Steppenwolf Theatre comeback season a mix of virtual, in-person productions and debut of new theater center

The 2021-2022 season marks the first time in Steppenwolf history that all works will be written exclusively by ensemble members.

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Steppenwolf Theatre’s new 50,000-square-foot theater and education center (shown in rendering) will debut on Halsted Street as part of the 2021-2022 season.

Steppenwolf Theatre’s new 50,000-square-foot theater and education center (shown in rendering) will debut on Halsted Street as part of the 2021-2022 season.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Steppenwolf Theatre Company on Wednesday announced its 2021-2022 comeback season, which will see a planned return to in-person productions and the debut of its highly anticipated 50,000-square-foot theater building/education center.

“Steppenwolf is first and foremost a Chicago theater, and that understanding has guided the design of every inch of the building,” said Steppenwolf artistic director Anna D. Shapiro. “Our company’s role is to create experiences that are in conversation with the diverse life of our hometown and that motivate youth and adults toward participating in a future that is aware, connected and inclusive.”

Every production slated for the season, either streaming online or live on-stage, is written by a Steppenwolf ensemble member, with new virtual works by Tina Landau, Tracy Letts and Tarell Alvin McCraney planned for the fall.

An architectural rendering of Steppenwolf’s new Round Theater, which will make its debut in Spring 2022.

An architectural rendering of Steppenwolf’s new Round Theater, slated to make its debut in spring 2022.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

In November, in-person audiences will be invited to Steppenwolf’s main stage theater for a revival of Letts’ “Bug,” directed by David Cromer, with Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood reprising their roles in the production which closed last March amid the mandated pandemic shut-down of all theaters. (For in-person productions/events, the company will adhere to the pandemic safety protocols in place at time/date of presentation.)

The Downstairs Theater will also include several 2020-2021 productions postponed due to the pandemic, including the world premiere of “King James” by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Shapiro, and a newly staged production of “Choir Boy” directed by Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.

In April 2022, Yasen Peyankov’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Seagull” will mark the official opening of the new center’s Round Theater.

This combination photo shows Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble members and playwrights Tracy Letts (from left),  Tarell Alvin McCraney, Tina Landau, Rajiv Joseph and Yasen Peyankov.

This combination photo shows Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble members and playwrights Tracy Letts (from left), Tarell Alvin McCraney, Tina Landau, Rajiv Joseph and Yasen Peyankov.

Courtesy Steppenwolf Theatre

Here’s a look at the virtual streams announced Wednesday:

• Three Short Plays by ensemble member Tracy Letts (streaming in September):

1) ”The Old Country,” an animated short, directed by Patrick Zakem and featuring William Petersen, Karen Rodriguez and Mike Nussbaum: “Two men in a diner drain the last drops of their coffees and think about ordering dessert. In the denouement of their (physical, intellectual, and sexual) lives, they wax nostalgic and try to communicate across a wide divide.”

2) “Night Safari,” a monologue directed by Patrick Zakem, starring Rainn Wilson. “The nocturnal habits of the Panamanian Night Monkey, the life cycle of the Paradoxical Frog and the mating rituals of middle-aged male homo sapiens. This wry monologue poses the question: Are we so distant from the whims of our biology?”

3) “The Stretch,” a monologue directed by Anna D. Shapiro: “And they’re off, for the 108th running of the El Dorado Stakes! But this race is long distance ... and maybe not what it first seems.”

• A New Play (a filmed play, title to be announced at later date, streaming in October) written by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Amy Morton, “a one-act told through a series of confessional monologues.”

• “The Light Remains” (a filmed play streaming in November) written and directed by Tina Landau: “Six solo short stories culminate in one shared, explosive act in a tale about what’s been lost and the myriad ways in which we grieve — including celebration and laughter.”

Here’s the on-stage lineup:

• “Bug,” (Nov. 11-Dec. 12 in the Downstairs Theater), written byTracy Letts and directed by David Cromer

• “King James” (Feb. 24-April 3, 2022, in the Downstairs Theater), a world premiere written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Anna D. Shapiro

• “Seagull” (April 28-June 12, 2022, in the Round Theater), translated, adapted and directed by Yasen Peyankov

• “Choir Boy” (June 16-July 24, 2022), written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Kent Gash

For complete information on the season’s productions, including the Steppenwolf for Young Adults’series, and tickets/memberships, visit steppenwolf.org. Single tickets for the fall virtual offerings will be made available closer to the streaming dates.

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