Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation’s premier ensemble theater company, unveiled its path to welcoming audiences back to the theater—and not the same one they left but a stunning new 50,000 sq. ft. theater building and education center on Halsted Street. As the world came to a pause in 2020, the walls of the state-of-the-art arts facility continued to rise, symbolizing hope for the entire Chicago arts community. Designed by world-renowned architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) with theater design and acoustics by Charcoalblue, the transformed Steppenwolf campus will change the way Chicagoans and visitors experience the company’s cutting-edge theater with a new 400-seat Round Theater—one of its kind in Chicago—an education center, breathtaking city views, and new bars for community and socializing. The 2021/22 season kicks-off in the fall with a special event that invites the entire arts community and city to experience this landmark project; details to be announced.
Designed by World-Renowned Architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
The opening of our new building is a testimony to the confidence that the cultural heartbeat of Chicago will come roaring back with the grandness this city deserves,” shares Executive Director E. Brooke Flanagan. “Together, we have created a home for the ensemble and a physical manifestation of our promise to the City of Chicago—Steppenwolf will continue its legacy of creation and service for generations to come.”
For the first time in Steppenwolf’s 46-year history, each play in the 2021/22 season is written by an ensemble member and each production reinforces the Chicago resilience of the storied company and its commitment to audiences. In Fall 2021, Steppenwolf builds on the global reach and acclaim of its virtual stage (currently streaming in all 50 states and more than 20 countries) with a lineup of new virtual works by ensemble members Tina Landau, Tracy Letts and Tarell Alvin McCraney. These pieces create the opening landscape of the season and will be available via single tickets (or as a discounted bundle), serving as a bridge in the lead-up to a safe return to live theater and packed houses.
Our virtual stage is a celebration of the profound connection that theatre—in whatever form it finds itself—offers us all. Whether it’s Tina’s physically explosive examination of female friendships, Tracy’s deft and hilarious vignettes on aging or Tarell’s lyrical exploration of a marginalized life hanging in the balance. Each story carries the truly original imprimatur of these Steppenwolf voices for this particular moment: as graceful as they are irreverent, as rebellious as they are joyful, as funny as they are heartbreaking,” shares Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.
In November 2021, Steppenwolf welcomes audiences back to the theater as it raises the curtain once again on the blistering and extraordinary revival of Bug by ensemble member Tracy Letts, directed by David Cromer with ensemble members Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood reprising their roles. Shut down during its run last year, this production’s return is the company’s bold refusal to let the disaster of COVID re-write its story.
"The set of Bug is still on the stage and our chapter with that production is not closed. These stunning performances—and this award-winning production—will once again reverberate throughout the building and welcome back our audiences to the Steppenwolf they know and love: brave, brazen, and defiant,” shares Shapiro.
The 2021/22 season also brings to the Downstairs Theater the highly anticipated productions of the previous season that had been postponed: the world premiere of King James by ensemble member Rajiv Joseph, directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro (February 2022), which is co-commissioned and co-produced with Center Theatre Group; and a fresh staging of the Tony-nominated play Choir Boy by Oscar-winning ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney, one of our country’s most important voices. Closing out the celebratory 2021/22 season, McCraney’s Choir Boy is an elegy to quiet rebellion—a love song in pianissimo to the unseen heart that beats inside us all.
FOR THE TEENS!
EVE EWING’S 1919 DEBUTS IN NEW ROUND THEATER
Rendering of the Round Theater by AS+GG. Note: Set design is not representative of Eve Ewing’s 1919.
Steppenwolf was founded more than 45 years ago by a circle of students who craved a space to call their own. The Arts and Education Center continues that vision and amplifies its reach, becoming a place for students, educators, and aspiring artists to call home.
It is fitting then, that in February 2022 the first live production in the new Round Theater will be for teens with Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ world premiere adaptation of Eve L. Ewing’s 1919. Adapted by J. Nicole Brooks, 1919 is the story of the killing of 17-year-old Eugene Williams in treacherous waters off the segregated 1919 Lake Michigan shoreline. The next eight days and their aftermath constitute an under-told episode of the city’s history. It is a bold, lyrical exploration of Black Chicagoans' resistance, fortitude, and endurance: past, present and future.
Part of Steppenwolf Education’s robust department, Steppenwolf for Young Adults (SYA) brings high-quality theatre to artistically curious young adults across Chicago with two full-scale professional productions each season. These shows are performed during the week for students with limited performances available to the public on the weekend. More information at steppenwolf.org/education.
GRAND PUBLIC OPENING OF ROUND THEATER – SEAGULL FEATURING ALL ENSEMBLE CAST!
Rendering of the Round Theater by AS+GG. Note: Set design is not representative of Seagull.
In April 2022, with great anticipation and joy, ensemble member Yasen Peyankov’s extraordinarily funny and magical adaptation of Seagull ushers in the grand public opening of the Round Theater. Stacked with an all ensemble cast, the play’s questions about the necessity of art and theater could not be more poignant, and the cast of intergenerational ensemble members could not be hungrier to walk out onto the new stage together.
“Seagull is a play, among many other things, about theatre. It starts with a theatre performance that is the catalyst the stories that unfold during the play. Just as we have missed getting together with our friends and families, our ensemble has missed being in a room together to perform plays. Actors love Chekhov for the complicated, deeply human and flawed characters that he offers to them. What better way to come back and restart our love for live theatre again,” shares Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.
NEW 1650 N HALSTED LOBBY EXPERIENCE AND BARS!
Renderings of Steppenwolf’s new redesigned lobby space and two bars. Credit: fc STUDIO, inc.
With Bug set in the Downstairs Theater, audiences first return to Steppenwolf will be a brand-new theatergoing experience as they enter the transformed 1650 N Halsted Street lobby space, which now seamlessly connects the theater’s existing building with the new Arts and Education Center. The second floor lobby of the Downstairs Theater has been renovated to house a stylish wine bar and gathering space. In the lobby of the new Arts and Education Center is a beer-focused bar that connects to an outdoor patio area. Designed by fc STUDIO, inc, these improvements are part of the multi-phase campus expansion. The two new full-service bars join Steppenwolf’s popular Front Bar (1700 N Halsted Street) to offer audiences, artists and all of Chicago welcoming new spaces for socializing in the Halsted Corridor of Lincoln Park. View renderings of the remodeled Downstairs Theater lobby and new bars here.
Membership is a profound endorsement: an investment in the heart of live storytelling. Classic Memberships offer access to the full 2021/22 season in a variety of day and time options with superior customer service and flexible, easy exchanges. Memberships begin at $81. Accessible Series and Student/Teacher discount memberships are also available. To renew or become a member, visit steppenwolf.org or call Audience Services at 312-335-1650.
As we chart our thoughtful course back to a robust return to stage, we hold the deepest gratitude for our trustees, donors, and loyal audience members who continued to support us this past year, made our innovative work in the virtual space possible and kept the storytelling alive. There are no better audiences than Chicago audiences—and our new campus aims to be the cultural nexus for the City, welcoming everyone through the doors to join in the irreplaceable communion of shared live performance,” adds Flanagan.
Click image to access high res. renderings of the new building
Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 2021/22 Season
(All plays, artists and dates are subject to change)
A NEW VIRTUAL LINEUP FOR FALL 2021
New Works from ensemble members Tracy Letts, Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney
Three Short Plays by ensemble member Tracy Letts
Streaming September 2021
The subject matter of these individual plays will be immediately familiar to any audience: love, madness, loneliness, loss, horse racing. The plays do share at least one thread: a world off-kilter. But since I wrote these pieces, the actual world has undergone some hair-raising transformations, which have cast mysterious new light on these plays. They feel very much like stories for 2021,” shares ensemble member Tracy Letts.
The Old Country
Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts
Directed by Patrick Zakem
Featuring ensemble members William Petersen and Karen Rodriguez with Mike Nussbaum
An Animated Short
Two men in a diner drain the last drops of their coffees and think about ordering dessert. In the denouement of their (physical, intellectual, and sexual) lives, they wax nostalgic and try to communicate across a wide divide.
Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts
Directed by Patrick Zakem
With Rainn Wilson
The nocturnal habits of the Panamanian Night Monkey, the life cycle of the Paradoxical Frog, and the mating rituals of middle-aged male homo sapiens. This wry monologue poses the question: are we so distant from the whims of our biology? Enjoy your tour, and please remember—do not feed the animals.
Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts
Directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro
And they’re off, for the 108th running of the El Dorado Stakes! But this race is long-distance... and maybe not what it first seems...
A New Play by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by by ensemble member Amy Morton
A Filmed Play Streaming October 2021
Currently in process, two vital forces in the American Theatre have come together for the first time to create a theatrical experience for our virtual platform. This production will engage the structure of a one-act told through a series of confessional monologues.
The Light Remains
Written and Directed by ensemble member Tina Landau
A Filmed Play
Streaming November 2021
Intersecting lives. A surprise invitation. A secret meeting spot. A phone booth. Ghosts. A lot of dancing. Music. Rage. And balloons. Six solo short stories culminate in one shared, explosive act in a tale about what’s been lost and the myriad ways in which we grieve—including celebration and laughter.
“This new digital platform invites new form, new content, and new accessibility. It's as if there are no rules, and few precedents, and a wide open expanse of possibility—and I want to maximize and celebrate those wild new possibilities in what I make for Steppenwolf,” shares ensemble member Tina Landau.
Virtual Ticket Information
Virtual works are included 2021/22 Classic Membership packages. Single tickets for each fall virtual offering will also be available; details to be released closer to the streaming date.
ON THE STAGE
By ensemble member Tracy Letts
Directed by David Cromer
Featuring ensemble members Randall Arney, Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood with Jennifer Engstrom and Steve Key
November 11 – December 12, 2021
In the Downstairs Theater
In Fall 2021, Steppenwolf raises the curtain once again on the blistering and extraordinary revival of Bug by Tracy Letts, featuring ensemble members Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood. Shut down two weeks before closing, this production’s return is the company’s bold refusal to let the disaster of COVID re-write its story. These stunning performances—and this award-winning production—will once again reverberate throughout the building and welcome back our audiences to the Steppenwolf they know and love: brave, brazen, and defiant.
In a seedy Oklahoma motel room, a lonely waitress begins an unexpected love affair with a young drifter. And then they see the first bugs…Tracy Letts’s mind-bending cult classic is a luridly funny tale of love, paranoia and government conspiracy.
Members who wish to see this award-winning production again can add this show to their season package.
A world premiere presented by Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group
By ensemble member Rajiv Joseph
Directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro
Featuring ensemble member Glenn Davis with Chris Perfetti
February 24 – April 3, 2022
In the Downstairs Theater
King James, co-commissioned and co-produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group
“King” LeBron James’s reign in Cleveland brings promise, prosperity, and renewal to a city in desperate need of all three. It also brings together two childhood friends who communicate best when they are talking and arguing about sports. King James is an intimate exploration of the place that sports and athletes occupy in our emotional lives and relationships. It explores the star player’s impact on Cleveland, from his rookie season to the city’s historic championship, and the lives of these two unlikely friends whose turbulent relationship is best navigated through their shared love of the sport in a verbal game of one on one. Though he is never seen in the show, LeBron James serves as a symbol for the hopes, desires, and fears that they have bottled up since childhood.
Originally slated for last season, King James returns this season with even deeper meaning as each of us has been asked to examine our relationships to one another and the story those relationships tell about us—especially when we lose them.
By Anton Chekhov
Translated, adapted and directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov
Directed by Tamilla Woodard
Featuring ensemble members Ian Barford, Cliff Chamberlain, Francis Guinan, Tim Hopper, Sandra Marquez, James Vincent Meredith, Caroline Neff, Karen Rodriguez and Namir Smallwood
April 28 – June 12, 2022
In the NEW Round Theater
In a giant country house filled to overflow on a long summer weekend in the Russian countryside, three generations collide in Yasen Peyankov’s extraordinarily funny and magical adaption of Anton Chekhov’s Seagull, the play that will open our new Theater-In-The-Round. In classic Chekhovian style, an all-ensemble cast will wrestle with the eternal questions that haunt the intellectual artist class: What is Love? What is Art? When is Lunch? Please join us for this historical moment in Steppenwolf’s journey as we explore the work that inspired us, laugh at the battles that consume us and celebrate, together, all that makes us grateful for each other.
“Now more than ever the absence of live theatre looms large in our lives. Is it necessary? Can we live without it? Since the beginning of humanity people have sat around telling and listening to stories. It nourishes a deeply embedded need in all of us to be in a space together where we can let our dreams and fantasies fly. Seagull is a play, among many other things, about theatre. It starts with a theatre performance that is the catalyst for the stories that unfold during the play. Just as we have missed getting together with our friends and families, our ensemble has missed being in a room together to perform plays. Actors love Chekhov for the complicated, deeply human and flawed characters that he offers to them. What better way to come back and restart our love for live theatre again?,” shares Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.
By ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Kent Gash
Featuring ensemble member James Vincent Meredith with Daniel Kyri
June 16 - July 24, 2022
In the Downstairs Theater
Pharus Young, now a senior at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, an institution committed to building “strong, ethical black men,” endeavors to be the best leader of the school’s prestigious choir in its 50-year history. But in a world built on rites and rituals, should he conform to the expectations of his peers in order to gain the respect he desperately seeks? Written by Oscar-winning ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), this Tony nominated play—threaded throughout with soul-stirring a cappella gospel hymns—is the story of a young gay black man and his battle between identity and community.
Tarell Alvin McCraney is one of our country’s most important voices. Speaking as he does for both the unseen masses and the spectacularly singular, there is simply no journey he goes on that we would not want to follow. Choir Boy is an elegy to quiet rebellion, filled with the sound of longing and aspiration. It is a love song in pianissimo to the unseen heart that beats inside us all. We are so thrilled to finally present Tarell’s acclaimed work at his artistic home.
Classic Membership packages include three plays in the Downstairs Theater, one play in the Round Theater and all five Steppenwolf NOW virtual productions. For more info or to purchase, visit steppenwolf.org/memberships. Specialty membership packages available for Accessible Series, which utilize Audio Description, Open Captioning or American Sign Language-Interpretation services. For more information visit steppenwolf.org/accessibility or e-mail email@example.com
Steppenwolf for Young Adults
How will we move forward when we have yet to confront our past?
In these two productions curated for a teen audience, Steppenwolf for Young Adults examines what it means to take ownership over our personal and systemic traumas, and how the arts can help us discover our future selves.
THE RED FOLDER PROJECT
Inspired by Red Folder
An illustrated play written, directed and illustrated by ensemble member Rajiv Joseph
Featuring ensemble member Carrie Coon
In Rajiv Joseph's Red Folder, a first grader's elementary school folder is just a folder, until it isn't. In this short virtual play, a child's world is turned upside down when he starts to believe his self-worth should be measured by which side of his school folder, left or right, his work belongs in. Inspired by this exceptional piece of storytelling, Joseph’s play will be packaged for teachers to stream for free in classrooms around the world in addition to a suite of virtual fodder encouraging students to consider their own red folders by asking, “How can art act as a tool for reflection, helping us to see something from our past in a new light?”
By Eve L. Ewing
Adapted by J. Nicole Brooks
Directed by Gabrielle Randle-Bent
In the NEW Round Theater
Weekday performances for students; limited weekend performances open to public
After nearly two years in quarantine, Steppenwolf will feature its first live production for teens with an incredible world premiere adaptation of Eve L. Ewing’s 1919, which tells the story of the killing of seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams in treacherous waters off the segregated 1919 Lake Michigan shoreline. The next eight days and their aftermath constitute an under-told episode of the city’s history. Adapted from Ewing’s poems, J. Nicole Brooks’s play is a bold, lyrical exploration of Black Chicagoans’ resistance, fortitude, and endurance: past, present, and future.
A Safe Return
Steppenwolf is working in partnership with the city and state on re-opening safety guidelines for the performing arts and will update the website (steppenwolf.org/welcomeback) as protocols around mask regulations and social distancing requirements are confirmed for both audience members and Steppenwolf’s audience experience team. We are committed to ensuring your safety and comfort. Steppenwolf has worked over the past year with our operations team, public health advisors and HVAC consultants to prepare our facility to safely welcome patrons back for performances. The addition of the new Arts and Education Center has expanded the square footage of our lobbies to nearly twice the previous amount of space offered to guests. Two additional elevators and multiple stairways have also been added to our campus for ease of transition between seating levels. Our HVAC systems are undergoing upgrades to allow for increased filtration and a higher percentage of circulated fresh air across all three theaters.
The New Steppenwolf Campus
Renderings of Steppenwolf’s new expanded campus by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.
Designed by world-renowned architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, and London-based theater design team Charcoalblue (led by John Owens with theatre designer Ben Hanson and acoustic designer Byron Harrison), and built by Chicago-based Norcon Construction (led by Jeff Jozwiak), Steppenwolf’s new facility is 50,000 sq. ft building featuring an innovative 400-seat Round Theater only six rows deep—the only one of its kind in Chicago; a dedicated education floor, tripling the reach and impact of Steppenwolf’s nationally recognized education work; a bright and open two-story atrium lobby, a wine bar and a sidewalk lounge, increasing the social gathering spaces where artists and audiences converge.
Designed with the highest accessibility standards, the new theater building is located at 1646 N Halsted between the existing parking garage (which will remain) and the main theater building, seamlessly connecting the campus across the west side of Halsted Street. As part of this expansion phase, the lobbies of the Downstairs Theater are undergoing major renovations to better serve audiences.
The parking garage at 1624 N Halsted remains with cosmetic changes to its façade to create symmetry across the campus. Increased valet service will be offered to continue to make parking easy, and accessible parking will be available next to Front Bar at 1700 N Halsted. “The expansion of Steppenwolf will introduce new relationships with its patrons, neighborhood and Chicago as a whole. Architecturally the design fits within the character of the neighborhood, recognizing the significance of its presence along Halsted Street while respecting our neighbors,” shares lead architect Gordon Gill.
For more details Steppenwolf’s Campus Expansion, visit steppenwolf.org/buildingonexcellence.
Access high resolution renderings >> here
Committed to making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to everyone, performances featuring American Sign Language Interpretation, Open Captioning and Audio Description are offered during the run of each live play. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance and the Downstairs and 1700 Theaters are each equipped with an induction hearing loop. All theatres feature wheelchair accessible seating and restrooms, and Front Bar features a push-button entrance, all-gender restrooms and accessible counter and table spaces.
United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf is also grateful for the significant season support from Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, John Hart and Carol Prins, Illinois Arts Council Agency, Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, Anne and Don Phillips, The Shubert Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a Chicago theater that is home to America’s ensemble. The company began performing in the mid-1970s in the basement of a Highland Park, IL church—today Steppenwolf is the nation’s premier ensemble theater with more than 50 members who are among the top actors, playwrights and directors in the field. Groundbreaking productions from Balm in Gilead and August: Osage County to Downstate and Pass Over—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony® Awards—have made the theatre legendary. Artistic programming includes a main stage season, a Steppenwolf for Young Adults season, LookOut, a multi-genre performances series and Steppenwolf NOW, a new virtual programming stream. The nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf Education engages more than 20,000 participants annually in Chicagoland communities promoting compassion, encouraging curiosity and inspiring action. Deeply rooted in its ensemble ethos, the company is committed to equity, diversity, inclusion and making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to all. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, more than 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and E. Brooke Flanagan is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees.
Steppenwolf strives to create thrilling, courageous and provocative art in a thoughtful and inclusive environment. We succeed when we disrupt your routine with experiences that spark curiosity, empathy and joy. We invite you to join our ensemble as we navigate, together, our complex world.