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Welcome to Domesticated

by Anna D. Shapiro

Bruce Norris has been writing plays for Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 1995, when he was asked to be a part of the first New Plays Lab, our commissioning program for early-career playwrights. Since then, he has gone on to write some of Steppenwolf ’s most memorable plays, including The Ifidel, Purple Heart, The Pain and the Itch, A Parallelogram and the Pulitzer Prize- winning Clybourne Park. Norris’s reputation as a satirist/provocateur has grown exponentially and he continues to be commissioned by theater companies both in the United States and the U.K. Domesticated marks his 9th production here and his first as a director. It has been my distinct pleasure to partner with Bruce many times, nine actually, both here at Steppenwolf and in New York and our work together, for me, has been some of the most rewarding of my professional life. Our long-standing partnership has necessitated many instances of my both speaking for him and about him. This discussion, not unlike Bruce’s own when he writes, is never not complex: as enjoyable as it is dangerous and as dynamic as it is exacting. Bruce’s work, always a volatile cocktail of the political and the personal, engages both its makers and its watchers in the essential arguments of our own contradictory (usually) modern existence. We are asked to be truthful in the face of our own collusion in not just the often-times miserable conditions in which we find ourselves but also in the state of the world in which we, and others not like us, live. In Domesticated, Bruce casts this same unerring eye on the politics of marriage and the biology of attachment. Beginning with the now-iconic image of a fallen politician making his public mea culpa alongside his long-suffering wife, the play exposes how the societal contracts we make, when not reconciled with the truth of who we are, will inevitably collide with that given nature and force us time and again into battle with one another and ourselves. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bruce’s reputation as a literary troublemaker and a macabre social scientist suits this gender-study perfectly, although for me, the play beautifully exposes him as less taken with what separates us and more interested in what we actually share—even if all that is how misunderstood we feel. I always have a deep sense of personal pride when I get to share a Bruce Norris play with an audience. It is, however, a distinct honor to help bring one home. Anna D. Shapiro Artistic Director