Founded in 1982, Stage Left Theatre is dedicated to developing and producing plays that inspire debate. Learn more about our mission, values, and history below.
Principal Principle -- 2014
Stage Left Theatre inspires debate by producing and developing plays that explore political and social issues.
Stage Left will partner with like-minded organizations, artistic and otherwise, to promote the creation of socially engaged art and to activate audiences.
Stage Left will engage the Chicago community in conversations about the issues that affect it, both onstage and through other programs.
Stage Left will create opportunities for artists of color, women, and people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities both onstage and behind the scenes. Stage Left will tell a diverse range of stories, in both theme, aesthetic and style. Stage Left’s productions will present multiple facets of an issue with candor and empathy.
Read more about these values in our Anti-Racism Statement
Cultivating New Work
Stage Left will create opportunities for ensemble members to grow artistically.
Stage Left will help playwrights develop new plays through our Downstage Left programs.
Stage Left will produce new plays in the mainstage season.
Founded in 1982 by graduates from the Goodman School of Drama (now The Theatre School at DePaul), Stage Left is one of the oldest ensemble-based theater companies in Chicago, second only to Steppenwolf. In 1988, the organization adopted the mission to produce plays that raise the level of debate on social and political issues. In 2002, the mission was further refined to also include a focus on the development of new work.
Stage Left had always produced new plays, but In 1995-1996, under Co-Artistic Directors Sandra Verthein & Mike Troccoli and Managing Director Drew Martin, Downstage Left was created as Stage Left's official incubator program for new work. In 2004, Artistic Director Jessi Hill and Managing Director Kevin Heckman created the Downstage Left program LeapFest -- an annual festival of new plays presented in workshop productions in rotating repertory. In 2010, Artistic Director Vance Smith and Literary Manager Zev Valancy created the Downstage Left Residency to help playwrights develop early stage projects. Since 1995, hundreds of new plays have benefited from Downstage Left programs. A high percentage of these plays have gone on to World Premiere productions at Stage Left and theaters around the world.
For the first 11 years, Stage Left produced continuously at 3244 North Clark Street. In February of 1995, after a couple of years itinerant, Stage Left moved to a 50-seat theatre at 3408 North Sheffield Avenue, where we would produce for the next 15 years. In 2010, we became a resident company at the newly constructed Theater Wit at 1229 W. Belmont, where we stayed until 2017, when we became a resident at the historic Athenauem Theatre, our current home.
Over the past thirty-seven years, Stage Left has produced over 130 mainstage, late-night, off-night, children's and touring productions that have garnered critical accolades, as well as 48 nominations and 18 awards for excellence from the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. A few of our many notable production are the early hit P.S. Your Cat is Dead, by James Kirkwood (1984), the Midwest premiere of A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner (1988), the world premiere of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind conceived by Greg Allen (1988), the world premiere of Leander Stillwell by David Rush (1992), Clue in the Old Birdbath by Sandra de Helen and Kate Kasten (1993), the Midwest premiere of The Waiting Room by Lisa Loomer (1998), the world premiere of The Sensitive Swashbuckler and Other Dating Myths by Christian Murphy & Gail Stern (later known as the touring show Sex Signals -- 2000) the world premiere of Chagrin Falls by Mia McCullough (2001), the world premiere of Fellow Travelers by MEH Lewis (2006), the Midwest premiere of Farragut North by Beau Willimon, the world premiere of Principal Principle by Joe Zarrow (2014), the Chicago premiere of The Body of an American (2016), and the hit revival of Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O'Hara.