BY ALICE YORK
Though it was a cold, rainy May, the atmosphere inside Rockwell on the River was full of warmth and conviviality. The new venue on the water, with event space situated by popular Metropolis Brewing Company, was a fittingly stylish setting to host the star-studded Steppenwolf Gala 2019, which brought in nearly 600 guests, including mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, and raised over $1.28 million.
This year’s co-chairs included ensemble member Kate Arrington and Michael Shannon, Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers, Pam and trustee Dennis D. Howarter, trustee Mary and Bill Ludford, and Steppenwolf ensemble members Sandra Marquez and Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Though Michael Shannon and Sandra Marquez were not in attendance, due to filming schedules and illness, respectively, Hammer did double-duty as the gala emcee, proving himself a host equal parts charming, dashing, and tongue-in-cheek.
Steppenwolf’s Executive Director, David Schmitz, and board of trustees chair Eric Lefkofsky provided welcoming remarks before Artistic Director Anna Shapiro and Hammer introduced ensemble members in attendance, including Arrington, Gary Cole, Joan Allen, McCraney, Jeff Perry, Jim True-Frost, Francis Guinan, Carrie Coon, Jon Michael Hill, Celeste M. Cooper, and Amy Morton.
The evening’s live auction was led by John Walcher, aided by guest auctioneer, Golden Globe winner James Franco, who together raised $280,000. Highlights included a private screening in the LA home of Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, which sold for $50,000, a dinner with the stars of the cult comedy Pineapple Express, Cole, Rosie Perez, and Franco, which brought in $32,000, and a surprise prize donated on the spot by Hammer himself of a visit to the set of his upcoming film, a remake of the Hitchcock classic Rebecca, which garnered $80,000 for two packages.
Before hitting the dance floor to the music of Chicago Soul Spectacular, a paddle raise added another $120,000 to the funds raised for the company’s artistic, educational, and community programming. A new facility, which broke ground two months ago, will house an in-the-round theater and Steppenwolf’s first dedicated education space, allowing them to triple the amount of students served in their teen programming.
Photo credit: Kyle Flubacker