News & Articles

Welcome to East of Eden

by Anna D. Shapiro

It is truly an honor to welcome you to the first show of Steppenwolf Theatre’s 40th Season. This year marks enormous change for our company as we embrace new leadership, celebrate past accomplishments and look with hope and excitement to our future—a future already rife with so many possibilities and opportunities that simply enumerating them, ordering them and contemplating them takes up much of our day-to-day. To find ourselves finally in the theater with a long-anticipated project like this one, ensemble member Frank Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, directed by Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney, is a gratifying reminder that we are and will always be a place that returns again and again to the joy and wonder of the stories and the storytellers at the center of the Steppenwolf experience. As a theatre, an organization—as a family—we have much to be proud of and, like a family, we understand that we are here because of those who came before us. The group of actors that made Steppenwolf Theatre Company forty years ago are some of the most gifted and inventive theatre makers of any generation and the work they did, their commitment to one another and their collective belief that what they wanted to do was worth seeing continues to be at the heart of everything we do. But equally as important as their massive talent was their considerable irreverence—they never denied where they came from or who inspired them, but neither were they ever defined by them—they followed their affections, interrogated their interests and the work they made reflected who they were in that moment. East of Eden marks an important intersection of that storied history and our unlimited future, not just because of its position at the top of our anniversary season, but because of its themes and ideas and the challenges it presents to all who encounter it: questions of honor, of legacy, of loyalty and of change. I am often asked what I think defines Steppenwolf ’s theater—what is it that we actually do? To me, the answer is simple: we find the spectacular in the mundane and turn the every- day into the most-important-day and in it all you see yourself. John Steinbeck’s work is a celebration of the complexity of a simple life, the most base (and basic) hopes writ large across the sky. The scope of his work is as astonishing as it is bold, forcing open the human heart, opening our eyes to the truth of our own existence and doing all of this with such unerring compassion that one is left breathless with gratitude. The twinning of these two expressions, Steppenwolf ’s performative one and Steinbeck’s narrative, is as natural as it is explosive, offering opportunities for our artists and our audiences to ask the most of themselves, to join together as we encounter life’s most complex challenges: what it means to be human, what it means to be “good” and how hard it is to do both. Thank you for joining us as we continue our incredible journey forward. Anna D. Shapiro Artistic Director