Steppenwolf: From Chicago to Osage County (Working In The Theatre #363)

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company has been captivating
Chicago audiences for more than 30 years, and taken Broadway by storm with Tony Award
winning productions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Grapes of Wrath. And the current
production of August, Osage County. Hello, I’m Ted Chapin with the American Theatre Wing,
and joining us today are four Steppenwolf Ensemble members, Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton,
Rondi Reed, and Jeff Perry, who is also one of Steppenwolf’s original founders. Welcome.
Thank you. Since we hope to cover both Steppenwolf and
August Osage County in this Conversation, I thought we’d start with Steppenwolf. Now,
30 years ago, you and a couple of college buddies, actors all, decided to start Steppenwolf.
Were you like Mickey and Judy, wanting your own barn? (Laughter)
Yes. With a little bit of foul language thrown in, I’d say. (Laughter) We were in Normal,
Illinois, at Illinois State University’s theater department, and it’s where Rondi and Laurie,
and I … and John Malkovich, and Terry Kinney(?), d-d-d-d-duh, all met, the first and second,
and part of the third generation of Steppenwolf actors. And Gary Sinise and I go the furthest
back, chronologically, to a suburban high school, Highland Park High School. And I went
off to Illinois State, and Gary started a community theater called Steppenwolf, in our
suburb, and he knew I’d made friends with Terry, and he said, bring Terry down. We’ll
do Tom Stopper(?), Drosen Krantz(?) and Gilden Stern(?) are dead. And this is the summer
of 1974, and we did it in a neighboring suburb’s Unitarian Church. And we made a little boy
promise to each other of, oh, we love that. Oh, listen, when our friends graduate, when
we all start graduating from ISU, we’ll get it back together. And two summer later, thank
God we had nothing better to do, and we were scared of going off on our own, any of us,
I think, so we gathered Laurie, and John, and everybody, in meetings. (Laughs) Really
queer meetings. (Laughter) At Illinois State. And nine of us, I think, Laur- …?
Yeah, I think. … ended up starting it in the summer of
1976, in this little church basement youth center.
Sort of a barn. Yeah, sort of a barn. (Laughter) But (Inaudible)
thing … closest thing a Chicago suburb has to a barn. Yeah.
You were all actors. So it was only actors when you started this.
Yeah. No … there was a kind of quirk in both Gary and my high school life. And in
ISU, where a certain amount of out curriculum, and our work, was peer directed. There was
a small theater at ISU called the Allen(?) Theater, and a quarter or thirty percent of
our work was expected to be … go pick a play, direct each other. So the actor/director
was a real common thing in our growing up. And many of us had tried it, whether we were
any good at it, or would continue, or whatever. Many of us had tried it, even through our
college years. Uh-huh. Although, to direct was a penalty.
Because you … (Laughter) … rather act. (General Agreement)
People had to sort of take turns directing, and it wasn’t necessarily … was just an
inconvenience. Did you draw straws, or …
Sort of. The ones who would step up and volunteer, they spread it around so the rest could act.
But then you could have the benefit of being the lead the next time around?
We were really … Gary, Terry and I set this… template of four one acts for our very first
offerings, and it was all just an attempt at how can everybody be working? And we just
made these decisions, kind of, autocratically. Okay, John will direct this, and … almost
an assignment. Look, on paper, this works, right? Everybody’s working. And then, in a
way, Fonee Machibakis(?) became our first artistic director, and he was a brilliant
guy, and he’s still sort of in … he teaches at Columbia College in Chicago. And in a way,
for a while, that was the last autocratic move. It became communal kibutz, democracy.
No Jews, but … you and me. (Laughter) But we voted on everything from who was going
to clean the bathroom to the next play. And the meetings were endless. (Laughter) And
intentious(?), you know, and baby-ish. They were great.
So what was the role of the artistic director? Why did you decide you needed one?
We trusted him. He was quieter and smarter. (Laughter)
(Overlapping Voices) He was like another(?) renaissance man. He
could compose music, draw, direct, act, tap dance … (Laughter) and he was smarter …
And everybody liked him. Yeah, and everybody liked him.
Yeah, they would all… And he wasn’t a bully.
So he was different than all of us. (Laughter) Now, this was happening in Chicago, which,
by its very nature, there is a theater called the Second City, and since we’re doing this
interview in New York, I assume, that’s the first city, but Chicago is an amazing theater
town. So were you all not wanting to be part of other theaters there, or you just did this
because it’s … Oh. Very … Gary said … (Laughing) Gary
said, oh, man, we have this … community theater, and it’s got a big audience here,
and it’s really … (Laughter) No. No. No. Been dead. It’s been defunct for a year. No,
no, it’s a cool thing. We still have not for profit papers with the State of Illinois,
and we got the name and everything. Rondi wanted to change the name to Idle Wild.
Idle Wild Theater. (Laughter) But she said we weren’t in Chicago proper.
We were in the northern … Yeah, we said, we’re 30 minutes outside of
Chicago. Yeah, it would be driving to Yonkers to see
a play. But it’s just because it’s … where Gary
and I lived, and Gary thought there’s a big following.
Marcus(?). Yeah. And the big following turned out to be, you
know, eight people at a time. (Laughter) At our shows.
How did you find audiences? Did you go to supermarkets with fliers? (Laughter)
PTA meetings. We did through Pro As(?), you know… (Laughter).
We (Overlapped). We wrote on fire trucks, and threw candy out. Tried to promote the
theater. We did fund raisers in peoples’ living rooms. We would do a scene from the Glass
Menagerie in your living room. (Laughter) If you were invited, then get in free, coffee,
and food and drink. (Laughter) Were you paying yourselves?
(Overlapping Voices) Well, joking, all jokes all aside, the fact
that it’s over 30 years and you’re not only still what appears to be friends … (Laughter)
working together, and the theater is still thriving, I mean, what do you credit the survival
of the theater in such an extraordinary ensemble way?
I think that … any personalities aside, because there are … that many artists in
one room is never a good idea, but I think that there’s been such a complete astain(?)
for each others’ work that that sort of all falls by the wayside when we’re together,
on stage, because these are the people I always aspired to. So I think it’s usually been the
work that keeps everybody together. (General Agreement)
It’s also had many incarnations. Laurie and Jeff were there in the real … the valid
days, but also the really rough beginnings of it when … Chicago didn’t … they had
the organic, and they had Second City, and Wisdom Bridge just beginning at the same time,
but what they called the Off Loop, which was similar to Chicago’s Off Broadway, was really
just beginning to put its toe in the water in the seventies. So Steppenwolf kind of got
in on the ground floor with that, and down at Illinois State, we had guest artists come
in and say to us, you don’t have to go to New York. You don’t have to go to LA. You
can make theater wherever you are. So of course we, like idiots, took that to
heart, and ran with it. And so there was a whole kind of migration that was happening,
from wherever we were. I came into the company … they moved into the city from Highland
Park after four years. It was like, the critics drove out to the hinterlands to see Laurie
in Glass Menagerie production that they did. And they said, something is going on up there,
in that little burb, and it looks like the sets have been built with milk and cookie
money, it was in the tens of dollars … (Laughter) the budget. But to the credit of the Chicago
press, they said, something’s going on in this church basement, and get up there. So
I think the powers that be that were running it, which at the time it was sort of a three
headed monster with the boys, wasn’t it, at that point? Knew they had to get into Chicago.
And Laurie was working as a secretary at St. Nicholas, weren’t you, then? Wasn’t that part
time? Yes, I did. (Laughter)
Where Greg Mosier(?) ran it, and taking classes. And Amy was taking classes at the same place,
and I was off somewhere else, and other people were off somewhere else. So they said, we’re
going to make this move into the city. This is it. We’re going to take the step, and we’re
going to have a subscription audience, which was a huge turning point. That, we had not
done. That I stole from St. Nicholas.
Oh, dear, (Overlapping Voices, Laughter) You know what, though? I don’t think that’s
the reason for survival, because theaters, and we won’t name any names of other theaters
people have been in, but with subscription, that makes a difference, because it gave you
financially stuff up front that you could budget a year, you could budget a season.
But we didn’t get paid for what, the first five or six years, I think?
Well, I think we started paying ourselves at the very end of Highland Park? End of year
three, or beginning of Hull(?) House? You know, I don’t know.
Beginning of Hull House, I think. Beginning of Hull House?
Yeah. John got cast, and might have been the first
one of us to get cast in another theater’s play. And I think it was … the St. Nick
production of Ashes. Ashes. Yeah.
A Rud Ridkin(?) play. And I think it’s where he met Mahoney.
(General Agreement) And I ushered that play. (Laughter)
And he got paid. And he came back from it saying, we’ve got
to figure out how to pay ourselves or I’m out of here. And we were kind of like … you
bitch. (Laughter) You’re not out of here. He’s not out of here. It’s just fine. We’ll
figure out how to get paid. And I had … a penchant prick(?) … we had really horrible
business sense, and I dragged these people in as executive directors. God … (Inaudible)
yeah, God forsaken. Well, wonderful people with great patience. But I don’t know, they
had almost … not more ability than me, and it just wasn’t working at all. John said,
oh, got a college room mate who’s a good lobbyist in Springfield, Illinois. I’m going to see
if he’ll do it. And it was Russ Smith(?). And they happen to be partners to this day,
you know, 30-something years later, and their film company, Mr. Mud(?), that just produced
Juno, you know, it’s (Inaudible) hit. And anyway, so Russ came and he was better at
it, and he started to build a board and all of that.
How could you not be jealous of members of the ensemble when they went off to do other
jobs? It didn’t happen for a long, long time.
For a while. I mean, what would we do? We were doing Balm
in Gilead, which was one of our biggest … I joined in ’79, ’80, and they had been waiting
to do this play. It was what, a 36 character play? Lanford Wilson play, early Lanford Wilson.
And you sort of gave it a second life, because it hadn’t really been a success.
Yeah. It hasn’t been done, but they were obsessed with doing this, and it was in that first
season that we moved into the other theater. And it was … I remember John had to leave
before opening night, because he got some part in a movie of the week, which …
With Carl Malden. Yeah, which was the biggest thing that had
ever happened to anybody. And the other cast members had been doing Say Good Night, Gracie
at another little theater, which they were kind of going on, so it was the beginning
of people sort of branching out, but it didn’t happen for a long time, really. It was very
insular for about … almost five years, four to five years, where it was the same eight
to ten people that worked together all the time, did every play, 24-7, and …
I think we instinctually knew that we could at any moment, once we started to get a little
bit of notice, even at the very beginning, have been ripped apart very easily, either
through … into film and TV, or New York theater. And so each time one of those feelers
would go out, we would regroup, and very nervously, all confront what would happen, and what does
happen, if so-and-so is gone, and who’s going to run it for the time being? And then, they
would come back in, and then there would be another benchmark. But it started out slowly,
like … a few of you getting in the Altman(?), film, you know? And really, we would have
meetings where, well, Jeff has a speaking part in A Wedding. Right? Should he take it?
Because he might miss two performances of … I don’t even know what way we were doing
with 88 people a night. Yeah. Really, a serious meeting about whether or not he should be
… either be allowed … Yeah. Allowed.
… to take it, allowed to take it, or … should he step up and turn it down on his own? (Laughter)
(Overlapping Voices) Because nobody had any agent. There were no
agents. And you know what’s symbolic of that? Whereas,
six years after we started, some New York people get the buzz that True West is a really
hot production. We had moved it once, or twice, ourself, in Chicago. And extended it when
… and they were ready to move it, and it was just real … kind of Rubicon moment for
the company, and we said, okay, you can move it, but not with our name. We’re not … here
to do theater together. This is about career, and money. It’s a for profit move. It’s about
celebrity, and career, and da-da-da-da-ta. So do it, but not with Steppenwolf’s name.
The public, in a way, in hindsight, sort of, thank God, ignored our intent, because there
was nothing in John and Gary’s bio, other than Steppenwolf. (Laughter) Steppenwolf.
And it was a national hit, media-wise. And it filled our theater in Chicago for the first
time in our existence. And we felt … I guess that that time honored dynamic of, only when
abroad applauds you, when your home town truly announces you…
And that’s something that you are continuing to do to this day, I believe, taking the opportunities
when they present themselves, and not looking for them?
Yes. Yes. You can’t muscle those things too much.
But there was a phase in the history of Steppenwolf, where it would be like … and Amy was with
another theater com- …. very wonderful theater company in Chicago called Remains, and they
had been working with us, and doing other plays with us, so the Off Loop scene in Chicago
was growing and expanding, and incredibly vibrant, and doing different kind of stuff.
And then it was like … they wanted product. They wanted anything and everything that came
out of, because I think they thought everything is going to be like True West, and it’s going
to have this …and that, I think, was terrifying for us, because I remember meetings till 2:30
in the morning, where it was like, let’s just disband the company. Let’s shut the doors.
Let’s … whoever wants togo to New York can go to New York, and whoever wants to … we’re
not going to do it, and shut down, and this is not why we started the theater. And we
need to expand the company, and then we voted on whether we needed to expand the company,
and people would leave. And it was a really, as rich, creatively, and exciting and dynamic.
It was a really intense time in the history of the theater company, because success … and
Laurie had gotten noticed in Balm in Gilead, and was LA, the siren song of Hollywood was
going after us, and so then it just turned into… it morphed into a lot of different
things. Jeff stepped out of the play of True West and said, I’ll stay and be artistic director.
And that changed us for the next three or four years at home. So the fact that we’re
here and we’ve survived, and we’ve … of course, we are not an institution, which is
what we swore we would never be… (Laughter) But we are. But the history of an American
theater company like Steppenwolf is staggering. I mean, it’s staggering.
Really. When you think of it, when you think that
there is how many of us on Broadway now, are there eight of us on Broadway?
Uh-huh. Kevin Anderson(?) and Laurie, and all of us
in August, Osage County, and we’re here, and we’re working in theater on Broadway. And
to come from that little bitty place in Chicago is no small achievement.
So how does somebody become a member of Steppenwolf? We have very extensive voodoo rites. (Laughter)
A large spanking machine. (Laughter) I have to say, I went on your extremely good
website, and the closest that I could get was, auditions that are held. (Laughter)
It’s not that. There’s no formula. I mean, quite often, it’ll be a relationship that
has been going on for a while. People will have done a number of shows with us. But then
there’s also a couple of people that did one show, and we were like, we’ve got to grab
them quick. But we begged Damey(?). We begged Damey for
years and years and years. Leave your theater. Come work with us, and … she was so loyal
to her own theater company. Well. Because we’re poaching. (Laughter)
(Overlapping Voices) Were you also a director of the other company?
I had done a couple of things there, but mainly I was acting there. Yeah. And then, when that
company disbanded, Steppenwolf was kind enough to take in an orphan. (Laughter)
So, no names here, but have you ever asked a member of the ensemble to leave?
Yes. Your famous quote. We’ve ignored people out of the company before, and we …
No, we never … had the security(?) to do what you suggested. But we … they’ll just
give up. We had sort of Lord of The Flies’ed them out. (Laughter)
But then people left. We had people leave, because … there was one guy who, when I
came in, he was probably what? He wasn’t even 30. But he was playing all the old man parts.
And he said, I’m sick and tired of these old man parts. I don’t want to play them. And
he left. And he’s a wonderful actor, a great guy. We’ve crossed path with him since. But
I think, what if he would have stayed? I don’t know whether he’s asking himself that, but
it was kind of a mess in the early days. We didn’t know. We were going on faith, and tenacity,
and the sheer fact that these were people that we gravitated to, that we found funny,
that we found smart, that we found the work esthetics, that … when we’re on stage together,
something happens. And that’s almost intangible. Now that we haven’t worked with great guest
artists and other people, but I think it’s very evident in Osage County, on stage, when
you have that many ensemble people together, and some of them are not ensemble, but I mean,
to me, there is a palpable … whether it’s history, whether it’s … the bar on what
you will accept, I mean, acting with a group of people like that just makes you a better
actor. Let’s get to August, Osage County. Writers.
Have writers been a member of Steppenwolf from the beginning?
No. Maybe, because of … for a few different reasons. We barely did any new writing for
over 20 years. I mean, barely. But we always talked about it. I remember
an early meeting, self generated work (Overlapping Voices)
I know. We always talked about it. Now, part of it was a function that … W. H. Macy and
Mamet, and Pir Synder(?) and Patricia Cox(?) and all of them started … St. Nick(?), one
or two years prior to us. And they immediately carved quite a niche for all new work. And
they did everything from Chicago premiers to American (Overlapped)…
But they had David Mamet. (Laughs) And that’s all they did. And it’s kind of
like, almost a marketing niche of, well, they’ve got that. And … yeah, that’s what I remember.
I don’t know. There was probably other reasons, too. We’re always looking for tribal, family
oriented, ensemble oriented stuff, so the most of us could be acting, at one time, in
really good parts. But you courted early writers. You had Danner
(Overlapping Voices) … and people that worked with us. And Jeff had a great summer at a
place called Storm King in upstate New York, where we developed a couple of scripts.
Yeah. No. We had Grapes of Wrath. No, it was … oh, we did Little Egypt, and
what was the other? No, but I’m saying that era, ’89.
Around that time. Around that time of the eighties. But consciously, I think that changed
with artistic director leadership. Yeah. Martha Lavey(?).
Yeah. Terry really always thought it should be self generated work. Other people … and
when Frank Glatti(?) came in with Grapes of Wrath, that was the beginning of the wave
of that, and then to incorporate Tino Landau(?), who generates her own work, Amy’s worked with
her a lot. And it was like, the realization that if you’re going to grow, and change,
then you’ve got to … and we also invited directors in more. Frank was more the first
director, really, that we initiated … Tina(?). (Overlapped)
After we’d run through all the ensemble people that were sick and tired of directing, then
we actually sought out … (Laughter) … and they were just better at it than a lot of
us were. Certainly better than me. Were they guest directors, or were they (Overlapped)…
At first. Sheldon.
Frank was part of Legend in Chicago, and we knew his work really well, so we probably
asked him in immediately. I can’t remember. Yeah. Yeah.
Did you ask him to do Grapes of Wrath, or did you ask him (Overlapped) and that’s how
he then came to … Yeah.
We said, were you interested in… Yeah, Gary said, what do you want to do more
than anything? What would you want to do? What do you want to do? And he had directed
Maybe You Can’t Take It With You, with (Overlapped). And he said, hm, well, I’ve been thinking
about adapting Grapes of Wrath. And I said, yeah. Yes.
And that was a four year journey on that. Ended up with the Tonys (Overlapped).
But anyway(?), Martha(?) … Anna Shapiro(?), Amy, Tracy(?) … everybody really … on
the ground at the culture in the last ten years, I guess, starting with Martha, right?
Really put her shoulder to it, to new writing. To where now, a lot of relationships, a lot
of multiple relationships. Uh-huh. Bruce Norris(?).
Yeah, Bruce. Six of one… Well, and the fact that our 35th anniversary
year was on the way… Was on the way. Yeah.
And was not August Osage the last of the plays that you …
Yes. I guess it was. Yeah.
And then Tracy Lutz(?) is a member of the company, right?
Yes. He’s an actor. I mean, he came in as an actor, primarily. First.
Did he ever get the director dungeon, or did he…
He’s directed. He’s directed. He hasn’t directed it … he hasn’t directed
a Steppenwolf, because according to him, Steppenwolf would go under with the plays I would choose.
(Laughter) Because he likes the really weird and strange stuff. Yeah. But he’s directed a few things around
Chicago. Well, August, Osage County, I have to say,
I have to add my voice to one of those who just was absolutely blown away by it. I was
saying earlier that my younger daughter saw it from the top row of the balcony, and came
home and said, eat your fish, but then said (Laughter) you have got to see this play.
And a lot of people, theater goers, who love really good theater in this town, somewhat
feel somewhat starved by that, or just so enthusiastic about it. And I noticed, on the
website, and a fascinating interview with Terry Lutz(?), and he found the communal note
of all the members of the company, that you all were from the Midwest. And then there’s
a quote there that I love. He said that we all share the multi generational conflict
that inevitably arises when those who have nothing have willed their pride and guilt
to those who have wanted for nothing. Which I think, (Overlapped) your play is about that?
(Laughter) Hm …
To me, I think that’s kind of … because that play sets up such an intergenerational
world. But how did it come to be? You should talk about …
It’s sprang whole from his head. (Laughter) I mean, it wasn’t something that we all worked
on together. His first draft was brilliant. It is something that he noodled in his head
for … I don’t know … three, four years before he started typing anything.
Did he cast it? No. The only person that he had in mind that
he knew he was writing for was Rondi. (Laughter) The rest, he knew were going to be company
members, or wanted to be company members, but he didn’t necessarily think to himself,
Amy will be this, and Jeff will be this. Because he, frankly, didn’t know what company members
he would be able to get for it. So he just wrote the play he wanted to play, but he knew
that, particularly age-wise, considering we’re a bunch of old fogeys now (Laughter) that
he knew he had a lot of roles for people. And what was the Steppenwolf process? Did
you read it? Did you workshop it? What was …
We read it. And then … Had two workshops, right?
… it went away. W Well, just one. One?
And then we read it again, a second draft, and then a year later, we did a week, or two
week workshop on it. And that was it. Who did (Overlapped)? Amy? Anybody in … you?
And myself. (Overlapping Voices)
Deanna(?). Deanna did it.
Deanna did it, who plays self on Deanna. And Sally.
And that was it. Maybe. That might be it. But I may be making
a mistake. Anyway. Two year development process about…
Were the workshops open to the public, or just for you?
No, they were just for us and the play. At the end of it, we did a reading for the staff,
for the Steppenwolf staff, but not for the public.
Did the say … They went crazy. Yeah. They did go … I remember
that. I remember thinking, I don’t know whether … the reaction was always off the charts
The first people he gave the play to were Martha, Anna and myself. And he said, so don’t
talk about this to anybody. Because he always hates his first drafts. And whatever. And
of course, he gives us … it’s this thick. (General Agreement)
And was like … God. Jersey(?). (Laughter) I went home, and all three of us did the same
thing. Never stopped until we got to the end. And … I immediately called him and said,
this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. So there was no question, after the first
draft, oh, we’re doing it. It’s just a matter of when, and Tracy, what else do you want
to do with it and things like that. We read it at an ensemble meeting, too, didn’t
we? Uh-huh. Yeah.
Once a year, Steppenwolf tries to have a complete ensemble meeting, if Laurie’s not doing a
TV show, or somebody isn’t off doing something else, or we’re not all spread to all corners
of the globe. They try to have us come back once a year for our gala event, which is our
big fundraiser that our loyal, loyal supports have … board in Chicago keep doing for us.
And we get together at that point and have a meeting, and touch base, and look at what
we’re working on. And one of those, at least one of those, if not two, we did a reading
of it, so everybody could kind of see, this is where your theater is now. This is what
we’re talking about. This is what we’re writing. This is what we’re including. And then, for
Martha, as artistic director, to say to the people, if you have any sense that you want
to be involved in this, but you want to play the lead, and I said, what, you’re too young.
(Laughter) She’s too young. But it was one of those where people like … oh, oh. And
you said to him, I think, something like, well, Russia had their Chekhov(?), and Steppenwolf
has you. (Overlapped). Yeah, I really felt that. I really felt that.
I just… In the behavioral, and the … contemporary(?)…
And that’s (Overlapped) to just anybody who has … I mean, Frank’s done amazing work.
Austin … Oh, everyone. Yeah.
… (Overlapped) plays with us. But this play really felt like that, of like, gosh, if Audette’s(?)
in the group theater, had a moment, and Chekhov, and those guys did, Tracy could really (Overlapped)…
Be very American. And also, uncompromising. I mean, the thing
that I … one of the things I find amazing is that these are people. These are some amazing
people with some major stuff going on. Yeah. (Laughter)
And yet, everybody… I don’t know if you all .. hate to use the word identify with
anybody in the play, or if audiences … (Laughter) identify with anybody …
No! … but it’s cathartic, almost.
When Amy said … he wrote it with Rondi in mind, I remember reading it and going, you
know, this isn’t me. This is not … why does he want me? Why does he want me? Why does
he want me to do this? I turned it down four times. (Laughter) I just said, no, I’m not
going to. You know. I’d done this role before. It’s not … and then finally, a string of
events occurred that I ended up in it. I accused Tracy of casting spells late into the night.
And anyway, I was in rehearsal going on one of these rants that my character has, and
I just stopped, and it turned out fun, and looked at him and said, oh, now I get it.
(Laughter) Now I see why you want me to do this. Because I’m perfect for it. (Laughter)
So that self realization. It’s painful, to say the least. That’s also why he knows us.
And I mean, I think once he knew, like Amy was going to be doing something, and Jeff
was … then he begins to sort of … not rewrite it, but tailor it and go to their
strengths, and … know that Amy, as an actress and as a person, and Jeff, and Maryanne(?)
and Sally, whoever is involved in it, that he plays to their strengths and their vulnerabilities,
and it makes it not easy to do, but it makes it so you go right to it. And we have an incredible
director in Anna Shapiro(?), who also is known as … she says, since she was 12, which really
pisses me off when she says that … (Laughter) but she’s known all of us … she’s directed
all of us at least, probably, more than once, or at least once. Or some of us, maybe not.
But she’s been a part of our… And that identification, you knew this … I
don’t know all the (Overlapped) … work, even with us. Well, I mean, I’ve seen all
of it, but I haven’t been in the room all the time. But I think in so many ways, it’s
such … deep … she connected to family, and larger … cousin, and grandparent, family,
and d-d-duh, you know, personally, with this, in a way that maybe no other assignment had
yet asked her … Also.
And I think that’s true in some ways of all of us. It’s deeply … satisfying family territory.
But don’t you think, she’s a director, too, that she knows us so well, she watches us.
She admires us. And there is, to my mind, there’s always fearlessness about Steppenwolf,
about the Steppenwolf actors and what they do on stage, and where they go, and they may
fall down, make idiots of themselves, and have just a resounding bomb, but they are
fearless about it. And that, to me, is … that’s the best of all possible worlds.
Also, your description of playing to your strengths as actors, I mean, when I saw August,
and it, three hours and 20 minutes passes by in a heartbeat, and I think, how can they
possibly do this eight times a week? And clearly, if you all … I mean, the ensemble nature
of Steppenwolf and the fact that you all know each other, that you know you can play to
each other’s strengths, one detail of your character I loved is how you talk on top of
each other. And I thought, a husband and wife, because I know people like that …
Well, that was directorial, because it’s not written in the script. But the first day we
read it, it started to …and Fran Ginan(?), who plays my husband, we’ve known each other
about 35 years. But I think that comes into play with … it could have been Laurie in
the cast with us. It could have been any number of people in that cast, and that kind of feeling
is generated, just because you don’t have to … there’s a short hand, there’s an immediacy
that comes up. But Anna, also, I think, trusts actors. I think she really will let you go
and sort of say, you know what you’re doing. I don’t have to tell you this. She doesn’t
lay every little bitty … detail out. She says, this is what I need. This is where it
is. This is what’s not happening. You figure it out.
That’s sort of the ideal of theater, that… In a way.
… how often it actually happens is not as… No, but you’ve talked about this, Laurie,
too. Laurie said, I do theater because I want to know that I still can do it. And she’s
been so successful in television and film and other mediums, but not all of us have
been. (Laughs) And … it’s like, to come back, and Laurie is incredibly … (Laughter)
I mean, you do. It’s like she’s the one that will come back and do a play whenever she
can, and come back, and put herself to (Overlapped)… Exactly. How did the joint … get past what
the group theater couldn’t get past, which was celebrity, and money. And camera work.
It was because … Laurie Metcalf and Joan Allen, and John Malkovich and those who have
had the most success in camera work needed to come back, and wanted to come back, and
did so. I mean, to me, that’s the reason. And continue to do so, I agree with him.
Yes. How often do you, Laurie, call and say I’m
ready, or do you call and say, we have a play for you.
I’ve tried to go back at least every two years to do a show, and it doesn’t always work out
like that, but… You’ve been good though, boy, you’ve really…
It’s not even like … I’m getting the favor from the group. I mean, it’s not even a choice
on my part. I feel like I have to go back every so often to recharge, and really feel
like I know… get down to the basics again, and get up on stage, and … that’s the only
time in working and … as actor, where you feel like you’re in charge. And you can lead
the audience where you want them. It’s a really powerful feeling. There’s nothing else like
it. And once you get a sense in it, maybe I gravitate, but we all gravitate back towards
theater, because we started out in theater. I’m not sure, but once you get that bug, it
never leaves, and we’re still going to be doing this … forever.
Oh, it’s going to be embarrassing. Yeah, really embarrassing. (Laughter)
We’re going to be the walker theater. (Overlapping Voices)
And we’ll be nude, and … (Laughter) … smashing canes, (Overlapped) canes…
Yes. Pounding canes… Throwing up.
What’s it Perry used to say, we’ll be doing the gin game in rap(?) for the rest of our
lives, because nobody else will work with us. We’ll just have to (Overlapped)… We’ll figure out a way to shake it up. (Laughter)
Have those of you who have been able to go on to other Steppenwolf productions, been
able to welcome Steppenwolf ensemble members into television projects that you’re doing,
or movies that John Malkovich does? Oh, yeah. It’s happened.
(General Agreement) Sometimes by accident, and sometimes, depending
on … how much clout the individual has, whether they can … get somebody cast in
a movie or TV show or … but you know… None of these people have ever gotten me cast.
(Laughter) (Overlapping Voices
That’s not true. My wife Amy… There you go. Jeff’s wife is a casting director,
so we all sort of tried it. (Laughter) (Overlapping Voices)
But the interesting thing is, it’s like, there are some of us, still, that have not worked
together in the company, aren’t there? Probably … yeah.
A few, I think. Or some of us that haven’t worked together in a long time, like you and
I had not done a play together until we did Pot(?) Mom that one summer.
God, that was funny. And their daughter, Zoe, has now been on the
Steppenwolf stage, which is an incredibly exciting thing. So it literally is generational
as it goes down. Your daughter would be the daughter of the
two of you, because … Laurie and I, our first marriage.
Yeah. (Overlapping Voices)
Remarried. Has there been a lot of that, Steppenwolf?
Well, it’s funny. Earlier, when we were talking about, it was the work that saved us. Well,
it was especially true in the Gypsy, everyone sleep with each other days, but… because,
my God … you could be such horrible … horrible anger, and rage with each other, but you had
to do the play. Yeah. And had to go home.
Yeah. And that was the problem. There were about five or six couples. I think
Gary Sinise and Moira(?) … are the only remaining …
Yeah, the only … they’re the triumphal … … couple. They’re still together.
How did they ever stay together? How did they survive? Yeah. And they have
three beautiful kids. Maybe if the admissions director at Illinois
State University knows something that none of you knew.
(Overlapping Voices) Yeah, talent(?) grant(?)…
The talent grant, a bunch of us came in on talent grant. There was a professor there
named Ralph Lane(?), who did a lot with the high school festivals, you know, the high
school contests, play contests. And he was Frank Gilotti’s(?) high school
teacher in Glenbard North or something. Yes, and he would go out … and sort of seek
all these … and we all came basically from small little bitty towns around here. Well,
Amy grew up in the wild suburb of Oak Park. Amy went wild. (Laughter)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s suburb home. That’s right.
Yeah, but he’d go to high school speech contests, and he’d hand out these …
Yeah, and he had (Overlapped)… … scholarships.
Yeah, you could get a scholarship. So you could go to school for about a hundred
bucks. Yeah. Yeah. In Normal, Illinois. (Laughter)
Yeah. And you could be normal. Our shop(?) is Edwardsville(?), so I wasn’t
in on that. (Overlapping Voices, Laughter)
But Laurie was a German major in college. Yeah.
Became a botany major. I found out more theater people were botany majors. (Laughter)
But when something as exciting as August, Osage County, coming to New York with an ensemble
of Steppenwolf, and this town gets excited, is that easy for all of you? I mean, first
of all, who’s at home in Chicago? It’s tough.
Yeah. Do you mean … Who’s running the store?
Who’s running the store, and also, to somebody who’s not part of Steppenwolf, this seems
like some kind of ultimate, to come to Broadway, and yet, in some ways, that’s antithetical
to what it could be seen as, antithetical to what Steppenwolf is about.
Right. There’s no doubt, this is fun. I mean, we are very grateful, and just pleased as
punch that this city has embraced this play. Yes, the brain drain takes its toll at home,
because a lot of us are also artistic associates at the theater, and help our brilliant artistic
director with … just being sounding boards, or whatever, and she doesn’t have that right
now. And she misses us, and we miss that, and so, yeah, that part for me is probably
the most difficult. And Amy’s been directing very prominently.
She had … are you on your second show? You’ve had to drop out of, directing?
Yes. It’s good in a way, because it will bring
in new people, but yet, at the same time, you depend on somebody who’s …
We had to reconfigure our season, when we saw the dates of this. And there have been
really tough things, but any of us who lived through Grapes of Wrath, well, everybody kind
of knew, look, if this is a rare … it’s pretty rare. It was a very rare chemistry,
this play, and if it goes as well as it could go in New York, that reverberates, and it
reverberates with artists, with audience, with people … for like a decade, you know?
I mean, it really can, in a good way, for the theater.
Also, too, there was an article in the New York Times that came out where they … I
think Martha was a little bit misquoted as say we weren’t really all that thrilled about
coming to New York, which was not the case at all. But it’s like, oh, all of a sudden,
you’re jettisoned to a whole other level, and I mean, from the time we finished our
run in Chicago to the time we had to be here, was six weeks. So that’s a lot of … we’re
to the point where we’re middle aged. A lot of people have families, and routines, and
lives, or other commitments. And so it was kind of a scramble to figure that out, but
I think overall, and you said this, too, what it will do for Steppenwolf. It’s almost like
you get revalidation when you’re in a different … we’re older. We are not the rock and roll
kids that we were when True West came in, or when Balm in Gilead came in, or anything
else. And so, like we’re a whole kind of different animal now. And to show what we have and what
we do, and where we’ve come was really important. And for Tracy, as a writer, and Anna as a
director, and certainly for our profile in the American … the history of American theater.
As Jeff once said when I joined, we can change the face of American theater history. And
I though, oh, my God. (Laughter). (Overlapping Voices)
I’ve got to go back to Minneapolis. (Laughter) But just …
I have a bank job waiting for me in Minneapolis. (Laughter)
The vision was always there. It was those who were less faint of heart.
But you were supposed to come for just a limited season here, for August, Osage County, correct?
Yeah. Yeah. Y-y-y-yeah. And it’s always … it is great.
And it’s … the hard stuff is just pragmatic. I miss my kid’s junior year of high school.
And they want us to re-up right now, and I’ve just got to …. I can’t, eww … can I do
it … but I can’t. I don’t want to miss her senior year. So it’s that stuff.
We’ve got terrific producers, though. Our producers are the same ones that are … (Inaudible)
November, the David Mamet play, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of us. When the
strike happened this season, which was something totally unexpected, we finally got it all
together to bring us all here, and then the unprecedented strike happened. They were very,
very supportive in keeping us here, and making sure we were able to be here, financially,
and they offered to fly us back to Chicago, and … so they have always …
They’ve been great. I remember us saying, like we’re adults. It’s not day 14 or something.
You’ve got to send us home, don’t you. And Jeff Richards(?) and Gina Manian(?), and … Mr.
Frankel and (Inaudible) said, no, n-n-n-no. He’s like, come on. We’re going to dinner.
I’m going to tell you. We’re staying. Yeah, we’re keeping you here.
Yeah, we’re doing this. Are the producers people who have had a relationship
with Steppenwolf in the past, or are they just people who saw this play and decided
to do it? This is new. This isn’t…
It was sort of outrageous. There was a bidding war. (Laughter) I mean, it got to the point
… I know of three producers that wanted the play, three days after we opened.
Very reputable, too. It’s stuff that just doesn’t happen.
That must have been an ensemble meeting, to make that decision.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. That was a whole lot…
(Overlapping Voices) That was a whole timing, hashed out…
(Overlapping Voices) And did you come out of that meeting with
… one answer? No. (Laughter)
There were like three proposals, and I was the only one for voting for a certain proposal,
only because of my own self interest. And then that got swept aside, and then it went
back to something … and I knew it was changing every … seemed like the news was different
every 20 minutes. What kinds of things influenced the decision?
I don’t want to go too … but (Overlapped)… Well, the ultimate decision was … what was
great is, Martha and David Hawkinson said, you guys tell us what you want. But the ultimate
decision, I think, was Steppenwolf’s and Tracy’s. I mean, Tracy had a lot of say, as to where
this went. JP: Well, in a way. No, for sure. I mean, Tracy could have said no to anything
we all said. And simultaneously, it felt like, oh, we still have power.
(Overlapping Voices) There, the actors still …
United decisions. Yeah. Yeah. And we still really are listened to.
But we also knew that Tracy wanted … if we’re going to go to Broadway, go big. Don’t
go small. Tracy’s heart was always, what’s the biggest
dice roll? Because we had a not for profit option, and if we’re… too, for profit options.
Two for profits. Yeah. And he was always for, hm … roll the dice.
Go big. But also, if I may, an observation, that because
you started as the rock and roll theater, and now you’re an institution … those are
your words, not mine … (Laughter) I’m sure that part of how you can do that and keep
changing is that you have in Martha Lavey(?) an artistic director who came out of the company,
I believe? Uh-huh.
And David Hawkinson(?), a first rate managing director. So you have structure there, even
though it’s still an ensemble. Yes.
Another extraordinary… Which is, I think, another reason why we haven’t
completely blown apart. Yeah. It’s always been an actor, as artistic
director, which makes a huge difference. Have you a board of directors?
Oh, we have a fabulous board of directors. There was a point at which all of our moving
around the country, and pursuing other kinds of work, and going from theater tribe to having
real biological families, as well, and kids, all of that, we’re running on fumes of an
ensemble system, where we have become an institution, but we couldn’t count on seven, ten, 12 personalities
to come up with the play ideas, or people to stage, to the extent of the institution
we have become. We owe the public ten plays. We didn’t know that that company could do
it. So we became, for a while, a pretty traditional artistic director, playwright driven, or play
driven, place. And then… Grants(?).
… and then kind of gradually … now we’re becoming both again.
Was there a lull in the middle of (Overlapped Portion)?
(General Agreement) I think so. Yeah.
But you survived. But we survived it.
How does Steppenwolf fit into the Chicago theater world today?
Bunch of ego maniacs. (Laughter) I think we’re the establishment. (Laughter)
And I think that (Inaudible) and Steppenwolf theater are kind of the establishment, in
a good way. But we’re certainly not the hip ones.
No, that’s for sure. No. No. No.
Others are rock and rolling? Yeah, you’re gutted(?) 15 years ago, but I
remember John Cusack being quoted … it’s funny, even if it’s not true … (Laughter)
of calling Steppenwolf the Red Lobster of theater.
On a sign, or (Overlapped), like a freakin’ Red Lobster.
Yeah, and he ran a little group called New Criminals at the time. And …
The Red Lobster Theater. (Laughs) And it enraged us. It enraged us so bad. Man.
It was really not hip. Yeah, but that was based on one of those signs
in the west end, in London, when we built the theater. That’s what they (Overlapped).
Also, our sign outside … Looks like Red Lobster?
It’s the same type. (Laughter) Oh, well.
Same font, or whatever… I think another ensemble meeting, I think
another ensemble meeting. And it’s red.
It’s all just jealousy and rage. That’s all it is.
There you go. And you have a complex in Chicago that was built for you, or you had …
Yes. … invested in?
Bruce Sagan(?), who was our board president at the time, well, Larry Edwards had been
board president emeritus, and this is when we said, we want a new space. We want a new
space. We’ve outgrown our little … we’d gone from … what was it … 125 seats. We
doubled it and they said, you’ll never fill it. Well, we filled it to the gills, and outgrew
it, and we said, okay, we’re going to have our dream of having our own space. And that
went on for what, Jeff, three or four years, looking at spaces, looking at reclaimed industrial,
where should it be? Where would our audience follow us? What should we do? We want to have
space for a main stage and a studio, and class rooms, because Jeff and started the Steppenwolf
school, and that was something we felt was very important. And then housing for when
people came in from out of town, so Gary Fensick(?), the former Bears football player, was on our
board of directors at that time. And he also was in real estate, and he said, there’s a
parcel of land, and we can get it for X amount of dollars. And he said, I think, if we build
it, they will come. Meaning, everybody will come back to the theater. And sure enough,
now, that property is probably worth 100 times over what we … but Bruce Sagan(?) was a
board president at the time, and got the bond issue and got it going, and got the people
in, and it was … we broke ground for it in ’91, I think. And then the first play that
we did in our … which I was lucky enough to be in, was Ron Holwood’s(?) play, Another
Time, and Albert Finney(?) came and opened that season with us, and then we went on from
there. So we’ve been in that space for not… We made friends with Albert when he was Orphans,
in New York. (Overlapped) that’s right.
And wanted to do the London version, and asked Gary to direct it.
And we’ve almost gotten to the point of outgrowing the space that we’re in. We’ve taken over
a parking garage. We’ve taken over a nearby building for offices. They call it,
really. I noticed there’s a garage space, correct?
There’s three … There’s three spaces. Yeah.
Three spaces. Yeah. The garage space, meaning, it’s sort of under…
The bottom of the parking garage. Yeah. And that’s our smallest…
But that area that we are in, I remember Mayor Daley’s wife Maggie(?) saying she used to
stump(?) for votes down there, and she had to have three body guards come, because there
was absolutely nothing down there. And it has now one of the most bustling near north
parts of the city. And we’re sort of the anchor. I was going to say, are you credited with
helping (Overlapped)… Yeah, we’re one of the anchors of it. So it’s
an incredible thing to look at that building and think that that’s the culmination of it,
and to still work in our 525 seat theater, where Amy directs, and Laurie acts, and Jeff
and I … I mean, that’s just a magical thing to me.
But you can look around the other Chicago theaters, if you have need of a director for
a project or … Oh, yeah.
(Overlapped) actors, and there’s … Or New York, or … and also, too, you’ll
get somebody who works with somebody. Like Laurie brought Lois Smith(?) in. She said,
I’ve worked with this wonderful actress, Lois Smith, and Estelle Parsons(?), I mean, there’s
been so many people that have branched out to other people that we know, and have brought
them in as a director or an actor or something like that, and so the family just kind of
keeps extending, and certainly, the ensemble members gravitate to people that have a similar
sensibility, or something. And so we get to work with incredible people that ordinarily
wouldn’t have. And they agree to come and do a play, which is really…
And we’re now 40-what, Amy? How many people in the company?
Forty. Forty-six? No …
Yeah, or … Something like that?
I don’t know. See, we edit us.
(Overlapping Voices) Every time you look …
We (Inaudible) a handful of people … for the first time in a while.
Well, sort of expanded to younger men and women. We have African American members that
have just come in. We were notoriously WASP for our first 25 years of existence. And we
also have many guest artists that will come in, work with us, if they start out as a director
or an actor, and then they may eventually become an ensemble member. The school has
grown, and burgeoned, and … Martha has kept all of it healthy, and the people that originally
took us through Steve Ike(?), managing director, Randy Arney(?), past artistic director, and
all the actors before that were that. So it’s just a big, incredible fabric woven of so
many … But clearly (Overlapped) clearly young actors
must want to become a member of Steppenwolf. I don’t know. (Laughter)
Any more, I don’t know. (Laughter) They used to.
I hope they do, to an extent, and that’s where sometimes national presence helps. Eric Hatdaniels(?),
our casting director who helps run the school said, I think we’ve got about double the summer
school applications. I said, (Overlapping Voices) the economy is kind of shitty. What’s
up? And she said, I think August helps, a lot, in New York. And I kind of hope so. Lauren(?),
my daughter, is 24. And she’s bouncing around, kind of doing New York theater, and trying
to do camera work. And … She’s an actress?
Yeah. Tried to keep her out of it. She’s probably love … (Laughter) probably fell in love
with a school play, at Northwestern. And then your training can be so haphazard and shitty.
You know, you can get on a TV show, and know sort of how to do that. Or not. And the learning
how to act and the enjoyment of theater is kind of …
A philosophical… It’s kind of an old fashioned …
Yeah, but philosophically … I hope it … ever becomes fashionable…
… Jeff has always talked about, how do we pass it down? How do we give a legacy? What,
if we … we can leave the building after we’re dead and gone, and they bury us underneath
it, but what do we leave? What tangible legacy can Steppenwolf leave, whether it’s in the
way of working, or approach, and Amy teaches as well, in the summer school, and it’s something
to pass it down, whether you are directly affiliated with that. You’ve touch some aspect
of it, and what is the kind of thing that keeps us together and keeps it vibrant, I
think. Do you all teach at the school?
We have. A lot of us have. And some of us, you know,
we’re regularly … know we really like it. And no one said get out of here. (Laughter)
Is it a general school, general, is it acting? Its intent is to … it teaches regular, old
acting. I’m sure. (Laughter) But it’s intent is to teach teamwork.
Expose you to the ensemble. It’s to teach collaborative actor-driven work.
Like you and I, if we put our self in the … if we make it our goal, we can make each
other better, in the scene, this play, this moment, this whatever.
And it’s a summer … it’s a ten week program, and you’re in school …
Eight to five. … eight to five, five days a week, so you
become an instant ensemble. So it becomes easier to teach that, too, because you’re
all depending on each other, right off the bat. So it’s like acting boot camp.
Do you find it’s a good training when you, being a member of the ensemble, when you go
out and .. Laurie, you’ve worked with Roseanne, who is probably a major personality, somebody
who is like that, does it give you a confidence, having been around the camp fire, to be able
to deal with major, different kinds of personalities? (Laughs)
Or … to protect(?)… (Laughter) (Overlapping Voices)
I don’t know what in my training prepared me for that. (Laughter) Ten points, (Overlapped).
(Laughter) But you would always say, oh, I just do it
like I’m doing a play. Those were … well … that’s where I feel
the most comfortable. So anything that puts me in the frame of mind of being in a play,
it becomes a little bit easier for me. I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable? I didn’t
mean to feel … (Overlapping Voices, Laughter)
No, she’s just such a volatile, amazing woman, Miss Roseanne…
Yeah. Oh, yeah. … that it’s like, yeah, (Overlapped Portion).
And here, she’s on stage with Nathan Lane now, who’s no small personality. And Laurie
more than holds her own with any number of people, and I think you take that little part
of yourself, and Amy’s done movies, and Jeff is playing Meredith’s(?) dad on Gray’s Anatomy,
and we kind of go into all those paths, and you sort of … it’s …I don’t know. I mean,
whether they know you in Steppenwolf or not, they know something is …
I remember Joan(?) in … one of our little home town archive interviews, saying gosh,
you’re working with Daniel Day Lewis(?), and you’re working with this person and that person
… aren’t you kind of scared, and she said… well, I’ve got to attribute Steppenwolf of
… no, I … grew up absolutely confident, and had years of training of, if they’re good,
you’ll be better. If you can rely on each other and look in their eyes, and they’re
good, you’ll be fine. Well, in college, and then the bullshit, that’s
something that we can’t omit either, because it’s like … the bar gets set very high,
and it’s like, other people don’t let you get away with stuff, whether it’s a directive
that says, you know, to me, during Fool For Love, I don’t believe a second of it. (Laughter)
Or whatever may be the case. But that’s the kind of environment…
It still is. It gives us notes every month(?)… that will
be … you’re playing to the crowd, stop it. Because … a long run, you start losing your
mind. So she’s really been great about calling us on the bull.
And New York audience is very different. The theaters are larger. It’s a whole … Broadway
is definitely … that’s a big step. And it’s a whole different environment for us, from
what we play in Chicago, or … Or like from 500 seats to 1,500.
Yeah. And are the different days of the week different in terms of (Overlapped)…
They can be. Yeah. They can be.
So you have a matinee show? Lately … we’re not big fans of our Wednesdays.
(Laughter) (Overlapping Voices)
And they love the matinees at November. Yeah. Did November come out of Chicago? With a lot
of Chicago people involved with November, was this the first time it’s been done?
Yes. New play. No workshop, nothing.
Put together on Broadway, old fashioned Broadway style.
Well, it had Joe Montero(?) as the director. And Mason(?), and Laurie, and … it’s got
a terrific creative team. It’s a (Overlapped). It’s a wonderful show,
and that dress, I think you … (Laughter) I know you liked it.
I love the dress. (Laughter) (Overlapping Voices)
And you said there are other Steppenwolf actors in New York, Kevin Anderson and …
Yes. And he’s in Come Back Little Sheba, and …
They said Pace(?) and Merkinson(?). Anapesa(?) was … our original lawyer, one of the first
replacements in Balm in Gilead, all those years ago…
Oh, I didn’t know that, I don’t know that. Yeah, she didn’t (Overlapped)…
Did she do Glen’s(?) part? No. She came to … I was just talking to her
the other day about this …she came to an audition …
And everyone was loving her. .. with Malkovich as a replacement for somebody.
Understudy. I’m sorry, as an understudy. And, which she
didn’t really want to do, but then she watched the performance, and she said, yes, I’ll take
an understudy, because she knew that there would be a turnover, and she’d end up getting
to stay. But she said, but in the meantime, can I please, can I just be on stage? You
don’t have a bag lady. Can I be the bag lady? Oh, you’re kidding. I didn’t know that.
And John said sure. (Laughter) Oh, my God.
And then it became a part of the show. Yeah. And Martha Plimpton(?) was just…
Oh, yeah, Martha Plimpton did some (Overlapped). (Overlapped) Malkovich (Inaudible) almost
nothing. (Laughter) When I was a little kid, and you mentioned
Lee Altman(?), God rest his soul … he did not audition anybody for this particular film.
I don’t know how he usually went about his …
He just talked to people, and … But this was like a (Overlapped) person, he
just talked … so where did you grow up? What does your dad do? Okay. Malkovich almost
did that with Balm in Gilead. With people. Yeah.
He just trusted himself to that level. Yeah, I can tell. This will be a good dinner party.
Yeah. Well, most people are already in the Circle Rep Company, so they proved themselves,
and he … Yeah. And he had that way, especially with
that play. I assume that August, Osage County is going
to have a long and healthy life. It’s already been extended twice, you’re moving theater.
You’re moving next door to the Music Box. Is there going to come a time when you are
going to say, okay, for us, who created it, enough. We’re going to go back. Then who are
you going to turn it over to, other ensemble members, or will you open auditions?
Anna is going to … that’ll be interesting. We haven’t had … well, we’ve had to do it
in the past in different ways. And she will fiercely protect it, as … and we’ll hope
for the best. I guess. (Laughs) Yeah. So I have no idea what…
Well, we don’t. … will happen.
The play has just been published by TCG(?), and I think it was like the number one top
selling play. The play will live on for a very, very, very long time. And I know there’s
rumors in the mill about London, and there’s rumors in the mill about west coast, and it’ll
continue here. I think it’s a great thing for the American theater to have a new play
written by, you know, written by, directed by, and acted by kind of all unknowns. But
we’re known to ourselves, but … (Laughter) (Overlapping Voices)
… an ensemble. And to me, it gives like a lot of hope to the American theater. I think
it was time, and … How about the women’s parts, too?
And the women’s parts. My God. Yeah. That he created.
I have to say, I read it for one of the committees that I sit on, and I started to read it, and
couldn’t figure out where everything was taking place, and realized, I have to start all over
again to read this carefully. Which room are we in, when? And when I saw it, I went back
and looked at the script again, because I thought, I don’t remember quite all of this
that I have just experienced in the theater, just on the page. Which I think really augers
well, and speaks well for the extraordinary ensemble that Steppenwolf is, because you
just all added such … it’s so amazing. So in a funny way, I can’t imagine it without
you. (Laughter) Well, thank you.
Thanks. Yeah. That’s a high compliment. I will happen, but still … and you’re all
going to move next door? When? Uh-huh.
Yes, we are. Tomorrow(?).
That’s great. And you’re still enjoying New York?
Very much. Loving it. Having a great time. I’m not happy about global warming, but my
God… (Laughter) We’ve had unseasonably warm winter, haven’t we?
And we’ve missed a nasty winter in Chicago. (Overlapping Voices)
Small blessing come in (Overlapping Voices). Well, this has been a wonderful, wonderful
conversation, and I thank you all for joining us today. And good luck in future Steppenwolf
(Overlapped). Thank you so much.
Thank you. I have to … and by saying, one cannot underestimate
the extraordinary nature of an ensemble that’s been together for 30 years, still liking each
other, still working together, and still doing what you set out to do, lo(?) these many years
ago. So congratulations. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you for joining us. These programs are
brought to you from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in partnership
with our friends at CUNY TV. On behalf of the American Theatre Wing, I am Ted Chapin,
and thanks for joining us for another edition of Working in the Theatre.

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