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Anna Shapiro Named Ver Steeg Fellow

Tony Award-winning director and theatre professor receives top honor

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Anna Shapiro, Marjorie Hoffman Hagan, Class of 1934 Chair in Theatre at Northwestern University and Tony Award-winning director of “August: Osage County,” has been awarded the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship.

The $35,000 fellowship -- Northwestern’s first endowed award for excellence in research by a faculty member -- is designed to support scholarship that enhances the University’s national and international reputation.

Shapiro, who also is director of the Master of Fine Arts Directing Program in the School of Communication, is the seventh Northwestern scholar to receive the prestigious fellowship.

Since joining Northwestern’s theatre department in 2002, Shapiro has helped to create what is arguably the nation’s most exciting and attractive graduate program in directing. At the same time, she has continued to have an extraordinary impact on contemporary American theatre through her own artistic work as a director.

Shapiro has directed dozens of plays, many of them world premieres, since 2000. In 2008 she was awarded the prestigious Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for her work on “August: Osage County.” Written by Tracy Letts, this play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family earned five Tony Awards that year. It premiered at Steppenwolf before traveling to Broadway and London and is now on national tour.

Shapiro was nominated for a second Tony Award in 2011 for her direction of “The Motherfu**er with the Hat,” a drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis that has been described as “a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery.”

Affiliated with Steppenwolf Theatre since 1995, she served as the original director of the theatre company’s New Plays Initiative and later joined the artistic staff as resident director. Shapiro’s Steppenwolf credits include “I Never Sang for My Father,” which featured John Mahoney, and the world premieres of “Man from Nebraska” and “Purple Heart” by Pulitzer Prize-winning Northwestern alumnus Bruce Norris. She also directed “The Drawer Boy,” “Side Man” and “Three Days of Rain.”

Currently serving as an associate artist at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Shapiro has leveraged her connections and worked tirelessly to create an opportunity for third year Northwestern students to present their MFA thesis project at the Steppenwolf. This remarkable partnership has served to further raise the profile of Northwestern’s theatre program. 

Shapiro is currently at work with a team of composers adapting “Like Water for Chocolate” into a musical play. A first novel by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel that was published in 1989, “Like Water for Chocolate” became a popular film in 1992. The play is in development in Northwestern’s American Music Theatre Project and, with strong Broadway support, may well end up in New York.  

The Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship was established and endowed by the late Clarence Ver Steeg and his wife Dorothy. Clarence Ver Steeg, who was a faculty member in the department of history from 1950 until 1992 and served as dean of The Graduate School from 1975 to 1986.

A broad academic field is identified by the Provost each year as the area from which nominations are solicited from school deans.

Previous Ver Steeg award winners include Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management, Kellogg School of Management; Dorothy Roberts, Kirkland & Ellis Professor, School of Law; and Harold Kung, professor of chemical and biological engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.  A full list of previous winners can be found at
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