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Steppenwolf Sets FIRST LOOK Lineup of New Plays

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is proud to announce the lineup for the 10th annual First Look, a program dedicated to new play development, August 11 - 16, 2015 in the Upstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Providing an early look at works-in-progress from some of the most dynamic playwrights in the field, First Look develops new plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theaters across the country. Since its inception in 2005, First Look has developed 14 plays that have received subsequent world premiere productions at other theatres, as well as Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason, which premiered on the Steppenwolf stage.

New this year, First Look 2015 features six staged readings, rather than three developmental productions, placing a greater emphasis on the development process. The lineup of celebrated playwrights includes: Philip Dawkins, Sarah Gancher, David Mitchell Robinson, Erika Sheffer, Jason Wells and Sharr White. Philip Dawkins's new play was commissioned by Steppenwolf for Young Adults and Erika Sheffer's and Sharr White's new works were commissioned by Steppenwolf. Ensemble members Randall Arney and Amy Morton are among the First Look 2015 directors. Full lineup and play descriptions included below.

"As we enter our 10th year of First Look, we are paring down to the essentials. By focusing on staged readings, we ensure that playwrights can experiment boldly in rewrites without the limitations imposed by production deadlines," shared Aaron Carter, Steppenwolf's Director of New Play Development. "We also avoid the perception-created by full design elements and published reviews-that the plays have received a Steppenwolf world premiere. Our goal is to position plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theaters across the country."

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

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, panel discussions, dinners and receptions. Attracting participants from across the country, Professionals Weekend is a unique opportunity for conversation and collaboration amongst 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 continues First Look 101, offering behind-the-scenes access to the new play development process. More details and sign-up information will be available at a later date.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 10th Annual First Look

August 11-16, 2015

(All plays, artists and dates are subject to change)

The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn't Exist

By David Mitchell Robinson
Director TBA

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.

David Mitchell Robinson's plays include Carapace, Animals Nobody Loves, Terminals and Augury. These and other plays have been produced, developed or commissioned by the Alliance Theatre, Center Theatre Group, the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Primary Stages, the Kennedy Center, Actor's Express, Theater J, B Street Theatre, the Inkwell, Rep Stage and Ohio University, where he received his MFA.

The Fundamentals

By Erika Sheffer
Directed by Joanie Schultz

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.

Erika Sheffer's playwriting debut, Russian Transport, was produced at The New Group (Outer Critics Circle nomination) and Steppenwolf. She is a recipient of The Vineyard's Paula Vogel Playwriting Award. Her plays have been developed at The New Group, The Vineyard, and Primary Stages. Erika has performed original pieces at Upright Citizens Brigade and Dixon Place. She is a member of SPACE on Ryder Farm's Working Farm and Ars Nova Playgroup 2015/2016. Russian Transport is published by Dramatists Play Service. Erika received her BFA in Drama from Syracuse University.

The Fundamentals was commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

I'll Get You Back Again

By Sarah Gancher
Directed by Rachel Chavkin

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.

Sarah Gancher's writing has been seen on stages across the US and internationally, including London's National Theatre, Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, Budapest's Quarter6Quarter7 Festival, PS122, Ars Nova, New York Stage and Film and NYC SummerStage. She frequently partners with devising ensembles such as NYC's The TEAM, Colorado's Telluride Theatre, Portland's Hand2Mouth and Blue Man Group. Recent credits include Time Warner Fellow at Women's Project Lab, Playwrights' Realm Writing Fellow, I73 and Ars Nova Play Group. Sarah earned her MFA from NYU.

Stupid Kid

By Sharr White

Directed by ensemble member Randall Arney

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.

Sharr White's productions at Manhattan Theatre Club include The Other Place on Broadway with Steppenwolf ensemble member Laurie Metcalf (Tony Nomination), directed by Joe Mantello and The Snow Geese on Broadway (co-produced by MCC Theatre) with Mary Louise Parker, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Off-Broadway credits with MCC Theatre include The Other Place and The New Group: Annapurna, starring Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. Regional credits include Six Years at the Humana Festival and Sunlight, a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. Television credits include Hedged, a pilot for HBO and writer/producer on season two of Showtime's The Affair.

Stupid Kid was commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

The Engine of Our Ruin

By Jason Wells
Directed by ensemble member Amy Morton

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.

Jason Wells's previous plays Men of Tortuga, Perfect Mendacity and The North Plan have all debuted at Steppenwolf's First Look and gone on to subsequent productions in the US and abroad. Perfect Mendacity won the American Theatre Critics Association's M. Elizabeth Osborn Award and was a finalist for the Steinberg/New Play Award. Jason is also an actor with TV, film and stage credits.

The Burn

By Philip Dawkins
Directed by Devon de Mayo

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.

Philip Dawkins's work include Miss Marx: or the Involuntary Effect of Living which was part of Steppenwolf's 2011 First Look and premiered last year at Strawdog Theatre (Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work); The Homosexuals; and Failure: A Love Story. A graduate of Loyola University, Philip teaches playwriting at Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago and through the Victory Gardens ACCESS Program for writers with disabilities.

Tickets to First Look ($5) are on sale now. Tickets are available 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. For more information or to sign up, e-mail or call 312-654-5610.

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