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In 1975, Steppenwolf incorporated as a nonprofit organization, saving money by taking the name of a failed theater company that had already incorporated. In the summer of 1976, Steppenwolf took up residence in a vacant basement space of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Highland Park, Illinois and produced its first full season of plays.
In 1980, the theater company moved into a 134-seat theater at the Jane Addams Hull House Center on Broadway Avenue in Chicago. Two years later, the company moved to a 211-seat facility at 2851 N. Halsted Street, which was their home until 1991, when construction was completed on the current theater complex at 1650 N. Halsted Street (with administrative offices at 1700 N. Halsted Street.) The theatre has three theatres: the Downstairs Theatre that seats 515; the Upstairs Theatre that seats 299; and, the 1700 Theatre a casual, intimate and flexible theatre that seats 80.
Through its New Plays Initiative, the company maintains ongoing relationships with writers of international prominence while continuing to support the work of aspiring and mid-career playwrights. In 1988, Steppenwolf presented the world premiere of Frank Galati's adaption of The Grapes of Wrath, based on the John Steinbeck novel, which eventually went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play. In 2000 Steppenwolf presented the world premiere of Austin Pendleton's Orson's Shadow, which subsequently was staged off-Broadway and by regional theatres throughout the country.
Tracy Letts' Broadway drama August: Osage County (2007) was ranked number one in Time's Top Ten Theatre Performances of 2007. After moving from the Imperial Theatre next door to The Music Box Theatre for an open-ended run, August: Osage County won five Tony Awards including Best Play of 2007, Best Director (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Leading Actress (Deanna Dunagan), Best Featured Actress (Rondi Reed), and Best Scenic Design (Todd Rosenthal). Letts went on to win the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play.
Among the theater's many honors are the Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence (1985) and the National Medal of Arts (1998).
^Martin Banham -The Cambridge Guide to Theatre 1995 - Page 1035 Notable productions include True West, Balm in Gilead, And a Nightingale Sang, Orphans, Coyote Ugly, Burn This, and company member Frank Galati's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. ...
^Best Plays 1983-1984 - Page 59 Otis L. Guernsey - 1989 "Coyote Ugly by Lynn Seifert (San Francisco: Berkeley Stage) -- The slightly outrageous story of a hard bitten, depraved family living in the Arizona desert unfolds in the crackling, wild dialogue of this young wild dialogue of this young playwright who was runner- up in the Susan Smith Blackburn competition for women playwrights in 1984."
^Current Biography Yearbook - Volume 49 1989 - Page 355 "After reprising Biff for a taped CBS television version of Death of a Salesman, Malkovich returned to Chicago in March 1985 to direct Lynn Seifert's Coyote Ugly at the Steppenwolf Theatre. "