Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a Tony Award-winning Chicago theatre company founded in 1974 by Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney, and Jeff Perry in the Unitarian church on Half Day Road in Deerfield. It has since relocated to Chicago's Halsted Street, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Its name comes from the Hermann Hesse novel. Martha Lavey, long-time ensemble member, has been artistic director since 1995 and David Hawkanson has been executive director since 2003.
One of the more recent plays done by Steppenwolf was Lord of the Flies. A newly done revival of this classic tale. Starring roles included Spencer Curnutt as Ralph, Cale Manning as Percival, Dan Smeriglio as Piggy, Ty Olwin as Jack, and William Burke as Bill. A plane wreck strands a group of English boys on a deserted island during wartime. As they slowly explore their new-found freedom, what starts out as fun and games turns into a vicious battle for power when the boys split into two opposing tribes: one that strives for civility and another that delights in savage violence. The competition escalates into a dangerous, frightening climax, as this thrilling classic looks into the darker parts of human nature where it’s civilization vs. savagery and the mob vs. morality. This and upcoming shows in the young adult theatre's theme is, when the game changes how will you play. In the downstairs theatre they are currently showing the Wheel, a new play written by Tina Landau. A spellbinding new play about what happens to hope and human nature in times of war. On a 19th-century Spanish farm, Beatriz is happily preparing for her sister’s wedding when the house is overrun by soldiers. In the chaos, she becomes the unintentional guardian of a young girl. Her determination to reunite the child with her father sweeps Beatriz along on a journey across war zones and through time. But what began as a simple act of kindness takes on a strange twist when the girl seems to acquire curious powers
In 1980, the theater company moved into a 134-seat theater at the Jane Addams Hull House Center on Broadway Avenue in Chicago proper. Two years later, the company moved to a 211-seat facility at 2851 N. Halsted Street, which was their home until 1991, when they completed construction on and moved into their current theater complex at 1650 N. Halsted Street, where the company has helped make Chicago the leading U.S. city for the performing arts.
In its inaugural season, the company presented Paul Zindel's And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Grease, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.
In 1982, Sam Shepard's True West, starring Sinise and John Malkovich, was the first of many Steppenwolf productions to travel to New York City. In 1994, the company made its Los Angeles debut with Steve Martin's first play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and in 1996, after successful runs in Chicago and New York, Lyle Kessler's Orphans, directed by Gary Sinise, was the first Steppenwolf production to go international, debuting in London.
Notable productions include:
- True West (play), by Sam Shepard
- Balm in Gilead by Lanford Wilson
- And a Nightingale Sang, by C. P. Taylor
- Orphans (Lyle Kessler play)
- Coyote Ugly (1985) by Lynn Seifert, directed by John Malkovich
- Burn This, by Lanford Wilson
- The Grapes of Wrath, adapted by company member Frank Galati
Through its New Plays Initiative, the company maintains ongoing relationships with writers of international prominence while continuing to support the work of aspiring and mid-career playwrights. In 1988, Steppenwolf presented the world premiere of The Grapes of Wrath, based on the John Steinbeck novel, which eventually went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play. In 2000 it presented the world premiere of Austin Pendleton's Orson's Shadow, which subsequently was staged off-Broadway and by regional theatres throughout the country.
In December 2007, Steppenwolf opened a new play written and directed by ensemble members at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. Tracy Letts' August: Osage County was hailed by the New York Times as "... flat out, no asterisks and without qualifications the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years." Directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro and featuring seven ensemble members, August: Osage County was number one in Time's Top Ten Theatre Performances of 2007. After moving from the Imperial Theatre next door to The Music Box Theatre for an open-ended run, August: Osage County garnered five Tony Awards including Best Play of 2007, Best Director (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Leading Actress (Deanna Dunagan), Best Featured Actress (Rondi Reed), and Best Scenic Design (Todd Rosenthal). Letts' went on to win the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play. 'August' closed on Broadway on Sunday, June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews, to become one of the longest running plays in Broadway history. Concurrently, in November 2008 the play opened at the Royal National Theatre in London for a soaringly successful 10 week run with most of the original Broadway cast, ultimately winning that year's Olivier Award for Rosenthal's set design.
Steppenwolf helped to launch the careers of a number of well-known American actors, including Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, Joan Allen, John Mahoney, Martha Plimpton, Glenne Headly, Gary Cole, Terry Kinney, Kathryn Erbe, and Laurie Metcalf.
In 2009 Steppenwolf was recognized by The Wall Street Journal as a Top Small Workplace in America. Additionally, in 2010 Steppenwolf's apprenticeship program was honored for the second consecutive year as one of the Top 10 Internships in America by leading career website Vault.com.
Among its many honors are the Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence (1985) and the National Medal of Arts (1998).
- Steppenwolf @ Twenty-Five. Steppenwolf Theater Company. p. 2.
- Martin Banham -The Cambridge Guide to Theatre 1995 -- Page 1035 Notable productions include True West, Balm in Gilead, And a Nightingale Sang, Orphans, Coyote Ugly, Burn This, and company member Frank Galati's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. ...
- Best Plays 1983-1984 - Page 59 Otis L. Guernsey - 1989 "Coyote Ugly by Lynn Seifert (San Francisco: Berkeley Stage) — The slightly outrageous story of a hard bitten, depraved family living in the Arizona desert unfolds in the crackling, wild dialogue of this young wild dialogue of this young playwright who was runner- up in the Susan Smith Blackburn competition for women playwrights in 1984."
- Current Biography Yearbook - Volume 49 1989 -- Page 355 "After reprising Biff for a taped CBS television version of Death of a Salesman, Malkovich returned to Chicago in March 1985 to direct Lynn Seifert's Coyote Ugly at the Steppenwolf Theatre. "
- Charles Isherwood (5 December 2007). "Mama Doesn’t Feel Well, but Everyone Else Will Feel Much Worse". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Richard Zoglin; Tracy Letts (2007-12-09). "Top 10 Theater Productions". Time. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company official website
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Internet Broadway Database