Northwestern University School of Communication faculty member Anna D. Shapiro was named the new artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company on Thursday. In fall 2015, Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey, who has four degrees from Northwestern.
Shapiro is a professor and the Marjorie Hoffman Hagan, Class of 1934, Chair in the Department of Theatre, as well its current department chair. She is also a longtime artistic associate, ensemble member, and director at Steppenwolf, and a Tony Award-winning stage
director. Shapiro won Best Director, Play in 2008 for her staging of August: Osage County and was nominated in the same category in 2011 for The Motherf**ker with the Hat.
Shapiro plans to continue in her role as professor in the theatre department at Northwestern.
Lavey (C79, GC86, GC94, H10) will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on a plan for Steppenwolf’s expansion of its physical spaces. Lavey has been an ensemble member of the company since 1993 and artistic director since 1995. Lavey studied theatre through three degrees with the School of Communication, earning her PhD in performance studies. In 2010, she received an honorary degree from the university.
“Steppenwolf has always been at the center of everything in my professional life,” said Anna D. Shapiro. “Members of this ensemble and the work they have created have shaped not only who I am as an artist but as a human being. It has been my distinct honor to work alongside Martha Lavey since we both came onto the artistic staff 19 years ago and I feel very fortunate that our wishes for the company, as well as the evolution of our own lives, have led us to the transition together.”
Shapiro and Lavey began their tenures at Steppenwolf together, said Lavey.
“Anna has directed some of Steppenwolf’s most memorable productions over the past ten years, including August: Osage County…and most recently, This is Our Youth,” Lavey said. This Is Our Youth, starring young Arrested Development star Michael Cera, went to the Cort Theatre in New York this year. “I am enormously proud to hand over the stewardship of this treasured company to Anna,” Lavey said.
On average, Steppenwolf stages 16 productions a year on three stages and attracts an annual audience of 200,000 people. In addition, Steppenwolf hosts approximately 700 public events, which serve artists, audiences and the community. An expansion of its Halsted Street campus, also announced on Thursday, will include replacing two temporary theatres with permanent spaces.
“Like the entire Chicago theatre community, Northwestern has benefited tremendously from Martha Lavey's extraordinary leadership, and we are confident that Anna Shapiro will be a great successor for her and continue to build strong bridges between Chicago's academic theatre programs and Steppenwolf,” said Barbara J. O’Keefe, dean of the School of Communication.