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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Focus: Steppenwolf Theater Company, Chicago

I first became aware of Steppenwolf when I saw their production of Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead. I have not seen a piece like it since. I next saw their production of Lyle Kessler's Orphans. I auditioned to replace the great Kevin Anderson when he left, and I got that part. I was blessed to work with Gary Sinise. I  asked him if I could watch the rehearsals of Pinter's The Caretaker, directed by John Malkovich. Mr. Malkovich granted me a day at rehearsal and I was the only person in the theater watching...Jeff Perry was incredible. Kevin Anderson was so incredible on stage, but also in person as he met me at a bar in the village and answered all of my questions about the role of Philip in Orphans. It was a wonderful dream for a young actor. Later, I did a table reading of a play with John Malkovich, and visited the church on Park Avenue where he read selections from Catcher in the Rye.  I watched the great actors from Steppenwolf go off in their respective directions as actors and later realized I would never see their directorial prowess on stage again because of it. I have even read Malkovich refer to his work on Balm in Gilead as  overly 'sentimental.' It was the most mind blowing production I have ever seen. Back in the day I met Terry Kinny and Elizabeth Perkins, they had just moved to NYC, and to me they were royalty. I have done an interview with Terry Kinney on the blog, here:

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R. SHIPP CHICAGO, July 8 - The Steppenwolf Theater Company, a small ensemble group founded in a church- school basement in 1976, has recently become so successful in exporting its talent to New York that Chicagoans are getting worried. For instance, John Malkovich - an actor who had been with the Steppenwolf since its beginning - was Biff opposite Dustin Hoffman in the Broadway production of ''Death of a Salesman,'' which closed recently in New York. And he's directing six other Steppenwolf members - Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, Terry Kinney, Tom Irwin, Gary Sinise and Glenne Headly - in Lanford Wilson's ''Balm in Gilead'' at the Circle Repertory Company. Last year, he won the Clarence Derwent Award as the most promising actor on the New York stage and he and Mr. Sinise won Obies for Sam Shepard's ''True West,'' which Mr. Sinise first directed at the Steppenwolf before bringing it to New York.

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