News & Articles

Steppenwolf International

by Artistic Apprentice Margot Bordelon

It was in October of 1982 that New York audiences were first introduced to Steppenwolf Theatre Company. True West, starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, opened at the Cherry Lane Theater to glowing critical and audience response. Since that landmark production of Sam Shepard’s dark comedy, more than two dozen other Steppenwolf shows have traveled worldwide. In 2004 alone, Steppenwolf’s productions appeared on stages in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Hartford, Houston, Dublin, and Galway. No one in the early days of the company could have foreseen that Steppenwolf would become a recognizable name not just in Chicago and around the United States, but internationally, as well. Take what we’ll call the Irish example. When Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune closed its successful run last season in the Downstairs Theatre, it was packed up and moved to the Dublin Theater Festival in Ireland in a matter of weeks. The Dublin Festival is one of the oldest and most well-respected theater events in Europe, attracting theater artists from around the world, including Russia, Italy, Belgium, South Africa, Canada and Great Britain. Steppenwolf debuted at the Festival in 2002 with Glengarry Glen Ross. It was as much of a hit in Ireland as it had been in Chicago, and Steppenwolf was invited back to present Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. But Dublin isn’t the only city in the United Kingdom where Steppenwolf Theatre Company has been a hit. Beginning with Orphans in March of 1986 at the Hampstead Theatre in London (the first show to travel abroad), Steppenwolf shows have become favorites of British audiences. Most recently, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest traveled to the Barbican Center for the BITE-2000 festival in London. Steppenwolf’s work has also been produced with great success “down under” – from the critically acclaimed Lydie Breeze in 1987 at the Festivals of Sydney and Perth to the hit production of Side Man in 2001 at the Melbourne Festival. Other international tours have seen Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s work grace stages in Canada and Scotland. Of the 18 shows produced overseas, five have been original pieces that were a part of Steppenwolf’s Traffic series, and six have been new plays that Steppenwolf has premiered. In recent years Orange Flower Water (2004) by Craig Wright and Purple Heart (2003) by Bruce Norris have both traveled to the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland. Introducing the work of these talented, though not widely known American playwrights to an international community is beneficial both to the writers and the audience; it provides valuable exposure for the playwrights and keeps festival-goers current with the latest work in the American theater. Though negotiations are still underway for which shows will tour abroad next season, it has become a priority to continue to have the company’s work seen internationally. Presenting work overseas gives Steppenwolf the opportunity to become an artistic ambassador for the Chicago Theater community, as well as the American Theater by sharing extraordinary work by American artists.