Steppenwolf’s MONSTER Runs through March 4

Steppenwolf for Young Adults (SYA) brings a gripping world premiere adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel, Monster to the Steppenwolf stage. Adapted by Aaron Carter and directed by SYA Artistic Director Hallie Gordon, the show tells the story of Steve Harmon, an African American teenager and aspiring filmmaker who is on trial for felony murder. Public performances for Monster are February 17, 7:30pm; February 18, 3pm & 7:30pm; February 24, 7:30pm; February 25, 3pm; March 3, 7:30pm; and March 4, 3pm in the Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. The press performance is Saturday, February 18 at 3pm. School performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 10am and are reserved for school groups only. Tickets to public performances ($20; $15 with student I.D.) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org.

This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee tells the story of Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old aspiring filmmaker in juvenile detention. His life has been turned upside down by his alleged participation in a robbery gone awry and now he might spend the rest of his life behind bars. As the prosecution makes its case, Steve writes his story as a screenplay, trying to understand if he’s really the ‘monster’ they say he is.

The eight-person cast features ensemble member Alana Arenas as Actor 3 with Cheryl Graeff as Actor 5, Kenn E. Head as Actor 4, Daniel Kyri as Steve Harmon, Tevion Devin Lanier as Actor 1, Chris Rickett as Actor 7, Namir Smallwood as Actor 2 and Ginneh Thomas as Actor 6.

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“While the play does deal with the criminal justice system and notions of guilt and innocence, to me, the most active thing about the book is examining how people perceive young black men,” shares adaptor Aaron Carter. “I think the way individuals are perceived profoundly influences how people react to them and what opportunities they are offered. Continuing to interrogate that hopefully means that we get better at preventing ourselves from limiting peoples’ opportunities based on how they look or how they sound.”

About the Tour

Following its four-week run at Steppenwolf and working in collaboration with Storycatchers Theatre, Steppenwolf for Young Adults will tour its production of Monster for a week to three Juvenile Justice Facilities in Illinois. Storycatchers Theatre, winner of the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, is a youth development arts organization that prepares court-involved and otherwise marginalized young people to make thoughtful life choices through the process of writing, producing and performing original theatre inspired by personal stories.

Building on the success of the 2013 tour of How Long Will I Cry: voices of youth violence, during which Steppenwolf for Young Adults brought its sold-out production to eight Chicago Public Library sites, this tour will provide detained and incarcerated youth a chance to see the production and share their stories with professional artists involved with the play. A series of workshops for youth who have read the book and seen the production will be hosted to further explore the play’s themes.

“Storycatchers is delighted to be working with Steppenwolf,” said company founder and Storycatchers Artistic Director Meade Palidofsky. “Storycatchers and the SYA teaching artists share a profound commitment to theatre both as an art form and as a tool for social justice. The tour of Monster will provide young people living in juvenile justice facilities with the opportunity not only to see a professional production that reflects their own experiences, but also to interact with the Steppenwolf performers. The nature of the piece will promote an important conversation between court-involved youth and institutional staff about the ways that detention and incarceration affect their sense of self, as well as the long-term effects of mass incarceration of youth on our society.”

In addition to the tour, Steppenwolf will host Storycatchers alumni, who participated in Storycatchers programs while incarcerated or detained, on the Steppenwolf stage for a series of special events featuring these incredible young people and their stories.

Bios

Walter Dean Myers (author) was a young adult novelist who carved out a space for youth of color to be represented and belong in literature. Through most of his career, Myers wrote gritty novels that addressed the difficult truths of growing up as a young adult of color in the city, and in doing so pioneered the publishing of novels about teens growing up in urban centers .Monster, first published in 1999 is one of Myers’ most well-known books, appearing on the New York Times bestseller list and winning a number of prestigious awards.

Aaron Carter (adaptor) is currently an artistic producer at Steppenwolf where he has served as dramaturg on such projects as The Way West by Mona Mansour and Airline Highway by Lisa D’Amour. Previously, he served as the Literary Manager at Victory Gardens Theater where he played a key role in the IGNITION Festival, and was involved in the production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Year Zero, Love Person and Living Green, among others. As a new play developer and dramaturg, Aaron has worked with many theaters and labs including WordBRIDGE, the Kennedy Center, Timeline Theater, Route 66 and Chicago Dramatists. Carter also was taught courses in playwriting, dramaturgy and dramatic literature at Northwestern University, DePaul University, Roosevelt University and Grinnell College. As a playwright, Aaron’s work focuses on race, faith and obscure performance skills. Carter’s play Gospel of Franklin was part of First Look 2013 at Steppenwolf. His latest play is Start Fair.

Hallie Gordon (director) serves as Artistic Director of Steppenwolf for Young Adults and an artistic producer at Steppenwolf. Along with selecting the young adult productions each season, she has created the Young Adult Council, a group of high school students who collectively help to create innovative programming for their peers. Previously as SYA’s Educational Director, Gordon worked closely with the Chicago Public Schools to create an environment in which all students and teachers have access to the theater. For Steppenwolf, Hallie has directed George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, as well as Leveling Up, The Book Thief,The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, To Kill a Mockingbird, the world premiere of a new adaptation by Tanya Saracho of The House on Mango Street and Harriet Jacobs, adapted for the stage by Lydia R. Diamond. A world premiere of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, also adapted by Lydia R. Diamond, won a Black Excellence Award from the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago and also transferred Off-Broadway to The New Victory Theatre. She is the recipient of The Helen Coburn Meier & Time Meier Achievement Award.

The production team of Monster includes Joanna Iwanicka (scenic design), Samantha Jones (costume design), JR Lederle (lighting design), and Christopher Kriz (sound design).  Additional credits includeBrian Maschka (stage manager), JC Clementz (casting director) and Jonathan Berry (artistic producer).

About the cast

Ensemble member Alana Arenas was last seen in The Fundamentals this season. Kenn E. Head last performed in Harriet Jacobs for Steppenwolf for Young Adults (SYA). Chris Rickett also returns after appearing in SYA’s This is Modern Art and Namir Smallwood returns after being seen in Phillip Dawkins’ Charm, presented by Northlight Theatre in the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre. The cast also includes Daniel Kyri, who was last seen in Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Tug of War, Ginneh Thomas, who performed in The Submission with Pride Films and Plays and Cheryl Graeff recently seen in Victory Garden’s The Whale. Tevion Devin Lanier, was recently in Haven Theatre’s How We Got On and was one of the top three finalists in the 2016 August Wilson Monologue Competition, makes his Steppenwolf debut.

Ticket Info

Single tickets ($20) to public performances of Monster are available through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted), at 312-335-1650 or atsteppenwolf.org. Student tickets are available for $15 with valid student I.D. Group tickets (10 or more) to public performances are available by emailing groups@steppenwolf.org or by calling 312-932-2422. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org/groups

School group tickets to Monster are available by contacting Group Sales Coordinator Molly Layton at 312-932-2422. Performances Tuesday – Thursday at 10am are reserved for school groups only.

Sponsor Info

Major support for Steppenwolf for Young Adults is provided by Allstate Insurance Company, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation and United Airlines. Steppenwolf for Young Adults is also supported in part by contributions from The Crown Family, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Capri Capital Advisors LLP., CME Group Foundation, Northern Trust Company, Field Foundation of Illinois, Dr. Scholl Foundation, the Helen Brach Foundation, ITW Foundation, Siragusa Foundation, Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation, and Robert and Isabelle

Bass Foundation, Inc; as well as Steppenwolf Associates, a community of dynamic young professionals.

Steppenwolf for Young Adults is a citywide partner of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) School Partner Program.

This project is partially supported by an IncentOvate grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ unique approach combines play production with educational components to enhance arts education for young audiences, as well as their teachers and families. SYA creates two full-scale professional productions each season specifically for teens. Working closely with the Chicago Public and metropolitan area schools and other community partners, SYA annually ensures access to the theater for more than 15,000 participants from Chicago’s diverse communities. The initiative also includes post-show discussions with artists; classroom residencies led by Steppenwolf-trained teaching artists in more than 35 classrooms in 14 public high schools; professional development workshops for educators; and the Young Adult Council, an innovative year-round after-school initiative that uniquely engages high school students in all areas of the theater’s operations.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater—redefining the landscape of acting and performance. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble has grown to 47 members who represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programing includes a seven-play Season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Additional education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks serves coffee, cocktails and a menu curated in partnership with the Boka Restaurant Group day and night. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre,twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr.