Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)

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<p>A female and a male actor sitting together on a low-slung chair reacting to something to their left </p>

Kate Arrington and Tracy Letts in Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris, directed by Anna D. Shapiro. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Founded in 1974 by Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago, Illinois, is one of the premiere performing arts organizations in the country, with a commitment to advancing the vitality and diversity of American theater. Steppenwolf has made it a priority to commission and adapt new works for the stage and, to this end, developed the New Plays Initiative. The company reaches approximately 200,000 people each season.

In FY 2005, Steppenwolf received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $45,000 to support the world premiere production The Pain and the Itch, a new work by Bruce Norris. The play ran from June 20 to August 28, 2005, reaching a combined audience of 30,981 people over the 70 performances.

Steppenwolf initially began working with Norris through the New Plays Initiative, and has produced three of his plays over the last four years. The Pain and the Itch, also developed through the New Plays Initiative, was directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro, who also had directed the previous three Norris plays.

The play is a comedy about privilege and corruption in a seemingly stereotypical American upper middle-class family, whose domestic bliss is shattered by an unknown creature gnawing at the avocados in the kitchen. Steppenwolf conducted open discussions with its audiences following most performances, allowing artists and staff to interact with the community. Steppenwolf is also working with Northwestern University Press to publish the play in the coming year.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)