Half Hour: Steppenwolf Theatre Podcast


Stories and conversations. Half Hour to places.

Half Hour is a Steppenwolf Theatre produced interview-style podcast that uses the most magical amount of time there is in the theatre—the half hour before a show begins—to sit down and make connections between artists in the Steppenwolf family. To hear their stories. To learn about their processes. And to discover what motivates them to create theatre.

Half Hour takes audiences behind the scenes for candid, intimate, one-on-one conversations between members of the nation’s premier ensemble theatre, artists in Chicago and thought leaders in this industry.

Half Hour is produced by Patrick Zakem, mixed and edited by Matthew Chapman. Half Hour is immediately available on our website and on all of your favorite podcast platforms.

Episode 12 – Carrie Coon: “Relaxed Readiness”

In the final episode of Half Hour's first season, Cliff Chamberlain sits down with his long time pal and fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Carrie Coon to talk about her preparation in the moments before a performance, whether on stage or on screen. Coon shares backstage stories from her enviable career and chats about how she thinks an ensemble of actors isn't all that different from a soccer team.

Interview begins at 5:10. This episode of Half Hour is exclusively sponsored by Helen Zell. Read the transcript.


Episode 11 – Emjoy Gavino: “Show Them Chicago”

Acclaimed actor, casting director and founder of the Chicago Inclusion Project Emjoy Gavino joins Caroline Neff on the podcast to discuss the history of her vital work advocating for inclusion in the city’s theatre scene, as well as how she approaches her craft. Learn how Gavino begins to cast a production, what is on her pre-show playlist and why she can relate to an image of a dachshund in a lobster costume.

Interview begins at 4:04. Read the transcript.


Episode 10 – Matthew-Lee Erlbach: “Defend Arts Workers Now”

Playwright, actor and activist Matthew-Lee Erlbach joins Half Hour to share insights from the ongoing advocacy movement Be An #ArtsHero. In this conversation with ensemble member Audrey Francis, Erlbach relates data and stories about the vitality of the arts in American life, speaks to the struggle facing the Arts and Culture field during the COVID crisis and suggests how we can reshape our American society to place a higher value on art—and the workers who make art possible.

Interview begins at 4:44. Read the transcript.


Episode 9 – Yasen Peyankov: “I Had To”

In this friendly and fascinating conversation, ensemble member Yasen Peyankov reunites with his old student and castmate Cliff Chamberlain. Peyankov shares stories about growing up in Eastern Europe, starting his career anew in Chicago and the differences between theater in Bulgaria and America.

Interview begins at 4:15. Read the transcript.


Episode 8 – Karen Rodriguez: “Bruja Status”

Ensemble member Karen Rodriguez joins Caroline Neff to speak about her path to becoming an actor, moving to Chicago and joining the Steppenwolf ensemble. The conversation ranges from Karen’s childhood growing up in Mexico, Indiana and Texas to her first Steppenwolf audition. Hear Karen reflect on if she sees herself as a role model and what it means to reach "bruja status."

Interview begins at 4:40. Read the transcript.


Episode 7 – Sydney Charles: “Triumph and Trouble”

Ensemble member Audrey Francis hosts actor, director, activist (and all-around bad ass) Sydney Charles for this frank, funny and warm conversation. Learn about many of the vital movements in Chicago’s theatre scene that are pushing institutions and individuals towards a more equitable field.

Interview begins at 2:35. Read the transcript.


Episode 6 – Frank Galati: "Stumbling Forward"

Cliff Chamberlain catches up with ensemble member Frank Galati in this conversation that covers Galati's first theatrical experiences, his attachment to Illinois and what drew him to a career as a director and adapter. A master storyteller, Galati takes a deep dive into some of his most beloved Steppenwolf productions, including The Grapes of Wrath and Kafka on the Shore.

Interview begins at 3:03. This episode was co-sponsored by Lynn Lockwood Murphy, honoring Aidan Murphy and Kenyon College Class of 2020. Read the transcript.

Episode 5 – Storycatchers Theatre & StepEd: “I got your back”

In this newest episode of Half Hour, ensemble member Caroline Neff interviews Cydney Cleveland and Tamara Drew from Storycatchers Theatre, as well as Abhi Shrestha from Steppenwolf Education. Learn about the vital performing arts programs that Storycatchers run inside and outside of juvenile justice facilities in Illinois, as well as their methodology and philosophy underpinning that work and how their programs intersect with Steppenwolf Education’s.

Interview begins at 2:30. This episode of Half Hour is sponsored by John Hart and Carol Prins in memory of Louise Hart, and co-sponsored by Winston & Strawn LLP. Read the transcript.


Episode 4 – William Petersen: "Cast Me or Not"

Ensemble member William Petersen shares stories and insights from his remarkable career in this interview conducted by Glenn Davis. The lively conversation covers Petersen's school days in Idaho, his love for Chicago's theater scene and the origins of his industry-shifting television series CSI.

Interview begins at 4:50. Read the transcript.


In episode three of Half Hour, Caroline Neff interviews Kathryn Erbe. In the conversation, Erbe shares stories about the first time she saw a Steppenwolf show, her eleven years starring on Law and Order: Criminal Intent and the challenges of balancing a busy acting career with a family life.

Interview begins at 4:51. Episode exclusively sponsored by Doug Brown and Rachel Kraft. Read the transcript.

EPISODE 2 – K. Todd Freeman: "Being Despicable"

In this second episode of Half Hour, Audrey Francis meets up with fellow Steppenwolf Ensemble Member (and her former acting teacher) K. Todd Freeman. The conversation covers what is was like for Freeman when he joined the ensemble, how he prepares to play unsavory characters onstage and why he will never perform in a two-man show again.

Interview begins at 6:48.

Episode 1 – Jeff Perry: "An Explorer’s Heart”

The debut episode of Half Hour, a podcast from Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In episode one, meet co-hosts Cliff Chamberlain, Glenn Davis, Audrey Francis and Caroline Neff as they introduce the new show. Then, Chamberlain sits down with Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-founder Jeff Perry for a conversation covering Perry’s half hour routine, coping with jealousy and how to approach art making with “an explorer’s heart.”

Interview begins at 8:12. Read the transcript.


lead sponsor of accessibility 

John Hart and Carol Prins