CHICAGO: Steppenwolf Theatre Company has announced a changing of the guard at the top, with executive director David Schmitz stepping down and handing the position to Brooke Flanagan, who previously worked at Steppenwolf for seven years and returns to the organization as the first woman to hold the position in Steppenwolf’s 45-year history. Schmitz, who joined Steppenwolf in 2005, is stepping down to serve Oregon Shakespeare Festival as its executive director. He will stay on at Steppenwolf through mid-July 2020 to support the transition.
“Brooke is an extraordinary leader whose impact on Chicago’s arts ecosystem continues to be tremendous,” said artistic director Anna D. Shapiro in a statement. “We are grateful to be able to continue to commit to our city and community by inviting a leader who has a deep love and understanding of Steppenwolf, its mission and its values. Brooke will only fortify our ability to stay connected, active and innovative during this unprecedented time of social distancing, enabling us to be stronger than ever when live theatre resumes. I can’t wait to work alongside her.”
About Schmitz, Shapiro added in a statement, “Steppenwolf has been the true beneficiary of David’s commitment and care. He has strongly positioned us for the future, and we wish him all the best with this next chapter.”
Flanagan currently serves as managing director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Since joining the company in 2010, she has increased the theatre’s annual contributed income by 50 percent, launched the Our City, Our Shakespeare endowment and capital campaign, and helped to develop Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, Shakespeare 400 Chicago, and the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Before that, she worked at Steppenwolf for seven season as director of major gifts. She’s also held positions at Ravinia Festival. League of Chicago Theatres, and Santa Fe Opera. Flanagan is a former board member of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and currently serves as board chair for Arts Alliance Illinois. She received the 1994 Nashville Mayor’s Acts of Excellence Award for direction of The Holocaust—a Gathering of Stones. She holds her BFA in theatre from the College of Santa Fe.
During Schmitz’s tenure as executive director, he and Shapiro increased Steppenwolf’s artistic programming, expanded education outreach, and co-produced with Center Theatre Group and the National Theatre of Great Britain. Schmitz negotiated the acquisition and led the remodel of 1700 N Halsted and, with Shapiro, opened Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks and the 1700 Theatre as part of the company’s multi-year expansion campaign. He led Steppenwolf’s role as founder of Enrich Chicago and was an initial participant in the Theatre Communications Group’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Institute.