Better Makers: Kelsey Grammer, Rainn Wilson and Chris Rock Help Raise $1.3 Million at Steppenwolf 2018 Gala

Steppenwolf’s 2018 Gala Raises $1.3 Million for Young Adult Programing

In celebration of 42 remarkable seasons of ensemble theater, nearly 700 guests gathered on May 12 to honor Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s world-renowned ensemble. With record-breaking attendance, the 2018 Gala raised more than $1.3 million for the theater’s pivotal programing in the arts and local community. Steppenwolf works with local Chicagoland schools and neighborhoods in providing their outreach programs. Steppenwolf for Young Adults (SYA) offers workshops both in-class and after-school, in addition to producing two full-scale plays each season that speak to the teen identity. According to Steppenwolf, SYA reaches more than 15,000 teachers, teens, and families each year.

The evening, curated by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro and the Steppenwolf ensemble, began with a cocktail reception followed by a seated dinner, program, and auction. Actor Rainn Wilson emceed this year’s Gala. Wilson is currently starring in the Steppenwolf production “The Doppelgänger (an international farce).”

The star-studded guest list also included Chris Rock, who served as guest auctioneer for the night alongside Christie’s Auctioneer Robbie Gordy.

A tribute was given to the late John Mahoney, beloved ensemble member. Longtime friend and actor Kelsey Grammer honored Mahoney alongside Shapiro. A video montage was shared in his honor.

The evening closed with dancing to Chicago band Soul Spectacular and DJ Matt Roan.

The Gala was hosted by Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees and distinguished ensemble members. This year’s co-chairs included Verett MimsElliot Stultz; ensemble member Audrey Francis and Chris FrosethCathy and ensemble member James Vincent Meredith; and co-founder Jeff Perry and Linda Lowy.

The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors Allstate, The Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation, Exelon, Greenberg Traurig, Grosvenor Capital Management, The Harris Family Foundation – Caryn & King Harris, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, PwC, and United.

Steppenwolf Gala 2018: Kelsey Grammer, Robbie Gordy, Chris Rock, and Rainn Wilson
Kelsey Grammer, Christie’s Robbie Gordy, Chris Rock, and Rainn Wilson (Photo by Jaclyn Simpson.)
Steppenwolf Gala 2018: Co-Chairs
Executive Director David Schmitz welcomes the gala co-chairs to the stage: co-founder Jeff Perry and Linda Lowy, ensemble member James Vincent Meredith and Cathy Meredith, Chris Froseth and ensemble member Audrey Francis, trustee Elliot Stultz, and trustee Verett Mims (Photo by Kyle Flubacker.)
Steppenwolf Gala 2018: Soul Spectacular
Chicago favorite Soul Spectacular got everyone on the dance floor (Photo by Kyle Flubacker.)
Steppenwolf Gala 2018: Chris Rock and Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro
Chris Rock and Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro (Photo by Kyle Flubacker.)
Steppenwolf Gala 2018: Step In workshops
Impact: Steppenwolf’s 2018 Gala raised funds for programming like Steppenwolf Education’s “Step In” workshops (pictured). (Photo courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Company.)


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Emily Stone is Associate Editor at Make It Better. She earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work is published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.