×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Walk of Fame Honoree Gary Sinise Reflects on Steppenwolf Theatre Memories

Asked to pick his favorite memories at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Gary Sinise can only muster: “Oh, geez.”

It’s a tall order, for sure, and one on which Sinise could spend hours ruminating. One of the most prominent theater companies in the United States, if not the world, Steppenwolf Theatre was founded in Chicago by Sinise, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry in 1974. Alumni include the likes of Joan Allen, John Malkovich and Tracy Letts. Asked about its enduring success, Sinise says: “It was always about the actors. In the beginning we had no money so we couldn’t make big sets or fancy things. We relied on the actors to go out there and tell the stories. We started as actors and looked for great roles.”

On the day of Sinise receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and with some pressuring, we got him to expand on shows that were significant to him.

1981: “Of Mice and Men”
Sinise played George to John Malkovich’s Lenny in this adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic. Years later, Sinise would win acclaim directing them both in a 1992 film version. “It was a great privilege and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t met Elaine Steinbeck, John Steinbeck’s widow. I got to know her during the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and I asked her if she’d give me the rights, and I’m so grateful she did.”

1984: “Tracers”
Sinise flew out to Los Angeles to see the play written by Vietnam veterans, including creator John Di Fusco, about their experiences. “I begged John and the others to let me do the play in Chicago,” says Sinise, who directed the Steppenwolf production. The show launched Steppenwolf’s Veterans Night program, which continues to this day.

1989: “The Grapes of Wrath”
“It was one of our great moments,” says Sinise of the adaptation of the Steinbeck classic. “We started with the book and adapted it and did it in Chicago, then moved to La Jolla, California, then London, then Broadway, where it won Tony Awards for best play and best direction of a play for Frank Galati.”

1995: “Buried Child”
Hot off his “Forest Gump” success, Sinise returned to the theater to direct Sam Shepherd’s Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama. It moved to Broadway and he earned two Tony nominations; one for best direction of a play and one as the show’s producer.

2000: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
In this stage adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel, Sinise played R.P. McMurphy, the same role that landed Jack Nicholson an Oscar in the 1975 film adaptation. The production shared a connection with that film, as well. “Tim Sampson played the chief in our production. His father, Will Sampson, played the chief in the movie.” The play moved to London and Broadway, where it won a Tony Award for revival of a play, and Sinise scored a nomination for lead actor in a play. It was the last play he did, having spent the previous 16 years concentrating on television and his foundation.

More Legit

  • Ethan Hawke

    Listen: Ethan Hawke on 'True West' and the Ghost of Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Ethan Hawke had a long relationship with Sam Shepard and his work — but he never thought he’d end up on Broadway in “True West.” That’s because Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly had already put their stamp on the show in the 2000 Broadway revival of the play. “I kind of felt that that [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Kaye Ballard, Star of 'The Mothers-in-Law,' Dies at 93

    Singer-comedienne Kaye Ballard, who starred alongside Eve Arden in the 1960s sitcom “The Mothers-in-Law” and was among the stars of the 1976 feature based on Terrence McNally’s farce “The Ritz,” died Monday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93. She had recently attended a screening of a documentary about her life, “Kaye Ballard: The Show [...]

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content