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Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ray Anthony Thomas and Victor Almanzar in "Between Riverside and Crazy" by Stephen Adly Guirgis at Atlantic Theater Company. (Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia)

Letts, Baker, Guirgis, Steinbeck Lead New Steppenwolf Season

The Chicago company’s 40th season features a world premiere by Tracy Letts and a new adaptation of John Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden.’

CHICAGO: Revisiting some familiar names and inviting some new talents to its stages, Steppenwolf Theatre Company has announced its 2015–16 season, the company’s 40th. On the slot will be two world premieres, including one by Steppenwolf longtime ensemble member Tracy Letts.

“This is the final season for which I will have the privilege of leading the play selection process,” said outgoing artistic director Martha Lavey in a statement; she will be succeeded this year by Anna D. Shapiro. “It’s a season that you could only experience at Steppenwolf. Nothing could make me happier than to showcase our artists and this season as a beautiful expression of what makes our theatre unique.”

The season begins with Frank Galati’s world-premiere adaptation of John Steinbeck’s sweeping novel East of Eden (Sept. 17–Nov. 15, 2015). Galati’s 1988 adaptation of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath became a signature Steppenwolf production, driving its beat-up truck to Broadway and taking Tonys for best play and direction for Galati. Terry Kinney, who was nominated for a best actor Tony in that production, will step into the director’s chair for Eden.

Next will be Domesticated (Dec. 3, 2015–Feb. 7, 2016), Bruce Norris’s comedy about a politician’s marriage, which is suddenly thrown in the spotlight following a sex scandal. This will be Norris’s ninth play produced at Steppenwolf; he is an ensemble member and will direct the Chicago premiere of Domesticated. Coincidentally (or not), incoming Steppenwolf a.d. Shapiro directed Domesticated in its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.

Following that will be Annie Baker’s Pulitzer-winning play The Flick (Feb. 4–May 8, 2016), under the direction of Dexter Bullard, about three underpaid movie theatre employees and the films they love. This is Baker’s first production at Steppenwolf. Bullard previously directed work for Steppenwolf’s First Look Repertory of New Work, and helmed Tracy Letts’s Bug in its Off-Broadway run.

Letts himself, a longtime ensemble member, will return to playwriting with the world premiere of Mary Page Marlowe (March 31–May 29, 2016), about the surprisingly complex inner life of an accountant in Ohio. Letts’s last gig at the theatre was as the adaptor of Three Sisters, in a production directed by Shapiro. She also helmed his Pulitzer and Tony-winning August: Osage County, which started at Steppenwolf in 2007. The company also produced the premieres of Letts’s Superior Donuts (transferred to Broadway in 2009) and Man from Nebraska in 2003.

The season will close with Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Between Riverside and Crazy, directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov (June 23–Aug. 21, 2016). The play, about the relationship between an ex-cop and his  son in a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, will be Guirgis’s third production at Steppenwolf. (The play is currently running at Second Stage Theatre in New York through March 22.) Peyankov is slated to direct Steppenwolf’s upcoming production of Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck (July 2–Aug. 30), the closer of the current season.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is dedicated to producing new plays, via its five-play mainstage season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Audiences season, its First Look Repertory of New Work and Garage Rep (for local theatre companies).

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