A NOTE FROM ANNA D. Shapiro
Steppenwolf Artistic Director and ensemble member
Thank you for being a donor at Steppenwolf Theatre. You have invested in this company, this family, in a way that goes beyond the experience of seeing the plays. You have entrusted Steppenwolf to embrace what challenges us, what pushes us to go beyond what we already know about the world, to hopefully leave it an even better place than it was when we got here. Because of that investment, that trust, we are making space each month over the next two years to communicate directly with you and other donors about the choices we face, the work we make, and the celebrations we create. LIGHTS UP is your behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening when the lights go on, not just on stage, but in all corners of our organization. There is a lot of “new” on the horizon and we won’t be able to take this journey without you. So, please, join us as we navigate this time…
SOMETHING IS MISSING. BUT IT’S NOT PERMANENT. THANKS TO YOU.
With everything that’s been going on – the disorientation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of awareness and activism around systemic racism - our feelings of destabilization, disconnection, and distress could easily rise to the surface and take over. These difficulties we face are exacerbated by not having communion with others. We yearn to see our worries reflected back at us in the eyes of our neighbors, friends, and people that love us. We move forward by being together, interacting with one another. This situation is not permanent, thank goodness. But, in losing our ability to come together, we have lost a pillar of mental health and it plays dangerously in the sandbox alongside other challenges we have as humans. And so we wonder… what’s important, what can we do, when will we reach a “new normal”?
We are all swimming in some version of this contemplation, feeling the effects of the pandemic and this racial reckoning. Whenever we are in a reckoning, whether large or small, no matter if it’s with our relationships, family, or careers, there is always at least one moment when we ask ourselves, “must we continue on in this way? Is this how it always has to be?” And, thankfully, for theatre people like us, the answer is, “NO.”
Whether you’re a theatre artist or a donor the answer is always a resounding, “No” because the very act of theatre is an act of investigation. It is a curious and impassioned interrogation of what is or has happened that comes from an interest in connectivity and growth. No, we don’t have to go on like this. There is another way. There are other choices. And bringing those choices to life - that’s the part that you play as a donor at Steppenwolf and for that, we thank you.
Theatre people like us think about the world as a whole. We can’t not think of it that way. Every story we experience in the theatre lives in some way as an expression of our own gestures in the world. Through that attention and emotion, we work to create a bigger circle that includes all of us. Today, the growth of that circle is seemingly more important than ever and I write to you to let you in on what this means for us as a cultural family.
My mandate for Steppenwolf has always been to guarantee the future of the theatre. That means creating vital programming that demands certain physical elements to enable a collision of people, needs, and ideas. And so, we've expanded our ensemble, we've diversified our artists and stories, we’ve grown one of the best teen education programs in the country, and we are adding new spaces to our campus to cultivate these intersections.
What’s happening now is that there are these other reckonings and part of guaranteeing the theatre’s future in this moment is being able to adapt to the health and safety needs we all face. From something as mundane as how you dry your hands in the bathroom to something as essential as being a leader in anti-racist and humane practices and programming from top to bottom, we are making critical choices everyday. These choices sometimes require that we completely dismantle and rebuild, all while discovering a whole new world of virtual storytelling that, at the very least, gets at the meaning of live theatre even if it can’t recall the feeling. This is simply not something we would have the bandwidth, creativity, or resources to accomplish without you, our donors.
And so, we are using this digital space to link arms and walk alongside you through this journey. I’m talking about the journey of reimagining a season of virtual artistic programming and remote learning with Chicago teens, of welcoming a new Executive Director, of ushering in a sharper awakening to issues related to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, and of opening the doors to a new home for our art and our education programs.
This is not a celebration of what we’ve done. This is a commitment to what we’re going to do. We’re not stopping. Art has to lead in moments like this. And we don’t lead alone. Everything we do is done in partnership with you. This is a journey that is going to take all we’ve got.
You are the inspiration for our Ensemble to unite from coast to coast to keep creating work for us to share. You are the reason we are able to commission new works for the virtual stage currently being written by the country’s foremost playwrights. You have been the reason for our staff to do so many things they’ve never done before with grit and creativity. You are the reason we have the most incredible new Executive Director in Brooke Flanagan, who is coming back to her theatrical home to move Steppenwolf powerfully into and through the next phase. We are grateful to be able to meet this moment with a new horizon and look forward to sharing every moment of it with you.
We are unstoppable with you.
As our stages sit dark, we are reminded of how vital art is to our very well-being. By supporting us now, you help ensure that world-class theatre continues to thrive in our great city.
When the time is right, we will retake the stage and we want you to be there. Help us restore tomorrow by becoming a member today. Your support will help us hang on to the ability to exist during this unprecendented time.