Nick Duncalf follows Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company as they rehearse their revolutionary new stage show, Ms Blakk for President.
In Chicago, Illinois, two of the ensemble’s key creatives, Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney, are bringing a theatrically daring and politically charged new show to life. Ms Blakk for President tells the extraordinary true story of an African-American drag queen who ran for president of the United States in 1992, at the height of the Aids crisis. Tarell is a critically acclaimed playwright who won an Oscar for his screenplay for the film Moonlight, based on his own childhood growing up in Miami, Florida. Not only has this show been created from scratch at breakneck speed, but Tarell is playing the lead role, after a 15-year absence from the stage. Inspired and supported by the company’s history and success, Tarell, Tina, and Steppenwolf’s artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro, are determined that this cultural institution must be theatrically and politically revolutionary in order to not just survive, but thrive in the 21st century.
Founded 45 years ago in a leafy suburb of Chicago, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company has forged a reputation as one of the world’s foremost producers of electrifying, actor-led theatre, from their breakthrough productions of Balm in Gilead and Sam Shepard’s True West, to the Pullitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, written by one of their own ensemble members, actor-turned-playwright Tracy Letts. The ensemble, expanding over the years to include 50 members, has won Tonys, Emmys, Pullitzers and multiple Oscar nominations, and includes John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Sinise, Joan Allen, Bruce Norris, and many more.