and her sister to Broadway shows in New York City.
“I just grew up loving musicals mostly, and then as I got older, I was introduced to plays, and it just became a passion of mine,” she said.
She later attended Syracuse University, originally as an art history major, but she ultimately transferred to and graduated from New York University. She became a producer in her forties after many years of wanting to pursue the career.
“[I] thought I would be someone who could add something to the theatrical landscape in the plays that I would relate to,” Roth said.
Roth said when choosing plays to produce, she tends to be interested in those with strong female characters and plays that deal with gender issues and family dynamics.
“They’re often risky and challenging subjects,” she explained.
Roth has produced over 100 productions, both on and off Broadway. One of the projects she said she is most proud of is “Kinky Boots,” a project she initiated after watching the British film by the same name.
“I optioned [the film], and then I invited the creative team to come together, and then we really did birth that from the beginning, which is very satisfying,” she said.
Roth said two other projects that stand out for her in her career are “The Normal Heart,” for which she won the 2011 Tony Award, and “Wit,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Along with “Kinky Boots,” her current Broadway productions include “Indecent,” which was written by playwright Paula Vogel, whose work Roth had previously produced.
“I felt that [“Indecent”] reflected so much of what is important to me,” Roth said. “It’s a tribute to theater and the passion people have for the arts.”
Theater professor Carol Dunne, who will be speaking at the forum, said she admires Roth for many of her productions. One of her favorites is “The Flick” by Annie Baker, which Roth did not produce but was involved with the play. Dunne described it as a “a three-hour play directed with unbelievable attention to reality, so much so that there are several minute pauses in it.”
Dunne said Roth displayed courage as a producer.
“There is an incredible breadth to her choice of projects that exemplifies a belief in the art of theater in wildly different format,” Dunne said. “She’s not afraid of work that is not strictly for a mass audience, but she’s interested in works that helps change the way people see the world.”
Dunne said she will be attending the forum to speak about the newly established “E-term,” in which Dartmouth theater students are trained under the Northern Stage Company, a theater in White River Junction. Roth is an inspiration for students participating in the “E-term,” she said.
“We’re moving our students towards a career that hopefully someday has an impact like Roth’s career,” Dunne said.
Initially, Roth said she was hesitant to accept the Centennial Circle Award because she is not a Dartmouth alum, but she was encouraged to do so by her daughter, a member of the Centennial Circle. Roth’s award will be a copper bowl representing the bonfire run at Homecoming.
Diana Taylor ’77, who is presenting the award to Roth at the forum, said the Centennial Circle is about fostering the next generation of women. To that end, Roth said she advises Dartmouth undergraduates and young people in general to “find what you love and work hard at it, and make it your life.”
Correction Appended (April 17, 2017): This article previously stated that Dartmouth Hall burned down in 1914, when in fact it actually burned down in 1904. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.
Correction Appended (April 18, 2017): This article previously stated that Roth produced "The Flick," when in fact she did not produce it but had an investment in the production.