Steppenwolf Announces Season, New Building Grand Opening

Steppenwolf Announces Season, New Building Grand Opening

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced the 2020-21 season’s slate of plays today, its 45th.

The season launches with the world premiere stage adaptation of “Good Night, and Good Luck” by Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), based on the Oscar-nominated screenplay by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, directed by Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro. The cast includes ensemble members Alana Arenas, Ian Barford, Audrey Francis, Tom Irwin and William Petersen with Jordan Brodess, Keith Gallagher, and Joey Slotnick.

The season closer will premiere in the new state-of-the-art theatre-in-the-round at 1646 N Halsted in August 2021 — a world premiere adaptation of “The Seagull” by Anton Chekov, translated, adapted and directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov.

“This season marks a milestone that has been years in the making,” said Artistic Director and ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro. “In 1976, a small group of intrepid young people took over a church basement in Highland Park and started making plays because they needed, simply, to create. Over the next four decades this group would grow to include some of the most important theatre-makers in the world, let alone the country, and together this ensemble of committed actors, directors and writers would become a Chicago treasure and help secure our city’s legacy as the North Star of the American Theatre. This season—and 45 years after the lights went on in Highland Park—Steppenwolf will open our new building, completing a campus worthy of the artists whose commitment to excellence, truth and bravery continues to inspire our city.”

The new 50,000 sq. ft building will feature a 400-seat theatre-in-the-round—only six rows deep — a recommitment to the Steppenwolf ethos of intimate and powerfully personal storytelling.

Following “Good Night, and Good Luck” will be the world premiere of “Bald Sisters” by Vichet Chum (December 3, 2020 – February 7, 2021). Two Cambodian-American sisters plan their mother’s funeral in this exploration of an American family finding its way. Chum makes his Chicago debut.

The new year brings the Chicago premiere of “Barcelona” by Bess Wohl, directed by Trip Cullman and featuring ensemble member Caroline Neff (January 28 – March 14, 2021), followed by the Chicago premiere of “Last Night and the Night Before” (April 1 – May 16, 2021), a portrait of Black Love by Donnetta Lavinia Grays directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. Ensemble member Namir Smallwood leads the cast.

Fresh off a hit Broadway run and Tony nomination, “Choir Boy” by Oscar-winning ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Robert O’Hara makes its Steppenwolf debut featuring ensemble members James Vincent Meredith and Austin Pendleton (June 10 – August 1, 2021).

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 2020/21 Season (descriptions from a press release)

World Premiere
“Good Night, and Good Luck”
By Matt Charman
October 22 – December 20, 2020
In the Downstairs Theatre
Based on the screenplay by George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro
Produced with special arrangement by Jean Doumanian, Robert Fox, George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Complete cast features ensemble members Alana Arenas, Ian Barford, Audrey Francis, Tom Irwin and William Petersen along with Jordan Brodess, Keith Gallagher and Joey Slotnick

1953: Dark days in Washington, D.C. Senator Joseph McCarthy wages his ruthless campaign against all those he deems “Un-American,” public trust in the institutions of government is in perilous decline and a panicked gloom grips the nation. All that stands in the way of the continued disintegration of the American body politic is Edward R. Murrow, his room of intrepid journalists and one black-and-white newscast destined to change the course of this country’s civic life. This world premiere adaptation of George Clooney’s Oscar-nominated film is a stark, fast-moving and timely look at the treacherous business of telling truths in dark times.

Fifteen years after the release of the much-lauded film, this world premiere will hit Steppenwolf’s stage at the height of 2020’s election cycle. Against the backdrop of this highly charged political atmosphere, Steppenwolf’s ensemble and Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro are eager to tell this prescient tale about a heroic moment in American history where those with everything to lose decided to stand up and call out injustice.

World Premiere
Bald Sisters”
By Vichet Chum
December 3, 2020 – February 7, 2021
In the Upstairs Theatre

Two bald sisters at an impasse, an imperfect husband wrestling with his faith, a young immigrant hustling to pay for college and Ma—the matriarch whose sudden death has turned their world upside-down. How does this Cambodian American family plan a funeral for a force of nature who manages to bedevil them in death even more than she did in life? Do they honor the past from which she struggled to heal or the future she willed into existence? This world premiere play by Vichet Chum is a sharp-edged, hilarious and ultimately poignant exploration of an American family finding its way.

From the Wingfields to the Westons, Steppenwolf has always been drawn to the explosive collisions of the American family. Bald Sisters offers a refreshingly unique perspective on this time-honored tradition. The ensemble is excited to invite stories onto our stage where layers of the past pile onto layers of the present, weaving together a lush and complex fabric of American identity. While our differences exist, these iterations of the American family remind us of the commonalities we all share.

Bald Sisters was developed at Steppenwolf as part of the SCOUT new play series, which also developed La Ruta by Isaac Gómez.

Chicago Premiere
By Bess Wohl
Directed by Trip Cullman
Featuring ensemble member Caroline Neff
January 28 – March 14, 2021
In the Downstairs Theatre

Barcelona. Las Ramblas. Late night. A young American woman stumbles into the arms of an older handsome stranger. As the booze fades and the light gathers, their relationship grows murkier, darker and decidedly more dangerous and it becomes clear that these lovers are not who they seem. Bess Wohl’s daring and provocative play is an expertly drawn battle of personal fantasy vs national truth that will leave audiences questioning their eyes, ears and—most of all—their loyalties.

One of this country’s most exciting voices, Bess Wohl has created a play that speaks to the essentially American conundrum of accountability, both personal and political. With two astonishing roles for actors and an engaging and complex plot line, Barcelona captures every element of the Steppenwolf ethos in its taut and dangerous 90 minutes.

Chicago Premiere
“Last Night and the Night Before”
By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
Featuring ensemble member Namir Smallwood
April 1 – May 16, 2021
In the Downstairs Theatre

A young woman is on the run. From what, she will not say. Arriving on the doorstep of her older sister’s Brooklyn brownstone with her ten-year-old daughter Sam, but without her loyal husband, her presence asks more questions than it answers as everyone in her orbit is thrown off balance and into one another. As Sam becomes increasingly haunted by the life she was forced to leave in Georgia, the adults are forced to consider what they must sacrifice to break a cycle of despair. Stunning, poetic and heartbreaking, Donnetta Lavinia Grays’s portrait of Black Love explores the complex forms family can take.

Donnetta Lavinia Grays’s play is a perfect example of the kind of New American Realism that speaks to both the Steppenwolf Ensemble and its audiences. Exquisitely drawn characters, perfectly structured narrative and a truly original voice inhabit the world of Sam, the young narrator, as she stands in the middle of a familial web whose truth is ever-changing and for whom salvation is elusive. To inhabit this world as theatre makers and to witness it as theatre goers will be something none of us will soon forget.

“Choir Boy”
By ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Robert O’Hara
Featuring ensemble members James Vincent Meredith and Austin Pendleton
June 10 – August 1, 2021
In the Downstairs Theatre

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 Steppenwolf 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. The company is thrilled to bring this beautiful story “home.”

World Premiere Adaptation
By Anton Chekhov
Translated and adapted by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov
Directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov
Featuring ensemble members Ian Barford, Cliff Chamberlain, Francis Guinan, Tim Hopper, Sandra Marquez, James Vincent Meredith, Caroline Neff, Karen Rodriguez and Namir Smallwood
July 24 – September 12, 2021
In the new theatre-in-the-round

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 theatre-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.

We chose Seagull to open the new theatre for so many reasons. There is, first and foremost, the play itself: a timeless look at how aspiration and desire infect and inform our relationship, not just with others, but with ourselves. Its compassionate and loving examination of both the futility and necessity of longing in our lives is shown through the exquisitely etched cast of characters that inhabit this impossibly humor-filled world. But also, at its heart, the story of Seagull is deeply meaningful to us, wrestling as it does with generational battles about not just the meaning of art but its necessity at all. And of course, all of this plays out within a group of people who love each other more than they don’t and who need each other more than they know. At this moment, this play, and our company, are together. We want to share that with our audiences.

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