FIRST LOOK 2015 Kicks Off at Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announces casting for First Look 2015, a program dedicated to new play development, today, August 11, through August 16, 2015 in the Upstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). First Look 2015 features six staged readings, providing an early look at works-in-progress from some of the most dynamic playwrights in the field. The mission of First Look is to develop new plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theaters across the country.

Ensemble members Tom Irwin and Sally Murphy have been cast in the reading of Sharr White's new play, Stupid Kid to be directed by ensemble member Randall Arney, who also serves as Artistic Director of the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Ensemble member Alana Arenas performs in the reading of Erika Sheffer's new play, The Fundamentals. Both Sheffer's and White's new works were commissioned by Steppenwolf. Jason Wells, playwright of First Look 2015's The Engine of Our Ruin, will also perform in Sarah Gancher's I'll Get You Back Again along with Zoe Perry, who most recently appeared in Steppenwolf's The Way West. Ensemble member Amy Morton directs The Engine of Our Ruin.

First Look 2015 lineup includes: The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist by David Mitchell Robinson, The Fundamentals by Erika Sheffer, I'll Get You Back Again by Sarah Gancher, Stupid Kid by Sharr White, The Engine of Our Ruin by Jason Wells and The Burn by Philip Dawkins. Philip Dawkins's new play was commissioned by Steppenwolf for Young Adults.

Tickets to First Look readings ($5) are on sale now through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted), at 312-335-1650 and

Steppenwolf continues First Look 101, offering behind-the-scenes access to the new play development process. This year, 101 participants will enjoy events including a discussion of this year's featured plays with Steppenwolf staff, an open rehearsal for The Fundamentals by Erika Sheffer and a post-performance toast and discussion of The Fundamentals. The full schedule of First Look 101 events is listed below. First Look 101 events are free, but space is limited. To sign up, e-mail or call 312-654-5610.

In addition, First Look 2015 welcomes the return of Professionals Weekend, August 14 - 16, 2015, an engaging weekend of readings, conversation and socializing for theater industry professionals. The weekend includes access to the six readings, a late-night "Writers' Jam," a Friday night ticket to Steppenwolf's production of Grand Concourse, a panel discussion, dinner and reception. Attracting participants from across the country, Professionals Weekend is a unique opportunity for conversation and collaboration among fellow theater makers who will shape the next season of new American plays. Tickets to Professionals Weekend are $75. To sign up, e-mail or call 312-654-5610 to reserve your spot.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 10th Annual First Look:
(All plays, artists and dates are subject to change)

The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist

By David Mitchell Robinson
Directed by Marti Lyons

Featuring Nambi Kelley, Eric Lynch, Emily Nichelson and Nicole Wiesner

Lacey is a tattooed rock journalist who runs an influential summer music festival. When a major act drops out, Lacey saves the fest by booking the gifted but controversial MC #Frankie. But Lacey's coworkers take issue with #Frankie's misogynist lyrics, threatening to unravel everything she's built.

The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist was developed during a residency at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference in 2014. Preston Whiteway, Executive Director and Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director.

The Fundamentals

By Erika Sheffer
Directed by Joanie Schultz

Featuring ensemble member Alana Arenas with Kathryn Acosta, Cora Vander Broek, Eddie Martinez and Steve Pringle

Millie is a housekeeper at the hottest luxury hotel in New York City. When a company shakeup creates a job opening, Millie must decide how far she's willing to go to climb the corporate ladder. A story about work, marriage, love and ambition, The Fundamentals explores what we have to give up in order to get ahead.

The Fundamentals was commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

I'll Get You Back Again

By Sarah Gancher
Directed by Rachel Chavkin

Featuring Marilyn Dodds Frank, Kenn Head, Morgan Maher, Zoe Perry and Jason Wells

Struggling stand-up comedian Chloe is sitting in for her late father as the bassist for his 60s psychedelic rock band. As rehearsals progress, Chloe navigates increasingly emotional terrain as old conflicts flare up and old age looms ever nearer. By turns scathing and tender, the play celebrates the search for transcendence in music and comedy.

Stupid Kid

By Sharr White

Directed by ensemble member Randall Arney

Featuring ensemble members Tom Irwin and Sally Murphy with Hayley Burgess, Shane Kenyon and Randall Newsome

After 14 years in prison for a crime he swears he didn't commit, Chick returns home to find his flat-broke family under the thumb of his dangerous Uncle Mike. A darkly comic glimpse of a family isolated by shame, Stupid Kid explores power, guilt and the limits of maternal love.

Stupid Kid was commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

The Engine of Our Ruin

By Jason Wells
Directed by ensemble member Amy Morton

Featuring Joel Boyd, Madison Dirks, Darci Nalepa, Monica Raymund, Yuriy Sardarov and Chris Stolte

In a luxury hotel in the Middle East, diplomat Charles Manning-Jourdain negotiates a trade agreement with an unfriendly nation. But this routine mission quickly becomes an international incident thanks to an interpreter with a hidden agenda; a belligerent official hinting at war; and Charles's own staffers, whose after-hours party might just topple a foreign government.

The Burn

By Philip Dawkins
Directed by Devon de Mayo

Featuring Ariana Burks, Gaby Godinez, Erik Hellman, Melanie Neilan and Olivia Shine

Mercedes is an outsider. Tara makes sure she knows it. When a high school production of The Crucible forces them together, tensions escalate into anonymous acts of bullying-both online and IRL. The Burn raises questions about what we sacrifice when our online identities don't match our real life identities.

The Burn was commissioned by Steppenwolf for Young Adults.

First Look 2015 Reading Schedule:

All readings will take place in Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted

8/11 7pm: The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist

8/12 7pm: The Fundamentals

8/13 7pm: I'll Get You Back Again

8/14 3pm: Stupid Kid

8/15 1pm: The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist

8/15 4pm: The Fundamentals

8/15 8pm: I'll Get You Back Again

8/16 11am: The Engine of Our Ruin

8/16 2pm: The Burn

First Look 101 Schedule:

8/4 6pm-8pm: Discussion of the First Look plays led by Steppenwolf staff

8/8 1pm-3:30pm: Open rehearsal for The Fundamentals followed by discussion with the creative team

8/12 7pm: Reading of The Fundamentals followed by post-performance toast and discussion

Tickets to First Look ($5) are on sale now at, 1650 N Halsted St or at 312-335-1650. Professionals Weekend ($75) sign-up is also available now, and includes tickets to all staged readings and the Chicago premiere production of Grand Concourse on Friday, August 15 at 7:30pm. To sign-up for First Look 101 events, e-mail or call 312-654-5610. First Look 101 events are free, but space is limited.

The mission of First Look is to develop plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theaters across the country. Since its inception in 2005, 14 plays presented in First Look have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theaters, including: Men of Tortuga by Jason Wells produced by Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida; Butcher of Baraboo by Marisa Wegrzyn produced by 2econd Stage Theatre in New York; 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor produced by Playwrights Horizons in New York; Spare Change by Mia McCullough produced by Stage Left Theatre in Chicago; When The Messenger is Hot by Laura Eason produced by 59E59 Theaters in New York; Gary by Melinda Lopez produced by Boston Playwrights' Theatre; Fair Use by Sarah Gubbins produced by Actors' Express in Atlanta; Perfect Mendacity by Jason Wells produced by Asolo Repertory Theatre; Pursued by Happiness by Keith Huff produced at The Road Theatre in Hollywood; The North Plan by Jason Wells produced by Portland Center Stage; Oblivion by Carly Mensch produced by Westport Country Playhouse; Man In Love by Christina Anderson produced by BRIC House in Brooklyn; Buena Vista by Edith Freni produced by Profile Theatre in Portland; and Ironbound by Martyna Majok produced by The Claque in New York and NJPAC in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Laura Eason's Sex with Strangers, produced in 2009's First Look, was part of Steppenwolf's 2010-2011 season.

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, First Look, a new play development series and Visiting Company engagements. 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 Schmitz is the Managing Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf's Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit, and

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