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New Plays at Steppenwolf

Though Steppenwolf had often produced new plays in the past, its commitment to new work became more formalized with the establishment of the New Plays Initiative (NPI) in 1995. Now run by Edward Sobel, Director of New Play Development, Steppenwolf’s NPI commissions and develops new plays by both local and nationally prominent writers. A lion’s share of new plays, however, comes from outside the theater’s walls. Steppenwolf receives 1,000 new play queries each year, and accepts roughly half of these. Most come from literary agents on behalf of the playwrights they represent. A smaller number are requested based on the strength of 10- page samples sent by writers without agent representation. Over the past few years, Steppenwolf has presented between 5 and 7 new plays each season. With odds like that, one might wonder, how does a new play actually get to be produced? In the case of Andrew Case’s Pacific, several factors converged. The play, a powerful story of a fractured family living on the California Coast, was submitted by Case‘s agent. Upon receiving the script, Sobel noted that Case had attended the graduate playwriting program at University of California at San Diego, where the faculty stages a New Play Festival each spring to showcase the work of their students. Approximately a dozen or so theater professionals from around the country are invited to see these shows and meet the writers. Sobel had attended several years ago, and was greatly impressed by the quality of the work. Upon reading the play itself, he discovered a rare voice, unique in its quiet lyricism and command of metaphor. A reading with actors of the play was scheduled, which was attended by ensemble member Molly Regan. Inspired by both Case‘s writing and his subject, Regan enthusiastically agreed to direct the play in our Garage. With the 29th season premiering Pacific, The Bluest Eye, Lost Land, Red Light Winter and The Pain and the Itch, Steppenwolf remains one of the leading American theaters for launching great plays.