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‘King James,’ and works by Tracy Letts, Erica L. Sanchez on tap at Steppenwolf

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and their music will be featured in "Lindiwe" this fall at Steppenwolf Theatre. | Provided Photo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and their music will be featured in "Lindiwe" this fall at Steppenwolf Theatre. | Provided Photo

Steppenwolf Theatre’s new season will feature an eclectic mix of old and new.

Included in the company’s 2019/2020 season will be the world premiere of “King James,” a new play by Rajiv Joseph, inspired by the career of LeBron James and his influence on the city of Cleveland. The play, which does not portray James per se and the athlete is not affiliated with the production, will be directed by Steppenwolf artistic director Anna D. Shapiro. Also on tap are a new production of Tracy Letts’ “Bug,” starring the playwright’s wife and ensemble member Carrie Coon.

Also on tap is the world premiere of Erica L. Sanchez’s “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” directed by ensemble member Sandra Marquez and starring ensemble member Karen Rodriguez. The play will be presented as part of the Steppenwolf for Young Audiences series.  “This is a book that I am so thrilled we got the rights to,” Shapiro said. “Isaac Gomez [who is writing the stage adaptation] also wrote ‘La Ruta’ for us and we just adore him. So repeating that relationship as well as bringing back Sandra Marquez, who directed ‘La Ruta’ for us and now will direct this show, as well as Karen Rodriguez who was one of the characters in ‘La Ruta,’  — everyone’s coming back for this one so we’re beyond thrilled.”

The world premiere of “Lindiwe,” by Eric Simonson, about a white man in Chicago who’s in love with a black woman in South Africa, will feature the music of the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who will also perform the music for the production. Shapiro said it’s a show that’s very near and dear to everyone at Steppenwolf.

“When [the late Steppenwolf artistic director] Martha [Lavey] was stepping down and we were making the transition, there was one project that she told me you have to pick up the ball and run with it, and that was ‘Lindiwe,'” Shapiro said. “It’s been about three years that we’ve been working to bring this here because these are huge projects that take an enormous amount of coordination to make them happen. … getting everyone’s schedule in place so that we could have Ladysmith Black Mambazo here. The show follows a love story from Chicago’s Kingston Mines to South Africa and they and their music will interact fully with the characters as the play moves along.”

Sports is also the subject of “The Great Leap,” by Lauren Yee, which will get its Chicago premiere this fall. Set in the 1980s as an American basketball team travels to Beijing, the play takes a look at cultural and political differences and personal sacrifice.

As for “King James,” Shapiro said the script is in its early stages but it takes place in Cleveland, and centers “on two best buddies dealing with the economics of the city and how their personal economics are affected by the changing fortunes of the city brought on by this presence of a superstar. … It’s about male friendship, the male dynamic, it’s warm and smart and interesting and really funny.”

Here’s a quick look at the season’s offerings:

“The Great Leap” (Sept. 5-Oct. 20, Chicago premiere, Upstairs Theatre) by Lauren Yee; directed by Jesca Prudencio

“Lindiwe,” (Nov. 7-Dec. 29, world premiere, Downstairs Theatre), by Eric Simonson; directed by Simonson and Jonathan Berry, and featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo

“Dance Nation” (Dec. 12, 2019-Jan. 26-2020, Chicago premiere, Upstairs Theatre), by Clare Barron; directed and choreographed by Lee Sunday Evans

“Bug” (Jan. 23-March 8, 2020, Downstairs Theatre, Steppenwolf debut), by Tracy Letts; directed by David Cromer

“The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” (April 2-May 17, 2020, Chicago premiere) by James Ijames; directed by Whitney White

“King James” (May 7-June 21, 2020, world premiere, Upstairs Theater), by Rajiv Joseph; directed by Anna D. Shapiro

“Catch As Catch Can” (June 4-July 26, 2020, Chicago premiere, Downstairs Theatre), by Mia Chung; directed by Ken Rus Schmoll

Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ 2019/20 Season: 

“The Brothers Size” (Oct. 2-19, 2019, Downstairs Theatre)  by Tarrell Alvin McCraney, directed by Monty Cole

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” (Feb. 26-March 21, 2020, world premiere, Upstairs Theatre) based on the book by Erika L. Sanchez, adapted by Isaac Gomez; directed by Sandra Marquez

For membership ticket information, call (312) 335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org/memberships. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.