Steppenwolf Theatre Company replaced its 2020 Gala with a live online event, Pants Optional: A Steppenwolf Soirée, celebrating the power of theatre and raising vital funds to keep it alive during a time of necessary social-distancing. Ensemble member Audrey Francis emceed this festive virtual gathering, raising $640,000 for Steppenwolf Education.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, First Lady and Steppenwolf Trustee Amy Eshelman and First Daughter Vivian opened the event with a warm welcome to the online viewers. Ensemble members including John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Sinise and others were joined by celebrity guests Claire Danes, Armie Hammer, Shonda Rhimes and Chris Rock in teen interviews, inspiring viewers joining the gathering from the comfort of their homes. Broadway’s Phillipa Soo and Steven Pasquale made a surprise appearance in support of Steppenwolf and serenaded the audience. Grammy Award-winning DJ Tracy Young kept the party going by spinning music live from Miami for Steppenwolf’s expanding global community of artists, fans and donors to connect, engage and take a collective breath.
Social distancing prohibited Steppenwolf from hosting its traditional gala. However, this year’s free online event opened the virtual doors to a much larger audience, including viewers from across the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand via Steppenwolf’s YouTube stream. The video, which can still be viewed on Steppenwolf’s YouTube Channel, boasts over 5,500 views. Donations continue to mount via text and online. To contribute, visit www.steppenwolf.org/pantsoptional .
Proceeds from this unique event support in part the remount of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, this season’s Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ hit world premiere based on the award-winning novel by Erika L. Sánchez, adapted by celebrated Chicago playwright Isaac Gómez and directed by ensemble member Sandra Marquez. The extended and sold out run was cut short by the COVID-19 crisis, which inspired Steppenwolf to raise money to bring back to life this essential Chicago story for thousands of high schoolers clamoring to see it, including youth detained and incarcerated at three juvenile justice facilities the show was meant to tour to. Steppenwolf is so proud that the number of individual contributors to the event far exceeded our expectations, more than doubling the amount of individual donors to past galas. Contributors included not only many longtime Steppenwolf supporters and members, but also classroom teachers, Steppenwolf Education partners and even some teens, all of whom wrote in during the event to share their support for not only the remount of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter but for the vitality of Steppenwolf Education’s programming.
Pants Optional: A Steppenwolf Soirée co-chairs include ensemble member Joan Allen; trustee Susan Berghoef; ensemble members Gary Cole and Sandra Marquez; and trustee Anne Phillips and Don Phillips.
Pants Optional: A Steppenwolf Soirée lead sponsors were Anne and Don Phillips with additional support from Innovators Allstate, The Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation, Exelon, Grosvenor Capital Management, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, The Orlebeke Foundation and The Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation and Visionary Sponsors Douglas R. Brown and Rachel Kraft, CRC Group, The Crown Family, DLA Piper LLP (US), Cameron and Amy Findlay, Green Courte Partners, LLC, ITW, Chris and Eileen Murphy, Norcon, Inc., Bruce Sagan and Bette Cerf Hill, Deborah and Stephen Quazzo, Matthew Shapiro, Sterling Bay, John and Carol Walter Family Foundation, Steppenwolf Associates and United Airlines.