Broadway-Bound AIRLINE HIGHWAY Begins Tonight at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre
Steppenwolf Theatre Company continues its 2014/15 subscription season with the world premiere production of Airline Highway, written by Lisa D'Amour (Detroit, How to Build a Forest) and directed by Joe Mantello (The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, Wicked). Steppenwolf's production will be presented by Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) at their Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway in Spring 2015. Airline Highway begins previews tonight, December 4, 2014 (Opening night is December 14, 2014; Press performances are December 13 at 3pm and December 16 at 7:30pm) and runs through February 8, 2015 in Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Single tickets to Airline Highway ($20 - $86) are available through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.
In the parking lot of The Hummingbird, a once-glamorous motel on New Orleans' infamous Airline Highway, a group of friends gather. A rag-tag collection of strippers, hustlers and philosophers have come together to celebrate the life of Miss Ruby, an iconic burlesque performer who has requested a funeral before she dies. The party rages through the night as old friends resurface to pay their respects. A world premiere from the author of Detroit, Airline Highway is a boisterous and moving ode to the outcasts that make life a little more interesting.
"The play is deeply concerned with interrogating the nature of community and belonging. Lisa has rooted the play in her hometown of New Orleans, an American city that lives in the cultural imagination as the home of Mardi Gras," shares Artistic Director Martha Lavey. "Everything about the setting suggests transience, of passage, of the betwixt and between condition that so characterizes the rite of Mardi Gras. And indeed, the denizens of The Hummingbird motel are, for the most part, workers in clubs and bars that have capitalized on the tourist demand for Mardi Gras and extended its commercial reach well into Jazz Fest. As Francis, the poet of the group declares, 'The real fest is on the edges...'"
Airline Highway was commissioned and developed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Lisa D'Amour's critically acclaimed production of Detroit premiered at Steppenwolf under the direction of ensemble member Austin Pendleton in 2010. Pendleton also directed the second production at the Royal National Theater. Detroit won the Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2013 and was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Drama and the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn prize.
"It took me a long time to be brave enough to write about my hometown of New Orleans - it is so hard to capture the nuance of this city in writing," says Lisa D'Amour. "This play is a celebration of NOLA natives and longtime locals; the people who have built the city and made it what it is. The character of Miss Ruby is based on New Orleans living legend Chris Owens, who still performs her incredible burlesque routine on Bourbon Street. I am interested in telling the story of New Orleaneans who have lived through it all -- and continue to do so, on the fringes and behind the scenes."
Joe Mantello was recently in Chicago to direct The Last Ship, a musical by Sting now playing on Broadway. As an actor, Mantello received Emmy and Critics' Choice Television Award nominations for his performance in HBO's The Normal Heart. The two-time Tony Award-winning director has worked closely with many ensemble members starting with his college classmate, K. Todd Freeman and extending to Rondi Reed in Wicked, and with Laurie Metcalf repeatedly on the New York stage.
Veteran Chicago actress Kate Buddeke takes on the role of Tanya in place of Judith Ivey, who had an artistic scheduling conflict. The previously announced Chicago cast includes Steppenwolf ensemble members Robert Breuler and K. Todd Freeman with Carolyn Braver, Chris Daley, Stephen Louis Grush, Terry Hamilton, Scott Jaeck, Toni Martin, Caroline Neff, Tim Edward Rhoze, Judith Roberts, Brenann Stacker, Gordon Joseph Weiss and Jacqueline Williams. Casting for the MTC engagement will be announced at a later date.
The production team for Steppenwolf's production of Airline Highway includes Scott Pask (scenic design), David Zinn (costume design), Japhy Weideman (lighting design) and Fitz Patton (sound design and original composition). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Malcolm Ewen (stage manager) and Christine D. Freeburg (assistant stage manager).
Tickets to Airline Highway ($20 - $86) are available through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org. 20 for $20: twenty $20 tickets are available through Audience Services beginning at 11am on the day of each performance (1pm for Sunday performances). Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket. For additional student discounts, visit steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org/groups.
Free post-show discussions are offered after every performance in the Subscription Season. Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street, lot and valet parking are available. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance.
Accessible performances include an American Sign Language Interpretation on Sunday, January 11 at 7:30pm; Open Captioning: Saturday, January 17 at 3pm; Audio Description and Touch Tour: Sunday, January 18 (Touch tour at 1:30pm; Curtain at 3pm). For more information, visit steppenwolf.org/access.
Steppenwolf's 2014/15 season explores the question, How did I get here?, through five stories about losing-and finding-your way. Do you ever catch yourself in the rearview mirror and think: How did I get here? A jolt of fear. A flash of inspiration. The past may be a mystery, but the future is up for grabs. Are you completely lost? Or are you exactly where you are supposed to be?
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, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. 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. Martha Lavey is the Artistic Director and David Hawkanson is the Executive Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf's Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre and twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr.
Photo Credit: Joel Moorman