Martha Lavey, who served as the artistic director of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre for 20 years and was the first woman to hold the position, has died at the age of 60. Ms. Lavey passed away April 25 following complications from a stroke earlier this month; she was also recovering from a stroke suffered in May 2015.
“She spent her last days as she lived, in the company and comfort of family, ensemble members and people who love her deeply,” said current Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna Shapiro and Executive Director David Schmitz in a statement. “As faithful friends, audience members, donors, staff, artists, mentees, and members of the Steppenwolf community, we were all indelibly impacted by Martha's passion, commitment, vision and unmatched intellect. Martha cared deeply for each and every one of us-no matter our relationship to her or the theatre. She will be dearly missed.”
Ms. Lavey began her tenure as artistic director at the Chicago company in 1995. During her time, she oversaw the development and production of several titles, including fellow Steppenwolf stalwart Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, Man From Nebraska, and Superior Donuts. Her final season included the premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway in 2015.
Prior to her leadership position, Ms. Lavey was a performer with the company; she first appeared on the Steppenwolf stage in 1981’s Savages—she was a student at Northwestern University at the time. She officially joined the company’s ensemble in 1993. In 2011, she appeared in Will Eno's Middletown opposite Letts, Ora Jones, and Tim Hopper.
Tracy Letts, Tim Hopper, Martha Lavey Star in Steppenwolf's Middletown
A memorial celebrating the life of the artistic leader will be held at the Chicago venue on a date to be determined. Artists and patrons are encouraged to share memories of Ms. Lavey here.