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French Stewart, Laurie Metcalf, and Maile Flanagan in "Voice Lessons" by Justin Tanner at Zephyr Theater.

Steppenwolf Sets 2016–17 Season, First Programmed by Anna D. Shapiro

The Chicago theatre’s season will feature world premieres from Tracy Letts, Antoinette Nwandu, David Rabe, and Erika Sheffer, and the opening of a new black box space.

CHICAGO: Steppenwolf Theatre Company has announced its 2016–17 season, the first programmed by new artistic director Anna D. Shapiro. The lineup includes world premieres by Tracy Letts and David Rabe, as well as the opening of a new black box space.

“Putting this season together, the first curated by our new artistic team, has been hugely exciting and deeply rewarding,” said Shapiro in a statement. “I have been a part of the Steppenwolf family for more than 20 years and I share a deep commitment to the continued excellence of our theatre. 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.”

The season will kick off with the world premiere of David Rabe’s Visiting Edna (Sept. 15–Nov. 6) in the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre. The play is about an aging woman  whose son finds himself struggling between his childlike love for her and the strained relationship they now have. Shapiro will direct, and ensemble members Ian Barford, K. Todd Freeman, and Sally Murphy will star.

Next up will be the world premiere of Erika Sheffer’s The Fundamentals (Nov. 10–Dec. 23) in the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre. Commissioned by Steppenwolf as part of the First Look new play series in 2015, the play is about a young mother working in a New York luxury hotel, who is faced with a tough decision when she is presented with the opportunity to move into management. Ensemble member Yasen Peyankov will direct, and the production will feature ensemble members Alana Arenas and Alan Wilder.

The Chicago premiere of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians (Dec. 1, 2016–Jan. 29, 2017), about a pastor of a mega-church who has a change of faith, will be onstage next in the Downstairs Theatre. Ensemble member K. Todd Freeman will direct.

Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men (Feb. 2-March 19, 2017) will have its Chicago premiere in the Upstairs Theatre next. Written and directed by Lee, the play examines privilege and identity from the perspectives of white men. Ensemble members Tim Hopper and Alan Wilder will star.

Next up will be the world premiere of ensemble member Tracy Letts’s Linda Vista (March 30–May 21, 2017) in the Downstairs Theatre. The play is about a 50-year-old man who discovers new life possibilities when he moves out of his ex-wife’s garage. Ensemble members Ian Barford and Tim Hooper will star, and a director will be announced at a later date.

The Chicago premiere of Taylor Mac’s Hir (June 29–Aug. 20, 2017), a dysfunctional family drama that takes a look at gender identity, will be onstage at the Downstairs Theatre next. Ensemble members Francois Guinan and Amy Morton will star, and a director will be announced at a later date.

Next up will be the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over (May 25–July 2, 2017) in the Upstairs Theatre. The play is a riff on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and follows two black men killing time on a street corner when a white man enters their space. Ensemble member Jon Michael Hill will star, and a director will be announced at a later date.

The theatre will also open a new black box performance space, the 1700 Theatre, this May. The space, Steppenwolf’s fourth, will be the home of a new series, called Lookout, which will host multidisciplinary performances.

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

The inaugural production will be Justin Tanner’s Voice Lessons (May 31–June 12), as originally directed by Bart DeLorenzo. The show is about a deluded community theatre actress and the over-educated vocal coach she hires. Laurie Metcalf, Maile Flanagan, and French Stewart will star.

The next show in the space will be a remount of Definition Theatre Company and the New Colony’s production of Byhalia, Mississippi (July 22–Aug. 21), by Evan Linder and directed by Tyrone Phillips. The play is about a “proud white trash” couple who are faced with a challenge when their first child arrives.

Founded in 1976, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is an ensemble-based company committed to producing exciting work for its Chicago audience.

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