Former head of Steppenwolf Theater Martha Lavey dies

Catherine Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Martha Lavey (Communication ’79), former artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theater, died Tuesday at the age of 60, according to a statement released by the theater.

Lavey died due to complications after a stroke she had suffered a week before, artistic director Anna Shapiro and executive director David Schmitz said in the theater’s statement. Lavey had already been struggling to recover from a debilitating stroke in May 2015, and she spent the last day of her life with family, ensemble members and other loved ones, according to the statement.

Lavey impacted the Steppenwolf community with her “passion, commitment, vision and unmatched intellect,” the statement said. After becoming artistic director for the Steppenwolf Theater in 1995, Lavey brought several critically praised productions to the stage, including the Tony Award-winning restagings of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“Martha cared deeply for each and every one of us — no matter our relationship to her or the theater,” the statement said. “She will be dearly missed.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Lavey as “one of the most important figures in the history of Chicago theater” and expressed his gratitude toward her lifelong commitment to theater in a statement.

“Chicago owes a debt of gratitude to Martha Lavey,” Emanuel said in the statement. “She helped put Chicago theater — and the gritty, gutsy Chicago-style theater for which we’re known — on the map.”

Services for Lavey will be held in Vienna, Virginia at St. Mark Catholic Church, which is near her parents’ home. Steppenwolf Theater will also hold a memorial to celebrate her life and impact on Steppenwolf and the Chicago community.

The theater is currently collecting memories and thoughts about Lavey on its website. Comments will be collected and shared with Lavey’s family and the community, the statement said.

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