Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a Chicago theatre company founded in 1974 by Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise in the Unitarian church on Half Day Road in Deerfield[1] and is now located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood on Halsted Street. Its name comes from the novel Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse which original member Rick Argosh was reading during the company's inaugural production, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, in January 1974.[2]


The name Steppenwolf Theatre Company was first used[3] in 1974 at a Unitarian church[4][5] on Half Day Road in Deerfield[1] The company presented And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little by Paul Zindel, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams,[6] with Rick Argosh directing[7][8], and Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey,[9] with Gary Sinise directing.[10]

The founding members are Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise. The founders recruited six additional members: H.E. Baccus,[11] Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, and Alan Wilder.[12][13]

In 1975, Steppenwolf incorporated as a nonprofit organization, saving money by taking the name of a failed theater company that had already incorporated.[14] In the summer of 1976, Steppenwolf took up residence in a vacant basement space of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church[15] in Highland Park, Illinois and produced its first full season of plays.[16][12][17]

In 1980, the theater company moved into a 134-seat theater at the Jane Addams Hull House Center on Broadway Avenue in Chicago. Two years later, the company moved to a 211-seat facility at 2851 N. Halsted Street, which was their home until 1991, when construction was completed on the current theater complex at 1650 N. Halsted Street (with administrative offices at 1700 N. Halsted Street.) The theatre has three theatres: the Downstairs Theatre that seats 515; the Upstairs Theatre that seats 299; and, the 1700 Theatre a casual, intimate and flexible theatre that seats 80.[18]

In 1982, the Sam Shepard play 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.

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.

The MacArthur Foundation awarded Steppenwolf Theatre Company $2.26 million between 1978 and 2017, in support of general operations, and growth of artistic and educational programs.[19]


Steppenwolf is an ensemble cast theatre company with actors, playwrights, producers, and directors in its membership. Notable past and present ensemble members include:[20]


Notable productions[21] include:

Critical reception

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 Frank Galati's adaption 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 Steppenwolf presented the world premiere of Austin Pendleton's Orson's Shadow, which subsequently was staged off-Broadway and by regional theatres throughout the country.

Tracy Letts' Broadway drama August: Osage County (2007) was ranked number one in Time's Top Ten Theatre Performances of 2007.[31] After moving from the Imperial Theatre next door to The Music Box Theatre for an open-ended run, August: Osage County won 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.

Among the theater's many honors are the Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence (1985) and the National Medal of Arts (1998).

See also


  1. Steppenwolf @ Twenty-Five. Steppenwolf Theater Company. p. 2.
  2. "History". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  3. Mayer, John (August 11, 2016). "Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago: In Their Own Words". Bloomsbury Publishing via Google Books.
  4. "Rentals - NSUC".
  5. "Episode 881 - Laurie Metcalf / Tom Segura".
  6. "Barbara Patterson". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  7. "Rick Argosh". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  8. "Q. Riding on the Ravenswood train past the vertical..."
  9. "Leslie Wilson". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  10. "Grease". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  11. "H.E. Baccus theatre profile".
  12. "Timeline". Steppenwolf Theatre.
  13. Andries, Dorothy. "'Steppenwolf' author visits Highland Park Library".
  15. "Contact Us". Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
  16. Liebenson, Donald. "How Chicago's Famed Steppenwolf Became the Apple of Theater". Vanity Fair.
  17. Mayer, John (August 11, 2016). "Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago: In Their Own Words". Bloomsbury Publishing via Google Books.
  18. Theatres - Steppenwolf website
  19. "Steppenwolf Theatre Company — MacArthur Foundation". MacArthur Foundation.
  20. "Ensemble". Steppenwolf Theatre. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  21. 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. ...
  23. "Steppenwolf Theater's 10-Year Climb to Success". The New York Times. July 15, 1985.
  24. "Coyote Ugly". Dramatists Play Service.
  25. "Seifert Unveils Little Egypt in Milwaukee Dec. 19". Playbill.
  26. Siefert, Lynn (January 30, 1986). "Coyote Ugly". Dramatists Play Service Inc via Google Books.
  27. Arkatov, Janice (December 3, 1995). "The Unlikeliest of Love Stories : Playwright Lynn Siefert focuses on the brave hearts of bruised characters. Maybe that's why Roseanne picked her for 'AbFab.'". Los Angeles Times.
  28. "`Coyote Ugly` Runs Wild And Crazy". chicago tribune.
  29. 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."
  30. 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. "
  31. Richard Zoglin; Tracy Letts (December 9, 2007). "Top 10 Theater Productions". Time. Retrieved May 30, 2008.

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