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Steppenwolf Theatre Company welcomes new associate artistic director

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is thrilled to welcome Leelai Demoz as its new Associate Artistic Director. Leelai Demoz has had a varied career in the arts, on stage, in front and behind the camera. He is a founding partner of Small Ax, a digital production company/agency based in Venice, CA. Demoz produced the award-winning film DIFRET (2014 Sundance World Cinema and 2014 Berlin Panorama Audience Awards). He was nominated for an Academy and Emmy Award for the documentary film On TipToe, which is a profile of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and was directed by ensemble member Eric Simonson. His other work has been seen on MTV, Discovery, Travel Channel and BET. He also directed a set of ‘get out the vote’ public service announcements for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, featuring LL Cool J and Alicia Keys.

As an actor, he has appeared at several Chicago area theaters as well as The Kennedy Center, The National Theater of Great Britain and Broadway. His first professional stage production was at Steppenwolf Theatre in The Grapes of Wrath.

Outside of the arts, Mr. Demoz has consulted with the United Institute of Peace and served on a working group for a project with The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation’s Rwanda Initiative. He is a board member of The Schoolhouse Foundation and of Action Civics California (Mikva Challenge).

“When I was a young actor growing up in the Chicago area, acting meant only one thing: Steppenwolf Theatre. The members of the ensemble epitomized the craft and art of acting. So to be cast in The Grapes of Wrath and playing the National Theatre in Great Britain as a 20-year-old was a life-changing experience,” shares Leelai Demoz. “Now, after a career as a film and television producer in NY and Los Angeles, I jumped at the chance to be considered for this job. I can’t think of a better place than Steppenwolf to be collaborating with so many artists who are asking fundamental questions about our community and our world. I look forward to bringing my experience, energy, passion, naivete, and unbridled enthusiasm to my new position. I thank the Board, the staff, David Schmitz, and Anna Shapiro for this incredible opportunity. When I was acting, I was always asking the question ‘Who am I?’ Now I am most interested in the question, ‘Who are we?’ To quote Anna, I’m ready to ‘get in here’.”

As Associate Artistic Director (ADD) Leelai Demoz will oversee and facilitate the day-to-day artistic operations of the theatre while assisting the Artistic Director in maintaining the highest possible administrative and production standards for the company. He will create and maintain communication channels within the organization and will work closely with both the artistic staff and all other departments to manage flow of information, allotment of resources and calendar management for the season. Demoz will also serve as a consistent public face of Steppenwolf Theatre both locally and internationally. Reporting to the Artistic Director, the ADD will serve as a member of Steppenwolf’s senior management team and work closely with the Executive Director, General Manager, Director of Production, Director of Marketing & Communications, Director of Development, Education Director, the Artistic Assoc- iates, the Ensemble and the Board of Trustees. Demoz will lead a sophisticated and talented group of artistic administrators, including Artistic Producers, a Casting Director and Director of New Play Development.

Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro comments, “I cannot stress to you all how happy David and I are to have been able to re-imagine this position and then to have been able to fill it with someone as accomplished as Leelai. A true associate AD is necessary for the health and productivity of any theatre that is as committed to excellence, continuity and growth. As Steppenwolf continues to chart its course for the next many years, we know that adding Leelai to our family helps guarantee a stable and exciting future.”

“Leelai Demoz is a talented producer, administrator, artist and film maker. With his variety of professional experiences, he will immediately add value to the range of projects happening at Steppenwolf at any given moment. As a department head and leader of the artistic office at Steppenwolf, he will be collaborating throughout our organization and our community, and I am thrilled that he is joining our talented staff,” adds Executive Director David Schmitz.

Year of Chicago Theatre Steppenwolf Theatre Company is proud to be part of the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre, presented by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres. To truly fall in love with Chicago, you must go to our theatres. This is where the city bares its fearless soul. Home to a community of creators, risk-takers, and big hearts, Chicago theatre is a hotbed for exciting new work and hundreds of world premieres every year. From Broadway musicals to storefront plays and improv, there’s always a seat waiting for you at one of our 200+ theatres. Book your next show today at

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble represents a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County  and Pass Over—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programming includes a seven-play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit,, and

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