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World premiere comedy by Tracy Letts among new works in Steppenwolf’s 2016-17 season

Submitted by on Mar 10, 2016 – 3:51 pm

A new play by Tracy Letts will premiere at Steppenwolf.

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.


First Season Curated by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro Features Expanded Season, New Stream of Multidisciplinary Programming and New Option for Flexible Membership

2016/17 Season Features World Premieres from Ensemble Member Tracy Letts and Antoinette Nwandu, David Rabe and Erika Sheffer

“Voice Lessons” Starring Ensemble Member Laurie Metcalf Opens 1700 Theatre — Steppenwolf’s New 80-seat Black Box

CHICAGO (March 7, 2016) – Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced today the 2016/17 Season, the first to be curated by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro and the Steppenwolf artistic team. The new season brings many exciting changes that embrace expanded artistic offerings, flexibility and a diverse selection of experiences, featuring the ensemble in ways both familiar and new. In 2016/17, Steppenwolf will produce an expanded six-play Subscription Season, as opposed to the previous five-play season, in a new format that features four plays in the Downstairs Theatre with the opportunity for subscribers to choose between two productions in the Upstairs Theatre.

Highlights of the expanded 2016/17 Subscription Season include a moving and enthralling world premiere from playwright David Rabe (Streamers, Hurlyburly) to be directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro; a smart and insightful new play commissioned by Steppenwolf from playwright Erika Sheffer to be directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov, the team behind Russian Transport; a world premiere comedy from ensemble member Tracy Letts; a sly and subversive family comedy from Taylor Mac; and Chicago premieres from acclaimed playwrights Lucas Hnath and Young Jean Lee. Ensemble members Alana Arenas, Ian Barford, K. Todd Freeman, Francis Guinan, Jon Michael Hill, Tim Hopper, Amy Morton, Sally Murphy and Alan Wilder will be featured next season.

An additional seventh play, the world premiere of Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, will be produced in May 2017 in the Upstairs Theatre. Winner of the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, Antoinette Nwandu is an exciting new voice in the American theater. Pass Over will run in the non-subscription summer slot; however, subscribers will have access to pre-sale tickets.

“Putting this season together, the first curated by our new artistic team, has been hugely exciting and deeply rewarding. I have been a part of the Steppenwolf family for over 20 years and I share a deep commitment to the continued excellence of our theater. As artistic director, it is my goal to generate more opportunities to make manifest that excellence, with both increased opportunities for our current ensemble as well as more chances to feature younger and more diverse artists we hope will help shape our future,” shares Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.

In May 2016, Steppenwolf’s new 80-seat black box at 1700 N Halsted opens under the name, 1700 Theatre. A casual, intimate and flexible space, the new theater will be dedicated to showcasing the work of the Steppenwolf ensemble and emerging local theater companies. It will also be the home of Lookouta new performance series presenting a wide variety of genres and shows, from dance to live music to spoken word and beyond.

Kicking off the Lookout series is the Chicago premiere of Voice Lessons, an outrageous one-act comedy starring ensemble member Laurie Metcalf (May 31 – June 12, 2016) in the 1700 Theatre.

As part of Steppenwolf’s continuing commitment to Visiting Company engagements, this summer the 1700 Theatre will host a remount of Definition Theatre Company and The New Colony’s hit production of Byhalia, Mississippi (July 22 – August 21, 2016). Details enclosed.

The complete summer lineup for the new Lookout series will be announced in April 2016.

With the increased programming, Steppenwolf has created a new flexible membership option called the Steppenwolf Black Card providing audiences with a new and easy way to access the offerings. The Steppenwolf Black Card goes on sale August 1, 2016. Season subscription packages will still be available and are currently on sale. Packages start at $100. Student, educator and access discount subscriptions available. To purchase a 2016/17 subscription, visit Audience Services at 1650 N Halsted St, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 2016/17 Subscription Season (All plays, artists and dates are subject to change)

World Premiere Visiting Edna By David Rabe

Directed by Artistic Director and ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro

Featuring ensemble members Ian Barford, K. Todd Freeman and Sally Murphy

September 15 – November 6, 2016 in the Downstairs Theatre

Edna has suffered a number of losses as she has aged, and now faces the stealthy advance of cancer embodied by an intimate figure that she could do without. Home for a visit, Edna’s son Andrew is trying to bridge the gulf between the childhood love they shared and the aggressively polite but baffling relationship they now live with. Mother and son stumble toward honesty as they wrestle with the distractions-both mundane and profound—that keep us from real connection.

David Rabe is a Tony Award-winning playwright well-known for Streamers, Hurlyburly, Sticks and Bones and the Gift Theatre’s recent world premiere production of Good for Otto. Anna D. Shapiro is a Tony Award-winning director well-known for August: Osage County, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Of Mice and Men and This Is Our Youth. She directs the upcoming world premiere of Mary Page Marlowe by Tracy Letts (March 31 – May 29, 2016).

World Premiere The Fundamentals By Erika Sheffer

Directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov

Featuring ensemble members Alana Arenas and Alan Wilder

November 10 – December 23, 2016 in the Upstairs Theatre

Millie is a smart, resourceful young mother who works as a housekeeper in one of New York’s premiere luxury hotels. When an opportunity to move into management gives her the chance to leave behind her blue collar life, Millie must decide how much, and who, she’s willing to sacrifice to secure her family’s future. A funny and scathing look at America’s corporate culture, The Fundamentals examines the compromises we make in order to fulfill our dreams.

The Fundamentals was commissioned by Steppenwolf and developed as part of the First Look new play series in 2015. Erika Sheffer and ensemble member Yasen Peyankov last teamed up for Steppenwolf’s critically acclaimed production of Russian Transport in 2014.

Chicago Premiere The Christians By Lucas Hnath

Directed by ensemble member K. Todd Freeman

December 1, 2016 – January 29, 2017 in the Downstairs Theatre

Pastor Paul has spent 20 years successfully growing his church from a small storefront to a gleaming megachurch, but now he fears that there may be a crack in the theological foundation. As he shares his new belief in the nature of salvation, the message is met with surprise and then growing trepidation from his closest confidantes in the congregation, threatening to create a schism within the church. Hnath’s fascinating new play looks with great complexity and compassion at the relationship between belief and behavior—and its evenhanded, unbiased take on faith in modern America can be appreciated no matter what you believe.

Acclaimed playwright Lucas Hnath makes his Steppenwolf debut with The Christians. The play premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2015. Ensemble member K. Todd Freeman last directed the critically acclaimed production of Good People at Steppenwolf in 2012.

Chicago Premiere Straight White Men

Written and directed by Young Jean Lee

Featuring ensemble members Tim Hopper and Alan Wilder

February 2 – March 19, 2017 in the Upstairs Theatre

As Ed, a widower, prepares to celebrate Christmas, he calls his three grown sons back to the family home. Games are played, Chinese food is ordered, and brotherly pranks and trashtalk distract them from the ongoing issue that threatens to ruin the festivities: when personal identity is essential and privilege is a problem, what is a straight white man to do? Playwright/ Director Young Jean Lee takes an outside look at the traditional father/son play narrative, shedding new and often hilarious light on a story we think we know all too well.

Young Jean Lee is a writer, director, and filmmaker who has been called “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by The New York Times. She has toured her work to more than 30 cities around the world. Straight White Men was recently produced at The Public (New York); Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin, Germany), World Stage: Harbourfront Centre (Toronto, Canada) and Athens Festival (Athens, Greece).

World Premiere Linda Vista

By ensemble member Tracy Letts

Director TBA

Featuring ensemble members Ian Barford and Tim Hopper

March 30 – May 21, 2017 in the Downstairs Theatre

Wheeler is 50. His marriage is over, his job is mundane, and the best years of his life appear to be behind him. A move from the cot in his ex-wife’s garage to his own apartment opens up new possibilities for love and sex—complicated, painful and hilarious. Full of opinions, yet short on self-examination, Wheeler is a modern misanthrope who must reconcile the man he has become with the man he wants to be.

Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and member of the Steppenwolf ensemble. His works include August: Osage County, Superior Donuts, Man from Nebraska, Killer Joe and Bug, among others. He is also known for his portrayal of Andrew Lockhart in Showtime’s Homeland and can be seen in The Big Short and HBO’s Divorce. His new play Mary Page Marlowe will premiere at Steppenwolf, March 31 – May 29, 2016.

Chicago Premiere Hir

By Taylor Mac

Director TBA

Featuring ensemble members Francis Guinan and Amy Morton

June 29 – August 20, 2017 in the Downstairs Theatre

The classic dysfunctional family drama has just crashed through into a wholly original place. Meet Paige, a wife and mother liberated from an oppressive and abusive marriage; Max, her newly out transgender son; and Isaac, Max’s PTSD-addled older brother, who discovers a brand new war zone when he comes home from Afghanistan. Hir’s crusade to shake up the patriarchy is disarmingly funny, absurd and surprising as it looks at an American family forced to build a new world out of the pieces of the old.

Taylor Mac (who uses “judy”, lowercase sic, not as a name but as a gender pronoun) is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer. Named “one of the most exciting theater artists of our time,” by Time Out NY, judy is the author of 17 full-length plays and performance pieces including Hir, which placed on the top ten theater of 2015 lists of The New York Times, New York Magazine and Time Out NY.

Additional Summer Show

World Premiere Pass Over

By Antoinette Nwandu

Director TBA

Featuring ensemble member Jon Michael Hill

May 25 – July 2, 2017 in the Upstairs Theatre

In this bold, incendiary riff on Waiting for Godot, two young, black men stand around on the corner—talking shit, killing time and hoping that maybe today will be different. When a white man wanders into their space, an escalating crisis threatens to prevent their escape from the block. In Pass Over, pop culture, historical and religious references collide to create a hilarious and disturbing meditation on manhood, race, and the cycle of violence that prevents too many from realizing their full potential.

Antoinette Nwandu is a member of the Ars Nova Play Group. Her plays have been produced and developed by Page73, Ars Nova, The Flea and Naked Angels, among others. She is the recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, the Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. In spring 2016, Pass Over will receive a workshop as part of the Cherry Lane Mentor Project under the mentorship of Katori Hall.

Note: Pass Over is not offered as part of the 2016/17 Subscription Season; however, subscribers and Steppenwolf Black Card members will have the option to purchase tickets before the general public.

1700 Theatre & New “Lookout” Programming Series

Steppenwolf’s newest theater, the 1700 Theatre is a casual, intimate and flexible 80-seat space dedicated to showcasing the work of the Steppenwolf ensemble, emerging local theater companies and Lookout, Steppenwolf’s new multi-genre performance series, presenting a wide variety of work, coming from a diverse array of voices, artists emerging and established alike.

“Steppenwolf started as a group of friends performing risk-taking work in a small basement space in Highland Park. This new theater space echoes those beginnings, providing opportunities for our ensemble members to experiment in a black box setting without the pressure and restrictions of a mainstage run. It also opens the door to new, diverse artists, companies and a variety of performance styles, in turn welcoming new audiences into our home,” shares Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.

Kicking off the Lookout series is the Chicago premiere of Voice Lessons, a touring comedy starring ensemble member Laurie Metcalf and produced by Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger.

Lookout presents Voice Lessons By Justin Tanner

As originally directed by Bart Delorenzo

Produced by Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger

Featuring ensemble member Laurie Metcalf with Maile Flanagan and French Stewart

May 31 – June 12, 2016 in the 1700 Theatre Tickets go on sale Friday, April 22, 2016 at 11am

Justin Tanner’s comedy Voice Lessons, is about the unlikely romance between a deluded community theater actress (Metcalf) and the over-educated vocal coach (Stewart) she hires to make her a star. Maile Flanagan rounds out the cast.

Subsequent Lookout programming will include a wide variety of work ranging from improv and stand up to genre-bending performance pieces, live music to contemporary experimental dance, author readings, live podcasts and everything in-between.

“Our new black box space feeds into our vision of cementing Steppenwolf’s reputation as a major cultural and social hub. It will be the place where everything new at Steppenwolf has its beginning,” shares Managing Director David Schmitz.

As part of Steppenwolf’s continuing commitment to Visiting Company engagements, the 1700 Theatre will host a remount of Definition Theatre Company and The New Colony’s hit production of Byhalia, Mississippi (July 22 – August 21, 2016).

Definition Theatre Company and The New Colony present Byhalia, Mississippi

By Evan Linder 

Directed by Tyrone Phillips

July 22 – August 21, 2016 in the 1700 Theatre

Jim and Laurel Parker are about to become new parents. They are broke. They are loud. They are “proud white trash.” When Laurel gives birth to their long overdue child, she and Jim are faced with the biggest challenge of their lives. Byhalia, Mississippi explores a couple in the midst of turmoil and a town with a racially-charged past that finds its way into the present. Winner of Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, Tennessee, 2014 NewWorks@TheWorks playwriting competition.

Complete Lookout and 1700 Theatre summer calendar will be announced in April 2016.

Introducing the Steppenwolf Black Card

Steppenwolf is excited to offer a larger and more diverse selection of programming next season, and to that end has increased the ways in which audiences can experience the offerings.

Launching next season is the new Steppenwolf Black Card, a membership program offering extreme flexibility. The Steppenwolf Black Card provides six ticket credits that can be used at any time for any production at Steppenwolf. The credits are valid for one year, and there is the option to add on additional credits as needed. Additional perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing.

“We have heard from our audiences that they crave both choice and flexibility. The Steppenwolf Black Card will provide insider access to everything we have to offer, making it easier than ever to be a part of Steppenwolf,” shares Managing Director David Schmitz.

Audiences will be able to choose from three Steppenwolf Black Card options: Anytime ($70 a credit to use any way, any day of the week); Weeknight ($50 a credit to use Sunday evening – Thursday evening) and Preview ($30 a credit to use towards early performances in the run).

Steppenwolf Black Cards will go on sale August 1, 2016 through Audience Services at 312-335- 1650 and steppenwolf.org.

The Steppenwolf Black Card is modeled after the popular Steppenwolf Red Card, which offers audiences under the age of 30 the option to purchase six ticket credits at a discounted price to use towards any play, anytime.

Still available will be Steppenwolf’s Season Subscriptions including the Preview Series, Regular Series and Dinner Theatre Series, in addition to discounted Student/Educator Series, Accessible Series and Saver Series. With the new season format, subscribers will see five plays; four in the Downstairs Theatre with the option to choose between two shows in the Upstairs Theatre. Packages start at $100 and are currently available for purchase through Audience Services at 1650 N Halsted St, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.

Café & Bar

The 1700 Theatre will be located behind Steppenwolf’s new 2,500 square ft. café & bar slated to open in Spring 2016. More than a lobby space, the café & bar will be a creative space where guests can grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. With consultation from Steppenwolf’s friends and neighbors, Boka Restaurant Group (BRG), the café & bar space is a warm neighborhood hub serving artisanal coffee, espresso and tea by La Colombe by day while gradually moving to traditional bar service for the evening hours. A special bonus is the menu curated by Chef Chris Pandel of Swift & Sons and Balena. The interior designer for the café & bar is Karen Herold of Studio K. She has designed some of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, including Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, The Betty, Maple & Ash and many more. Grip, one of the city’s top marketing and design firms, is developing the brand and messaging for the new space. The name, menu and opening date will be announced at a later date.

Visitor Information & Accessibility

Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Our parking facility consists of both a covered garage and an open-air lot, located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance at 1650 N Halsted St starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12 noon before Wednesday matinees. Street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at (312) 335-1774.

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 play. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance. In May 2015, and with the help and expertise of Assistive Hearing Systems Ltd., Steppenwolf installed an induction loop on both the main and balcony levels of our Downstairs Theatre. There will also be an induction loop installed in the 1700 Theatre.


Major support for Steppenwolf’s expanded 2016/17 programming is provided by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, The Negaunee Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation.

Major support for Steppenwolf’s New Play Development Initiative is provided by The Davee Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation.

United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf.

About Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 44 actors, writers and directors. Beginning in 2016/17, Steppenwolf expands artistic programming to include a seven-play Season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and Lookout, a new multidisciplinary performance series. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and 12 Tony Awards. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Managing Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit www.steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre and twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr.