Martha Lavey was an ensemble member and artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre. Before becoming an administrator, Lavey first appeared with the company in John Malkovich’s 1981 production of Savages while still a student at Northwestern University. Martha joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 1993. Lavey also performed in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions including The March, Middletown, Endgame, Up, Good Boys and True, Love-Lies-Bleeding, Lost Land, I Never Sang for My Father, The Memory of Water, Supple in Combat, Time of My Life, A Clockwork Orange, Talking Heads, SLAVS!, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Love Letters, and Aunt Dan and Lemon. Elsewhere in Chicago she performed at the Goodman, Victory Gardens, Northlight and Remains theaters and in New York at the Women’s Project and Productions.
Lavey served as the artistic director of Steppenwolf from 1995 to 2015, becoming the first woman in the theater to hold the role. Under her transformative leadership, Steppenwolf became a national leader in producing new plays and commissioning playwrights, doubled the size of its ensemble and diversified its base of artists, added two performance spaces, expanded and deepened its partnerships in public schools and the community, created Steppenwolf for Young Adults, and instituted a platform for engaging audiences after every performance. While helming Steppenwolf, she oversaw the productions of hundreds of plays, many of which were transferred to Broadway and abroad.
A short list of productions includes Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, which won the 2008 Tony Award for best play, and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. During her tenure, Steppenwolf was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, the only theater to ever receive the honor, as well as the Illinois Arts Legend Award, Equity Special Award and nine of the company’s 12 Tony Awards.
Lavey was named one of the ‘100 Most Powerful People’ by Chicago Magazine twice, was selected as one of the city's ‘10 Most Powerful Women in the Arts’ by the Chicago Sun-Times and was awarded the title of ‘2010 Chicagoan of the Year’ by the Chicago Tribune.