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Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon

Steppenwolf Theatre Company gathered with 300 leaders from Chicago's business and civic communities for the 10thAnniversary Steppenwolf Women in the Arts fundraising luncheon to honor OBIE, Helen Hayes and NAACP Award-winning actor and playwright Danai Gurira on December 10, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 N Columbus Dr. Ms. Gurira was also recently appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, focusing on gender equality and women's rights. Author of the hit play, Familiar, which is currently running through January 13, 2019 in Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre, Ms. Gurira was joined by Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro and Steppenwolf Education Manager Jared Bellot for a warm and candid conversation about her impressive acting career on-screen and on-stage, her award-winning plays and her impact as an activist and philanthropist.

Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro and Co-chair of the 10th Anniversary Women in the Arts luncheon, Stephanie B. Smith welcomed guests of the luncheon with opening remarks, followed by ensemble member Kathryn Erbe introducing an inspiring video, created by Joel Moorman, detailing Steppenwolf Education programs. Ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper welcomed guests back from lunch before introducing a video overviewing Ms. Gurira's impressive career. The final event of the luncheon was a lively and spontaneous conversation between Danai Gurira,

Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro and Education Manager Jared Bellot. Ms. Gurira reflected on the journey of her career, noting that she started writing plays in part because she couldn't find existing works that contained the characters she wanted to play, and she continues to write plays featuring stories centered on the experiences of African and American African women and girls. Ms. Gurira also shared that she is inspired by African artists who used their work to help end apartheid and hopes that her own work functions to bring awareness to experiences that American audiences aren't usually aware of. Some of these stories are of African women and girls, while others, like her play Familiar, are about the cross-cultural experiences that immigrant and first-generation households have. Ms. Gurira also talked about the charities she's involved with that help African girls and African artists. Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro also shared her appreciation for the women characters in Ms. Gurira's plays.

Danai Gurira is acknowledged as one of today's freshest voices for the stage as the playwright of critically acclaimed In the Continuum, Eclipsed, The Convert and Familiar. These plays have garnered Danai multiple awards including an OBIE Award, two Helen Hayes Awards, and an NAACP Award, in addition to a Tony nomination for best play (Eclipsed). Steppenwolf's celebrated production of Gurira's Familiar is currently playing through January 13, 2019.

Best known for her roles of Michonne on AMC's The Walking Dead, one of television's most watched programs, and Okoye in Marvel's Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Danai's inspired performances have captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Upcoming projects include Gurira adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Americanah into a miniseries, and her play The Convert will be staged at the Young Vic theatre in London in December.

This year, Steppenwolf was proud to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Women in the Arts, bringing together 300 leaders from Chicago's business and civic communities to honor Ms. Gurira for her unforgettable contributions to the field. The event raised $200,000 for Steppenwolf's educational and professional development programs, including the nationally recognized program Steppenwolf for Young Adults and the School at Steppenwolf, as well as the Professional Leadership Programs that provide apprenticeships, fellowships and internships for the next generation of arts managers and producers.

Additional notable guests included Steppenwolf ensemble members Celeste M. Cooper, Jon Michael Hill, Tim Hopper, Amy Morton, co-founder Jeff Perry, Yasen Peyankov, Anna Shapiro and Kathryn Erbe; Steppenwolf Trustee Susan O. Berghoef; Steppenwolf Trustee Jonathan Blanc; Steppenwolf Trustee Amy Bluhm; Steppenwolf Trustee Nora Daley; Steppenwolf Trustee Beth Davis; Mary A. Dempsey; Steppenwolf Trustee Amy Eshleman; Steppenwolf Trustee Ronald J. Mallicoat Jr.; Steppenwolf Trustee Verett Mims; Steppenwolf Trustee Heather Mitchell; Steppenwolf Trustee Lynn Lockwood Murphy; Steppenwolf Trustee Deborah H. Quazzo; Steppenwolf Trustee Cari B. Sacks; Steppenwolf Trustee Stephanie B. Smith; and Steppenwolf Trustee Helen Zell.

Previous honorees include ensemble members Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf and Martha Plimpton, along with Claire Danes, Juliette Lewis, Julianna Margulies, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Mary-Louise Parker, Sarah Paulson and Phylicia Rashad.

Since its inception, the luncheon has raised over $1.3 million for Steppenwolf's professional development programs, including Steppenwolf for Young Adults, the nationally recognized education program, the School at Steppenwolf, as well as the Professional Leadership Programs, providing apprenticeships, fellowships and internships for the next generation of arts managers and producers.

Co-chairs of the 10th Anniversary Women in the Arts luncheon were Stephanie B. Smith and Helen Zell. United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline Partner of Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Photo credits: Kyle Flubacker and Tony Favarula

high res photos

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira, Steppenwolf Education Manager Jared Bellot

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira and Michelle Boone

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira poses with members of the cast and crew from the Steppenwolf production of her play Familiar; Luigi Sottile, Regina Victor, Nakia Shalice Avila, Steppenwolf ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper, Erik Hellman

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf Trustee Amy Eshleman, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira, Lori Lightfoot

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira and Steppenwolf Trustee Verett Mims

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Co-Chair and Steppenwolf Trustee Stephanie Smith, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira, Gerald Smith

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira poses with guests

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble member Jon Michael Hill

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton talks with Gwendolyn Perry Davis

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Nigel Caine, Jennifer Stuart, Steppenwolf Trustee Jonathan Blanc, Eleonore Moncheur, Katherine Nardin and Aimee Graham

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble members Amy Morton and Yasen Peyankov

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Regina Victor, Danya Taymor, Hallie Gordon and Steppenwolf ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf co-founder and ensemble member Jeff Perry with Steppenwolf Trustee Verett Mims, Alison Wilbon and Amrit Singh

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble members Jon Michael Hill and Kathryn Erbe

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf ensemble member Kathryn Erbe and Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro enjoy a video montage celebrating the past 10 years of Women in the Arts luncheons

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Danai Gurira with Steppenwolf cast members from her play Familiar, Steppenwolf ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper and Cheryl Lynn Bruce

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
10th Anniversary Women in the Arts Co-Chair and Steppenwolf Trustee Helen Zell with Gerald Smith

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Women in the Arts Co-Chair and Steppenwolf Trustee Stephanie B. Smith greeting honoree Danai Gurira, with Steppenwolf Executive Director David Schmitz and Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf Trustee Amy Eshleman and Sybil Madison-Boyd

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Julie Sacks, First Lady of Chicago Amy Rule, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira, Steppenwolf Trustee Cari B. Sacks, Sally Garon

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Danai Gurira

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Honoree Danai Gurira in conversation with Steppenwolf Education Manager Jared Bellot and Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Danya Taymor, Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Danai Gurira and Steppenwolf co-founder and ensemble member Jeff Perry

Photo Flash: Steppenwolf Honors Actor and Playwright Danai Gurira At Annual Women in the Arts Luncheon
Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro, 10th Anniversary Honoree Danai Gurira, Steppenwolf Executive Director David Schmitz


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