Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Nominates New Artistic Directors

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Steppenwolf Theater Company, an ensemble with a history of premiering critically acclaimed works that hit Broadway in Chicago, announced its new artistic leadership Thursday, and for the first time in the company’s decades-old history, it means two people, not one. .

The ensemble members best known for playing in New York are Glenn Davis. “Bengal Tiger in Baghdad Zoo” The company said Broadway’s Robin Williams and Audrey Francis, co-founder of the Chicago acting conservatory, will both serve as artistic directors. Davis, who is black, is the first person of color to play this role in company history.

In an unusual process for a theater troupe, after the duo asserted themselves as a team, the troupe voted to nominate Davis and Francis in an election.

The new leadership structure comes at a time of transition for Steppenwolf: This fall, it plans to open a new $54 million addition to the company’s headquarters in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood that will include a 400-seat round theater and a theater. floor dedicated to education. The debut will coincide with the company’s return to live performance with Tracy Letts’ “Bug” in November, after 20 months of pandemic closure.

“The community has always been the heart and soul of Steppenwolf,” Davis said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “As the company has grown, it now has a community that reflects diverse backgrounds, experiences and passions.”

The current artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro, who has led the ensemble since 2015, announced in May that she would step down at the end of August, coinciding with the completion of her second three-year contract. Shapiro’s resignation came shortly after two different colors working in the theater shared published complaints about the institution. Rescripted on website.

Lowell Thomas, a video producer at Steppenwolf, resigned in April, accusing the company of burying “claims of harassment, racism, and sexism for accountability and to avoid real change.” Theater playwright Isaac Gomez said he’s considering pulling one of his plays from the company’s schedule due to Thomas’ departure.

During his resignation, Shapiro told the Chicago Tribune Noting that the timing of his statement had nothing to do with the published accounts, he said, “There is no theater in this country worth its salt that does not deal with these systemic issues of racism and tries to look at its culture.”

Eric Lefkofsky, Steppenwolf’s chairman of the board of trustees, said in a statement about the new leadership that Davis and Francis’ different backgrounds will lead to “a more comprehensive worldview in decision-making.”

With a community of 49 and programming for teens and educators, Steppenwolf has a history of producing works that have gained national recognition and transferred to the New York stage.

In 2007, Shapiro directed the premiere of Letts’ play. “August: Osage County.” Letts, a member of the Steppenwolf community, has also recently released a game. “Minutes,” in Chicago theatre; The show’s Broadway run was interrupted by the pandemic. And the second Broadway show to reopen this summer, “Pass” A play about two black men trapped by existential fear, it premiered on Steppenwolf, and two of the company’s ensemble members will appear in the Broadway version.

Actor and producer, Davis joined the troupe in 2017 and has appeared in plays like Bruce Norris’s. “lower state” and Tarell Alvin McCraney “Sister/Sister Playing.” He will star in Steppenwolf’s in February. “King James,” A play by Rajiv Joseph about LeBron James that was scheduled to launch in June 2020, then postponed.

Joining the band in 2017 after majoring in acting in 2004, Francis has performed in 10 productions with the company, including Clare Barron’s. “You have aged” and Rory Kinnear “Herd.” Francis is the co-founder of the conservatory Black Box Acting and works as an acting coach for entertainment companies like Showtime and NBC.

Francis said in a statement that one of his goals as a leader will be to “re-examine how we support artists on and off stage.”

“We are inspired by the changes we are seeing in our industry and aim to redefine how artists are valued in America,” he said.

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