From Highland Park to Lincoln Park


In January, Gary Sinise and a small group of aspiring Highland Park high school actors organize under the name Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Illinois and produce the first Steppenwolf play, And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little by Paul Zindel. In April the company produces a second show, the musical Grease and in June, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry team up with Gary and the group on a third production, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. In October a forth show is produced, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, completing the first season.



Steppenwolf Theatre Incorporates in February. Produces one play that summer. The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. Directed by Barbara Patterson with music written by Gary Sinise.



The company reorganizes both artistically and philosophically, by bringing in new actors and dedicating themselves to the ensemble approach to theatre. The founding members are Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise. The founders recruit six additional members. They are original members H.E. Baccus, Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Alan Wilder. All but two of this original group, H.E. Baccus and Nancy Evans, remain as ensemble members today.

The company is housed in the basement of the Immaculate Conception Church and School in Highland Park, Illinois and builds an 88-seat theater with the help of Kevin Rigdon, recruited as resident designer from 1976-1982. While the origins of the company go back to 1974, with taking up residence in the church basement and the reorganization by the founders and original members, the summer of 1976 is considered the official beginning.



Joan Allen joins the company.

In May, the company produces its first plays in the city of Chicago at the Jane Adams Hull House. It is a short run revival of two one acts from the summer season of ’76: The Indian Wants The Bronx and Birdbath.



Chicago playwright Dan Ursini becomes Steppenwolf's first resident playwright.

The ensemble teams up with The St Nicholas Theatre Company on Halsted Street for a production of Lanford Wilson’s The Fifth of July. It is the first time the company is paid for acting. Each member of the cast makes $100 per week, $88 after taxes.



In June, the company produces its final production in the basement theater in Highland Park, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

Later that summer, seven more members are recruited: Mary Copple, Francis Guinan, Glenne Headly, Tom Irwin, John Mahoney, Rondi Reed and Mike Sassone. Mary Copple and Mike Sassone leave the company within a few years.

In the fall/winter of that season the company begins its transition into Chicago and produces Waiting For Lefty by Clifford Odets at The Apollo Theatre, and it is the first collaboration with longtime friend and director Sheldon Patinkin. The company also teams up with Travelight Theatre for a production of Say Goodnight Gracie by Ralph Pape, and it is the first time working with future company member, director Austin Pendleton.



The company moves to the 134-seat theater at the Jane Addams Hull House Center, 3212 N Broadway, Chicago and opens with Bonjour, La Bonjour by Michel Tremblay.

In the fall the company produces Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead directed by John Malkovich.

Gary Sinise is named artistic director.



In the summer, Balm in Gilead is remounted at the Apollo Theatre



In early fall the company moves to the 211-seat facility at 2851 N Halsted, Chicago, former home of The St Nicholas Theatre, and opens A Prayer For My Daughter, directed by John Malkovich.

True West, featuring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, is transferred to New York and opens at the Cherry Lane Theater on October 15. It is the first Steppenwolf production brought to New York.

Jeff Perry is named artistic director.



Rick Snyder joins the company.

And a Nightingale Sang..., directed by Terry Kinney, and featuring Joan Allen, Francis Guinan and Moira Harris, is transferred to New York and opens at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on November 27. It is the second play Steppenwolf produces in New York.



Kevin Anderson and Randall Arney join the company.

Kevin Rigdon returns to Steppenwolf as resident designer.

Balm in Gilead, directed by John Malkovich and featuring Francis Guinan, Glenne Headly, Tom Irwin, Terry Kinney, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise, opens on May 15 in New York at the Circle Repertory Theatre.



AWARD: Steppenwolf is presented with the Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) for Regional Theatre Excellence.

Molly Regan and Gary Cole join the company.

Gary Sinise is named artistic director.

Orphans, directed by Gary Sinise and featuring Kevin Anderson, Terry Kinney and John Mahoney, opens on May 7 in New York at the Westside Arts Theatre.

Steppenwolf Theatre presents Coyote Ugly and Streamers at the AT&T Performing Arts Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., June 12 through August 10.

Frank Galati joins the ensemble.

Grapes of Wrath is commissioned.



The Caretaker, directed by John Malkovich and featuring Jeff Perry, Gary Sinise and Alan Wilder, opens on January 30 in New York City at Circle in the Square Theatre.

Orphans, directed by Gary Sinise, opens March 11 in London at the Hampstead Theatre. Albert Finney and Jeff Fahey join Kevin Anderson in the cast. The production opens April 9 in a transfer to London's West End at the Apollo Theatre.

Frank's Wild Years with Tom Waits opens.

(Gary Sinise appoints Randall Arney and Jeff Perry as associate Artistic Directors)



Randall Arney and Jeff Perry act as transitional artiistic leadership.

Lydie Breeze, directed by Rondi Reed and featuring Randall Arney, Moira Harris, Tom Irwin and Rick Snyder, is performed in January and February in Australia at the Festivals of Sydney and Perth.

Educating Rita, directed by Jeff Perry and featuring Laurie Metcalf and Austin Pendleton, opens May 7 in New York at the Westside Arts.

Nan Cibula and Erin Quigley named resident costume designers.

Robert Breuler and Austin Pendleton join the ensemble. 

Tim Hopper and Jim True-Frost join the ensemble.



Randall Arney named artistic director.

The Grapes of Wrath opens at Royal George Theater.



John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, adapted and directed by Frank Galati, journeys to the La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, California, opening May 14. It then travels to the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain's Lyttleton Theatre, London, England, where it opens June 22. It features Robert Breuler, Tom Irwin, Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, Rondi Reed, Gary Sinise, Rick Snyder, Jim True-Frost, and Alan Wilder.



AWARD:The Grapes of Wrath garners Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards for Best Director/Play for Frank Galati and Best Play for the 1989-90 season, on June 3, 1990.

The Grapes of Wrath opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on March 22, 1990 and features Robert Breuler, Francis Guinan, Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, Rondi Reed, Gary Sinise, Rick Snyder, and Jim True-Frost.



Steppenwolf opens new theater complex with Grand Opening Gala sponsored by Citibank on April 13, 1991.



In March, Dusty Hughes' play, A Slip of the Tongue, directed by Simon Stokes and featuring John Malkovich, opens in London's West End.



AWARD: Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) nomination for Best Play: The Song of Jacob Zulu

The Song of Jacob Zulu returns to Chicago in February for a brief run before traveling to Perth, Australia for the Festival of Perth, and to New York for a Broadway run.

Kathryn Erbe, K. Todd Freeman, Martha Lavey, Mariann Mayberry, Sally Murphy, Eric Simonson and Lois Smith join the ensemble.

Steppenwolf inaugurates the Studio Theater with the World Premiere of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, by Steve Martin.



The Rise and Fall of Little Voice opens on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre.

Steppenwolf makes its Los Angeles debut at the Westwood Playhouse with Steve Martin's first play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile.



Steppenwolf Board of Directors forms Executive Artistic Board composed of founding members Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry.

Steppenwolf ensemble member Martha Lavey is named Artistic Director.

On October 1, Steppenwolf Theatre Company celebrates the beginning of its 20th Anniversary Season with the opening of Buried Child, and plays to sold-out audiences.

Steppenwolf Theatre's for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf... at the DuSable Museum of African-American History.



Steppenwolf co-founder Gary Sinise directs ensemble members Terry Kinney, Jim True-Frost and Lois Smith in the remounting of Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Buried Child on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, opening April 30, produced in part by Zollo Productions. The production receives 5 Tony nominations including Best Play, Best Director and Best Featured Actress for Lois Smith.

Nomathemba (Hope) directed by Eric Simonson and co-written by Joseph Shabalala, Ntozake Shange and Simonson receives spring productions at Crossroads Theater in New Jersey, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It was first conceived and produced on Steppenwolf's mainstage in the winter of 1995, becoming the highest grossing production ever at Steppenwolf.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company celebrates its official 20th birthday on July 22, 1996.



Amy Morton joins the ensemble.



AWARD: Steppenwolf is awarded a 1998 National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a White House ceremony. The Medal honors individuals and organizations "who in the President's judgment are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."

Tina Landau and Martha Plimpton join the ensemble.

The growth of a younger generation of artists as well as the continuing investment of the Steppenwolf ensemble in producing exciting work on a smaller scale inspire the opening of a third performance space, The Garage at Steppenwolf, in the rehearsal/performance space on the first floor of the parking garage building. The inaugural production is the American premiere of Hilary Bell's Wolf Lullaby, directed by Anna D. Shapiro

Kaufman and Hart's The Man Who Came to Dinner, directed by James Burrows, travels to the Barbican Centre in London. The production is invited to represent American theatre as part of the Centre's year-long Inventing America festival. The entire original cast goes overseas, including ensemble members John Mahoney in the title role, Robert Breuler, Rick Snyder and Alan Wilder.

The School at Steppenwolf is founded as a training residency for professional actors to be immersed in the ensemble traditions, values and methods that have made Steppenwolf unique.



Space, directed by Tina Landau, opens at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles featuring Francis Guinan, and at the Public Theater in New York with Amy Morton and Tom Irwin.



AWARD: On April 10, 2000, Steppenwolf's ensemble is recognized by the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation with the 2000 Illinois Arts Legend Award. The annual award, established in 1999, honors an artist and an advocate who have significantly changed the artistic and cultural lives of the people of Illinois.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, featuring Gary Sinise, Amy Morton, Rick Snyder, K. Todd Freeman, and Mariann Mayberry moves to the Barbican Center for the BITE:00 in London, England.

Side Man featuring Rick Snyder, Rondi Reed and Jim True-Frost, and the Traffic production of Beat and Beatitudes: Revisiting Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation with John Mahoney and Tim Hopper, play at the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland.



AWARD: Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Revival: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
AWARD: Otto Rene Castello Award for Political Theatre
AWARD: The Drama League Unique Contribution to Theatre Award
AWARD: Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) Award for Best Revival of a Play: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Traffic's A Night in the Pub with novelist Frank McCourt and Irish fiddler Liz Carroll moves to the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest featuring Gary Sinise, Amy Morton, Rick Snyder, K. Todd Freeman, Mariann Mayberry and Alan Wilder opens April 8, 2001 at Broadway's Royale Theatre in New York City.

Side Man, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, plays at the Melbourne Festival in Australia.

Steppenwolf's Traffic returns to Galway, Ireland, with the production of True America: The Work of Sam Shepard, featuring T Bone Burnett and ensemble members John Mahoney and Martha Lavey.



Tracy Letts and Yasen Peyankov join the ensemble.

Steppenwolf's Traffic returns to Galway, Ireland, with What Ever (An American Odyssey in 8 Acts) and Steve Earle and Tony Fitzpatrick's The Remembered City

Side Man, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, travels to Vail, Colorado, for a festival showcasing Chicago Theatre.

Steppenwolf presented Glengarry Glen Ross at the Dublin Theatre Festival.



AWARD: Equity Special Award presented to Steppenwolf Theatre Company for its leadership in earning national and international acclaim for Chicago theatre.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company renames the Mainstage and Studio Theaters, the Steppenwolf Downstairs Theater and the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theater.

Steppenwolf returns to Galway, Ireland to present Purple Heart, featuring ensemble member Laurie Metcalf.



Ensemble member Austin Pendleton directs members Laurie Metcalf and Yasen Peyankov, in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at the Dublin Theatre Festival.



Anna D. Shapiro joins the ensemble

First ever First Look Repertory of New Work.



Red Light Winter, written and directed by Adam Rapp, opens at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York on February 9, 2006.

after the quake, directed and adapted by Frank Galati, opens at Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut on February 24, 2006.

Love-Lies-Bleeding, by Don DeLillo, directed by Amy Morton, and featuring Martha Lavey, travels to the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater as a co-production of The Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays from June 17 – June 25, 2006.



The Sunset Limited transfers to the 59E59 Theaters in New York.

The Bluest Eye transfers to the New Victory in New York.

Alana Arenas, Kate Arrington, Ian Barford, Jon Michael Hill, Ora Jones, and James Vincent Meredith join the ensemble.

August: Osage County premieres at Steppenwolf

August: Osage County transfers to the Imperial Theatre on Broadway in New York City.

When The Messenger is Hot is produced at 59E59 in New York City.



AWARD: August: Osage County wins five Tony Awards – Best Play (Tracy Letts), Best Direction (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Leading Actress (Deanna Dunagan), Best Featured Actress (Rondi Reed) and Best Scenic Design (Todd Rosenthal). AWARD: Tracy Letts wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama August: Osage County moves next door to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway in New York City.

Superior Donuts, by Tracy Letts, premieres at Steppenwolf.

William Petersen joins the ensemble.

August: Osage County performs an eight-week engagement at the National Theatre in London.



AWARD: Laurence Olivier Award to Todd Rosenthal for Best Set Design: August: Osage County (National Theatre)

Superior Donuts opens on Broadway at The Music Box in New York City.

Steppenwolf produces it’s first ever Shakespeare play, The Tempest.

Steppenwolf’s production of American Buffalo moves to the McCarter Theatre in Princeton New Jersey.

The Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces name Steppenwolf one of the top 15 small workplaces in America.



August: Osage County opens at Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney Australia.

Tarell Alvin McCraney joins the ensemble.

Detroit by Lisa D'Amour premieres in the Downstairs Theater.

The first ever Garage Rep invites three Chicago storefront theater companies to perform in repertory in the Steppenwolf Garage.

Steppenwolf presents ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays in repertory. The three plays—In the Red and Brown WaterThe Brothers Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet—are in conversation with each other: they reflect on each other, echo, contradict and remind.



Steppenwolf's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, moves to Arena Stage in Washington, DC.



After directing its Broadway premiere, ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro brings The Motherf**ker with the Hat to the Steppenwolf Downstairs Theater.



Head of Passes, written by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney, premieres in the Downstairs Theater.

Zinnie Harris’s The Wheel premieres in the Downstairs Theater featuring ensemble members Joan Allen, Robert Breuler, Tim Hopper, Ora Jones and Yasen Peyankov, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau.



Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Bruce Norris joins the ensemble.

Steppenwolf’s production of This Is Our Youth moves to the Cort Theatre on Broadway, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro and featuring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson.

Mona Mansour’s The Way West and Bruce Norris's The Qualms premiere in the Downstairs Theater.

The world premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway featuring ensemble members Robert Breuler and K. Todd Freeman opens in the Downstairs Theater.



Steppenwolf’s production of Airline Highway by Lisa D’Amour opens on Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in April 2015.

Ensemble member K. Todd Freeman receives a Tony Award nomination for his role as “Sissy Na Na” in Airline Highway.

Steppenwolf premieres The Herd by Rory Kinnear reuniting ensemble members Francis Guinan, John Mahoney, Molly Regan and Lois Smith under the direction of ensemble member Frank Galati. The show receives critical acclaim and extends due to popular demand.

Ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro becomes Artistic Director at the start of the 2015/16 season.

Steppenwolf’s 40th anniversary season opens with the world premiere of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden in the Downstairs Theater, directed by co-founder Terry Kinney and adapted by ensemble member Frank Galati, featuring ensemble members Kate Arrington, Francis Guinan, Tim Hopper and Alan Wilder.



Mary Page Marlowe, a world premiere by ensemble member Tracy Letts and directed by artistic director Anna D. Shapiro, premieres in the Downstairs Theatre.

Sandra Marquez and Caroline Neff join the ensemble.



Linda Vista by ensemble member Tracy Letts, has its world premiere in the Downstairs Theatre and features ensemble members Ian Barford, Tim Hopper, Sally Murphy and Caroline Neff

Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over premieres in the Upstairs Theater, featuring ensemble member Jon Michael Hill. The production is later filmed by Spike Lee, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival and released widely on Amazon Prime in April. 

Ensemble member Tracy Letts’ The Minutes has its world premiere in the Downstairs Theater, directed by artistic director Anna D. Shapiro and featuring ensemble members Kevin Anderson, Ian Barford, Francis Guinan, James Vincent Meredith, Sally Murphy and William Petersen.



Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s The Doppelgänger (An International Farce) has its world premiere in the Downstairs Theater, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau and featuring ensemble members Celeste M. CooperAudrey Francis, Ora Jones, Sandra Marquez and James Vincent Meredith.

Pass Over premieres at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater, featuring ensemble members Jon Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood.

Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro directs Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee on Broadway.

Ensemble member Tracy Letts's Mary Page Marlowe runs at 2nd Stage.

Steppenwolf unveils The Mix, a list comprised of new and under-produced plays that feature casts of intersectional and intersecting social identities and come with the recommendation of professionals in the field.



Ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney's play Choir Boy receives Broadway production.

Carrie Coon joins the ensemble.

Steppenwolf's production of Linda Vista by ensemble member Tracy Lettsdirected by Dexter Bullardreceives its Los Angeles premiere at the Center Theatre Group in the Mark Taper Forum. The production features Steppenwolf ensemble members Ian Barford, Tim Hopper, Sally Murphy and Caroline Neff with Chantal Thuy, Cora Vander Broek and Troy West.

Steppenwolf and the National Theatre’s co-production of Downstate by ensemble member Bruce Norris received its UK premiere at the National Theatre in spring 2019, following the world premiere at Steppenwolf.

Steppenwolf’s production of Linda Vista by ensemble member Tracy Letts to open on Broadway at Second Stage in Fall 2019 with ensemble members Ian Barford, Jim True-Frost, Sally Murphy and Caroline Neff.

Steppenwolf’s production of The Minutes by ensemble member Tracy Letts announces a Broadway run in 2020.