Steppenwolf Plans Leadership Changes, Announces Expansion

by Jacob Coakley
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Steppenwolf Theatre Company will expand their theatre complex in Chicago’s near north side, and announced leadership changes to help make that a reality. Steppenwolf ensemble member and Tony Award-winning director Anna D. Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey as artistic director at the conclusion of the current season in fall 2015. 

STEPPENWOLF THEATRE COMPANY ANNOUNCES LEADERSHIP TRANSITION AND VISION FOR MAJOR CAMPUS EXPANSION

Ensemble Member and Tony Award-Winning Director Anna D. Shapiro to become Artistic Director in fall 2015; Steppenwolf Managing Director David M. Schmitz to assume the responsibilities of principal financial and administrative leader in early 2015

Martha Lavey and David Hawkanson to continue to play central roles in campus expansion

CHICAGO (October 2, 2014) – Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation’s longest-standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, announced today new leadership and unveiled plans for a future campus expansion. Steppenwolf ensemble member and Tony Award-winning director Anna D. Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey as artistic director at the conclusion of the current season in fall 2015. Lavey will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on the expansion. In addition, Steppenwolf Managing Director David M. Schmitz will succeed David Hawkanson in January 2015 and oversee the management and operations of the theater. Hawkanson, too, will work with Steppenwolf to facilitate the company’s campus expansion.

The announcements were made at a news conference today at which Steppenwolf leadership, members of the Board of Trustees and ensemble and the design team, led by internationally acclaimed architect Gordon Gill, shared renderings of an expanded Steppenwolf in Chicago’s Halsted Street corridor on the city’s near north side.

“Anna Shapiro and David Schmitz are long-standing members of the Steppenwolf family who will ensure a seamless transition and help to build Steppenwolf for the future. At the same time, we are delighted Martha Lavey and David Hawkanson will remain on the Steppenwolf team and play crucial roles in our growth,” said Nora Daley, chair of the Steppenwolf Board of Trustees.

“Steppenwolf has always been at the center of everything in my professional life,” said Anna D. Shapiro. “Members of this ensemble and the work they have created have shaped not only who I am as an artist but as a human being. It has been my distinct honor to work alongside Martha Lavey since we both came onto the artistic staff 19 years ago and I feel very fortunate that our wishes for the company, as well as the evolution of our own lives has led us to the transition together. I look forward to serving this incomparable organization, to continuing the great work of this storied ensemble and helping to imagine the unlimited future of this great theater.”

“David Hawkanson and Martha Lavey have been generous mentors to me over the last nine years and I am honored to continue to work with them in this new capacity. There is no better ensemble of actors and professionals than the one we have at Steppenwolf, and it will be a privilege to serve alongside Anna Shapiro, a dynamic and inspiring leader,” said David M. Schmitz.

“Anna and I began our tenure together at Steppenwolf 19 years ago when I came in as artistic director and she led our New Plays Lab. In the intervening years we have worked together closely as colleagues and fellow ensemble members. Anna has directed some of Steppenwolf’s most memorable productions over the past ten years, including August: Osage County, The Motherfucker with the Hat, and most recently, This is Our Youth. She is ready to lead Steppenwolf, which has been her artistic home her entire adult life. I am enormously proud to hand over the stewardship of this treasured company to Anna,” said Martha Lavey. “David Hawkanson and I have worked with David Schmitz for nearly a decade. David Hawkanson, one of the best managers in the profession, has mentored David Schmitz for an easy transition. Together, Anna Shapiro and David Schmitz represent Steppenwolf’s bright future. The theater is in capable and caring hands, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as an ensemble member and in new capacities,” Lavey said.

“Serving Steppenwolf for the past 11 years has been a highlight of my 40 years in arts management. Being able to shift my focus to the campus expansion, which is ambitious and bold with two new state-of-the-art theater spaces, is a new challenge I look forward to. David Schmitz, a highly respected colleague and a core part of the Steppenwolf family, is ready for his new responsibilities,” said David Hawkanson.

The Vision for Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf has established itself as the nation’s premier ensemble theater since moving into its current campus on Halsted Street 22 years ago. On average, Steppenwolf stages 16 productions a year on three stages and attracts an annual audience of 200,000 people. In addition, Steppenwolf hosts approximately 700 public events, which serve artists, audiences and the broader community.

“Steppenwolf remains successful nearly 40 years after its founding because it is relevant,” said member of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees Eric Lefkofsky. “The company’s performances address contemporary and social issues of the day while creating a forum for discussion and reflection.”

The phased campus expansion will allow Steppenwolf to replace its two temporary performance spaces with purpose-built, state-of-the-art theaters, providing more flexibility and creating opportunities to extend productions, enhance facilities, upgrade audience services and encourage more community engagement. With the additional space, Steppenwolf plans to expand the number of educational and community-based programs offered to the public.

“Steppenwolf is a center for artistic excellence and a foundation for arts and culture in Chicago and Illinois. The state-of-the-art campus will create a local resource not just for artists, but also for patrons, students and the broader community,” said Daley.

The architects for the expansion are Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and the theater consultants are London-based Charcoalblue. The vision for Steppenwolf’s future plan will expand and unite its campus, adding two buildings that will complement the intimate 500-seat main theater. A new facility south of the main building will house a 400-seat theater to replace the temporary Upstairs Theatre and a Public Square atrium dedicated exclusively to audience engagement and community building. To the north, the newly renovated building at 1700 North Halsted will serve as the Lab at Steppenwolf, housing a black box theater, a flexible space for community and teen programs and offices for artistic, production and administrative staff. The lobby of the existing main building will also undergo major renovation, allowing the three structures to connect seamlessly on the ground floor.

“The new campus will meet Steppenwolf’s theatrical and programming needs while being in the scale and context of the neighborhood,” said award-winning Gordon Gill, architect for the expansion. “The result will be a unified campus that connects with the community and utilizes a palette of materials that are of Chicago, and on a scale appropriate for the neighborhood.”

“Evolution is the lifeblood of Steppenwolf and its strength has been its ability to adapt and stay ahead of the times,” said Lefkofsky. “This bold vision for an expanded campus respects Steppenwolf’s past, and positions the company for welcoming new generations of artists and audiences.”

To download an online media kit with images and more information, visit https://app.box.com/s/r7e1id4mi0x7xkdbac55.

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Biographies

Martha Lavey has been an ensemble member since 1993 and artistic director since 1995. Under her leadership, Steppenwolf has doubled the size of its ensemble and diversified its base of artists, become a national leader in producing new plays and commissioning playwrights, tripled its performance space, expanded and deepened its partnerships in public schools and the community, created Steppenwolf for Young Adults and instituted a platform for engaging audiences after every performance. She has overseen the production of hundreds of plays and transferred dozens of Steppenwolf productions to Broadway and abroad, gaining national and international recognition for the company and Chicago as a vital theater destination. During her tenure, Steppenwolf was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, the only theater to ever receive the honor, as well as the Illinois Arts Legend Award, Equity Special Award and nine of the company’s 12 Tony Awards. Lavey catapulted Steppenwolf to the forefront of new play development and production with a robust commissioning program that cultivates ongoing creative relationships with some of the most compelling playwrights today. Lavey oversaw the conception of and programming for the Garage Theater, an intimate space in 1998 that provide an additional platform for outside companies, new works and audience engagement. Several programs were established during her tenure, including Steppenwolf for Young Adults, an innovative and influential program for young adults; The School at Steppenwolf, an acclaimed training residency based in ensemble traditions; The Professional Leadership program for emerging arts managers and designers; The First Look Rep of New Work for plays in development; and the Garage Rep, presenting Chicago’s vibrant Off-Loop theater companies, among others. Lavey was named one of the 100 Most Powerful People by Chicago Magazine twice, was selected as one of the city’s 10 Most Powerful Women in the Arts by the Chicago Sun-Times and was awarded the title of ‘2010 Chicagoan of the Year’ by the Chicago Tribune. While leading one of the most acclaimed theater companies in the world, she has performed in more than 30 productions at Steppenwolf. She has served on grants panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, The Theatre Communications Group, Three Arts Club, USA Artists and the City Arts panel of Chicago. Lavey holds a doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and is a member of the National Advisory Council for the School of Communication at Northwestern University. She is a recipient of the Sarah Siddons Award, an Alumni Merit Award and an Honorary Doctorate from Northwestern University.

Anna D. Shapiro was nominated for a 2011 Tony Award for her production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ award-winning play, The Motherfucker with the Hat, which she also directed at Steppenwolf to critical acclaim. She received the 2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Direction of a Play for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Shapiro’s work can currently be seen on Broadway in the critically acclaimed revival of Steppenwolf’s production of This Is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of Larry David’s Fish in the Dark on Broadway. Last season, Shapiro directed the Broadway revival of Of Mice and Men, which National Theatre Live selected as the first American production to be broadcast to over 700 cinemas across the US and Canada. She has been affiliated with Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago since 1995, serving as the original director of the New Plays Lab, later joining the artistic staff as Resident Director, Associate Artist and, since 2005, as an Ensemble member where her directing credits include A Parallelogram, Up, The Crucible, The Unmentionables, the world premiere of The Pain and the Itch (also at Playwrights Horizons in New York), I Never Sang for My Father, the world premiere of Man from Nebraska, (named by TIME Magazine as one of the Year’s Top Ten of 2003), The Drawer Boy, Side Man (also in Ireland, Australia and Vail, Colorado), Three Days of Rain and the world premiere of The Infidel, among others. She recently staged Tracy Letts’ version of The Three Sisters at Steppenwolf in the summer of 2012. Other directing credits include Domesticated (Lincoln Center Theatre), A Parallelogram (Mark Taper Forum), A Number (American Conservatory Theatre), The Drawer Boy (Paper Mill Playhouse), Iron (Manhattan Theatre Club), A Fair Country (Huntington Theatre, Boston) and Trafficking in Broken Hearts for Atlantic Theater Company. Shapiro is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Columbia College and the recipient of a 1996 Princess Grace Award, as well as the 2010 Princess Grace Statue Award. She is a professor in Northwestern University’s Department of Theatre and has served as the Director of the Graduate MFA Directing Program since 2002.

David Hawkanson has served as Executive Director of Steppenwolf for 11 years. During his tenure, the company’s institutional accomplishments have included being recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the Top Small Workplaces in the country, the transfer of nine productions to New York on both Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as touring productions to Dublin, Galway, London and Sydney. Hawkanson has strengthened the company’s overall financial position by more than 10 million dollars. He has also initiated several nationally recognized audience engagement pilots, including studies commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Prior to Steppenwolf, he was the Managing Director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the artistic leadership of Joe Dowling. Before the Guthrie, he served for eight years as the Managing Director of Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut with Artistic Director Mark Lamos. Earlier in his career, he was Managing Director of the Arizona Theatre Company. He was a former senior staff member at the National Endowment for the Arts and subsequently chairman of its Theater Program. He has also had an active career as an arts management consultant and trustee for many national organizations and foundations. He serves on the Board of Directors for the League of Chicago Theatres and is the former Chairman of the Arts Alliance Illinois.

David M. Schmitz has worked at Steppenwolf for nearly 10 years, serving in the role of Director of Finance and Administration, General Manager and currently as Managing Director. During his tenure, he has supervised all administrative and operational functions of the theatre and negotiated and managed the transfer of productions to The Manhattan Theatre Club, Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, the McCarter Theatre and the Geffen Playhouse. In collaboration with David Hawkanson, Schmitz negotiated the acquisition, design and financing of the theater’s new facility at 1700 N Halsted; worked to achieve recognition from the Wall Street Journal as a Top Small Workplace in 2009; and, with the management team, completed nine years of operating surpluses. Schmitz represents Steppenwolf in the Theatre Communications Group’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute and is working locally with members of the arts community to increase diversity and improve equity within our field. Prior to working at Steppenwolf, Schmitz was the General Manager at Lookingglass Theatre Company (2002–2005), Associate Artistic Director of Stage Left Theatre (2004–2006) and Business Manager at the entertainment agency Adair Performance (2000–2002). Currently, he serves as Vice President of the Board for The House Theatre of Chicago. Schmitz has worked as a strategic planning, business practices, finance and hiring consultant for numerous Chicago organizations, including The House Theatre of Chicago, The Hypocrites and Stage Left Theatre, among others. He holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado, an MFA from the Theatre Conservatory at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University and a Certificate in Non Profit Management from Roosevelt University.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) is dedicated to the design of high-performance, energy-efficient, and sustainable architecture on an international scale. AS+GG’s practice includes designers with extensive experience in multiple disciplines, including technical architecture, interior design, urban planning and sustainable design. Architects also have expertise in a range of building types, including supertall towers, large-scale mixed-use complexes, corporate offices, exhibition facilities, cultural facilities and museums, civic and public spaces, hotels and residential complexes, institutional projects, and high-tech laboratory facilities. AS+GG is currently working on projects in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, China, Canada and the United States. The firm was founded in 2006 by partners Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest. For more information, please visit smithgill.com.

Charcoalblue is one of the most exciting and innovative theatre and acoustics consultancy in the UK. Since its foundation in 2004, Charcoalblue has grown to now be the largest organization of its kind working in Britain. As the theatre consultants and acousticians of choice for many of the country’s leading architects and theatre companies, its portfolio ranges from world-famous companies like the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, to cutting-edge outfits such as Siobhan Davies Dance and Graeae. Charcoalblue’s unique collaborative approach and relentless attention to detail has won the company awards, ecstatic reviews from the theatrical and architectural press and, most importantly, praise from its theatres’ performers, technicians and audiences

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat Garage Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 44 actors, writers and directors. Artistic programming at Steppenwolf includes a five-play Subscription Season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season and two repertory series: First Look Repertory of New Work, and Garage Rep. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Off-Broadway, Broadway, London, Dublin, Galway and Sydney. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and 12 Tony Awards. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre and twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr.