Steppenwolf Theater Company, an ensemble in Chicago with a monitor document of premiering critically acclaimed works that land on Broadway, introduced its new creative management on Thursday, and for the primary time in the corporate’s decades-long historical past, which means two individuals, not one.
The ensemble members Glenn Davis, who’s greatest identified in New York for starring in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” alongside Robin Williams on Broadway, and Audrey Francis, who co-founded a Chicago appearing conservatory, will each function creative administrators, the corporate mentioned. Davis, who’s Black, is the primary particular person of coloration in the corporate’s historical past to be in the function.
In an uncommon course of for a theater firm, the ensemble voted to nominate Davis and Francis in an election, after the pair put themselves ahead as a workforce.
The new management construction comes at a transitional time for Steppenwolf: This fall, it plans to open a brand new $54 million addition to the corporate’s headquarters in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, which can embody a 400-seat theater-in-the-round and a ground devoted to training. The debut will coincide with the corporate’s return to dwell efficiency — with Tracy Letts’s “Bug” in November — after a 20-month pandemic shutdown.
“The ensemble has always been the heart and soul of Steppenwolf,” Davis mentioned in an announcement accompanying the announcement. “As the company has grown so, too, has the ensemble, now reflecting a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and passions.”
The present creative director, Anna D. Shapiro, who has led the ensemble since 2015, introduced in May that she could be resigning on the finish of August, which coincides with the completion of her second three-year contract. Shapiro’s resignation got here shortly after two individuals of coloration who’ve labored with the theater shared grievances concerning the establishment that have been revealed on the website Rescripted.
Lowell Thomas, a video producer at Steppenwolf, resigned in April, accusing the corporate of burying “claims of harassment, racism, and sexism to avoid accountability and real change.” And Isaac Gomez, a playwright who labored with the theater, mentioned he thought of pulling considered one of his performs from the corporate’s programming due to Thomas’s departure.
At the time of her resignation, Shapiro told The Chicago Tribune that the timing of her announcement was unrelated to the revealed accounts, saying, “There’s not a theater in this country worth its salt that is not dealing with these questions of systemic racism and trying to look at its culture.”
In an announcement concerning the new management, Eric Lefkofsky, the chairman of Steppenwolf’s board of trustees, mentioned that Davis and Francis’ completely different backgrounds would result in a “more comprehensive worldview in decision making.”
Steppenwolf — which employs a 49-person ensemble and operates programming for youngsters and educators — has a historical past of manufacturing works that draw nationwide recognition and switch to New York levels.
In 2007, Shapiro directed the premiere of Letts’s play “August: Osage County.” Letts, who’s a Steppenwolf ensemble member, additionally debuted a current play, “The Minutes,” on the Chicago theater; the present’s Broadway run was interrupted by the pandemic. And the second Broadway present to reopen this summer time, “Pass Over,” a play about two Black males trapped by existential dread, had its premiere at Steppenwolf, and two of the corporate’s ensemble members will seem in the Broadway model.
Davis, an actor and producer, joined the ensemble in 2017, showing in performs like Bruce Norris’s “Downstate” and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays.” In February, he’ll star in Steppenwolf’s “King James,” a play by Rajiv Joseph about LeBron James that was scheduled to have its debut in June 2020, then was delayed.
Francis, who additionally joined the ensemble in 2017 after attending its appearing residency in 2004, has carried out in 10 productions with the corporate, together with Clare Barron’s “You Got Older” and Rory Kinnear’s “The Herd.” Francis co-founded the conservatory Black Box Acting and works as an appearing coach for leisure corporations like Showtime and NBC.
In an announcement, Francis mentioned that considered one of their goals as leaders might be to “re-examine how we support artists on and off stage.”
“We are inspired by the changes we see in our industry,” she mentioned, “and aim to redefine how artists are valued in America.”