Friday, April 6, 2012

Steppenwolf aids teens with a TV star’s support

BY ALISA M. ALEXANDER April 5, 2012 8:38PM at

The stage at Steppenwolf Theatre has been graced by some of the most celebrated performers in the world, from Gary Sinise to Joan Allen and John Malkovich. What you may not know is that every year Steppenwolf’s Auxiliary Council throws one of the city’s wildest annual fund-raisers, the Red or White Ball.

The next generation of Chicago philanthropists is expected at the vintage-chic venue Architectural Artifacts. VIP tickets grant early partygoers bountiful culinary delights created by Chicago’s hottest chefs from the Pump Room, Fred’s restaurant, Paris Club and Zed 451; spirits will be served up by the master mixologists of Barrelhouse Flat.

In addition to chatting up Steppenwolf performers and honorary chairs Lily Mojekwu and Robert Schleifer, guests will be competing in a silent auction. Funds raised at the event benefit Steppenwolf for Young Adults . Kathryn Erbe, honorary Red or White Ball chair and star of TV’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” tells Cause & Event about the SYA’s community programs.

Q. When did you first become engaged in the Steppenwolf Young Adults program?

A. My first real connection to the program was when I took part in the Steppenwolf version of the “It Gets Better” campaign that was spearheaded by the folks who run the SYA. Since then I have become more aware of the amazing work they are doing, and I am in awe and so proud to be able to be here to support them.

Q. What’s the main focus of Steppenwolf for Young Adults?

A. The SYA is focused on offering access to high-quality performing arts experiences to young people and families in Chicago’s underserved communities. The SYA also works to [solve] the shortages on arts resources in public schools. The two SYA productions each season are specifically crafted to engage teens in the 12-19 age range, and they then actually reach upward of 15,000 high school students, teachers and family audiences.

Q. Fifteen thousand students is really impressive. How is the SYA doing it?

A. Well, to make our Steppenwolf for Young Adult productions accessible to everyone, Steppenwolf offers deeply subsidized tickets. The schools pay around $6-$7.50 per student to attend weekday matinee performances, while the top ticket prices for public performances on the weekends are $20.

Q. What makes the Red or White Ball a unique event?

A. There is something for everyone, and it’s just really social and fun. I think the auction and raffle prizes are pretty cool, too. You can win a private party on a rooftop garden; a little weekend getaway to Lake Geneva; tickets to a Broadway show — and of course a Steppenwolf Theatre Company Premium Package is being raffled off too! The event originated as an intimate wine tasting, hence the “Red or White.” It kept growing and growing, and eventually became the Red or White Ball we know now. I also like to let people know that they do not need to wear red or white to the event.

Q. What do you miss most about the Chicago theater scene?

A. I miss the Steppenwolf actors and directors and crew. Everyone at the theater. What a talented and passionate group of people! I also really miss the audience and the critics. I miss the intelligence and supportive nature of the audience and the critics in Chicago; it’s more of a dialogue than it feels like in New York.

Q. What was your favorite onstage moment with Steppenwolf?

A. Oh, that may be too difficult to narrow down to one moment! The first moment that comes to mind, for some strange reason, is late in the run of “Grapes [of Wrath],” when we were all getting silly, Bob Breuler would walk around as Pa Joad and come talk to the group of people I was standing with in the background of a scene, and he would pass gas silently and move on. It took us a moment to realize the parting gift he had blessed us with, but we couldn’t react to it since we were “in the play!”

Q.What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?

A. Of course I love to see whatever is playing at Steppenwolf! I love to eat, too. The food in this city is so amazingly good. I love to walk along the lake and go to the zoo and Lincoln Park. Last time I was in Chicago I had a great time downtown walking around by the Bean and that whole area. It’s changed so much!

The Sun-Times proudly supports Steppenwolf Theatre.

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Kathryn Erbe of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” is the honorary chair of the Red or White Ball on April 13.


◆ 8 p.m. April 13

◆ Architectural Artifacts,
4325 N. Ravenswood

◆ Tickets start at $135 (VIP $250)

◆ (312) 654-5681

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