Steppenwolf Announces Artistic Leadership Transition This Summer

Anna D. Shapiro will step down from this role when her contract expires in August 2021.

By: May. 02, 2021
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Steppenwolf Announces Artistic Leadership Transition This Summer

Today Steppenwolf Theatre Company shared that Anna D. Shapiro, who has served as Artistic Director since 2015, will step down from this role when her contract expires in August 2021.

Over the last several months, Shapiro has been working with her fellow Steppenwolf ensemble members-a group of 49 visionary actors, directors and playwrights who call Steppenwolf home-on a succession plan for when her contract expires at the end of the summer. Shapiro remains an active member of the Steppenwolf ensemble (which she joined in 2005) as she is slated to direct both ensemble member Rajiv Joseph's King James and ensemble member Tracy Letts's virtual play, The Stretch as part of the 2021/22 Steppenwolf Comeback Season announced last week.

"It has been my honor to serve as Artistic Director these six years-and to elevate a variety of powerful voices through bold story-telling from our stages. With our new building at last complete and our Comeback 2021/22 Season announced, the time is right to share this transition publicly," said Shapiro.

"Now the work is to take this beautiful, mad and revolutionary experiment to the next level and welcome in the next generation to make their mark. I look back on my tenure with great pride. I have been honored to work alongside so many great artists and staff, and will continue to do so as an ensemble member in the Steppenwolf family."

In keeping with Steppenwolf tradition, and in accordance with its founding documents, it is the responsibility of the 49 ensemble members to select the next artistic director.

"Anna is a beloved member of our ensemble, and a treasure for our theatre. Her contributions to the legacy of this theatre have been nothing short of remarkable. We have an opportunity in this moment to evaluate what we need to help us keep thrilling existing audiences and grow new theater lovers as we joyfully reopen our doors to live performance. We will take the appropriate time to thoughtfully answer those questions as we determine the best next steps for artistic direction at Steppenwolf," shared co-founding ensemble member Jeff Perry.

During Anna's tenure, she led a multi-million dollar fundraising effort that made possible the realization of Steppenwolf's new 50,000 sq. ft. campus on Halsted Street. With Anna's leadership, the company broke ground on the building in 2019 and the walls continued to rise during the pandemic with a grand opening slated for Fall 2021. Featuring a new 400-seat Round Theater (one of its kind in Chicago), an education center, breathtaking city views, and new bars for community and socializing, the campus is a home for the ensemble and a physical manifestation of the company's promise to the City of Chicago, that Steppenwolf will continue its legacy of creation and service for generations to come.

Also on her watch, Steppenwolf expanded its mainstage season and added new programming series to tell more stories for more of Chicago. Steppenwolf presented the groundbreaking world premiere Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, which was then filmed at Steppenwolf for a Spike Lee film, reaching a global audience via Amazon Prime. She continued to raise the theater's national reputation, transferring Steppenwolf's acclaimed production of ensemble member Bruce Norris's Downstate to The National Theatre in London and ensemble member Tracy Letts's The Minutes to Broadway. Shapiro expanded and diversified the storied ensemble, inviting ten new members during her tenure-Cliff Chamberlain, Carrie Coon, Celeste M. Cooper, Glenn Davis, Audrey Francis, Rajiv Joseph, Sandra Marquez, Caroline Neff, Karen Rodriguez and Namir Smallwood. As a Tony Award-winning director, she continued to helm brilliant productions at Steppenwolf and beyond, including Young Jean Lee's Straight White Men on Broadway, Tracy Letts's Mary Page Marlowe, and she is currently working on the new musical The Devil Wears Prada with music by Sir Elton John, lyrics by Shaina Taub and book by Paul Rudnick.

"We are deeply grateful for Anna's leadership these past six years. She had very big and bold priorities when she took over artistic direction for Steppenwolf, and she accomplished a great deal during her tenure, leaving the theater's artistic foundation in a strong place and ready for the next chapter of our history," said Board Chair Eric Lefkofsky.

For more details Steppenwolf's Campus Expansion and 2021/22 Comeback Season, visit