admin • 01 31 2018

Award-winning actress Sarah Paulson was the honoree at the ninth annual Steppenwolf Women in the Arts luncheon Jan. 22 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel. More than 300 supporters from Chicago’s business, civic and arts communities enjoyed a warm and inspiring conversation between Paulson and her longtime friend and collaborator Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts.

Following a VIP meet-and-greet reception, attendees were welcomed by Amy Eshleman, Steppenwolf trustee and education committee chair. She called Paulson a “ground-breaking actor” and mentioned ensemble members she has collaborated with, including Letts, Lois Smith and Austin Pendleton.

Ensemble member Audrey Francis said, “Our family of playmakers at Steppenwolf strives to be at the front of society’s understanding of itself, to show at every turn, not just who we are, but who it’s possible for us to be.”

She introduced a short video spotlighting the luncheon’s fundraising focus, Steppenwolf’s education and mentorship programs. She added, “This year’s goal is to foster connections with 20,000 teens through unique partnerships with Storycatchers Theatre, the Chicago Public Library, Snow City Arts, Build Inc., Embarc Chicago and more, as we continue to bring theater to youth who need it the most.”

A reel of Paulson’s extensive film work, produced by Donna LaPietra (Steppenwolf trustee) and Kurtis Productions, was presented by ensemble member Amy Morton who said, “Her (Paulson’s) portrayals are always incredibly honest, vulnerable, funny and tragic, and I’m always very moved by what she does.” Clips included highlights from “The Spirit,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Game Change” and “The Post,” among others.

Morton stated that Paulson, who knew she wanted to act since being “in the womb,” is the first actress to ever receive all five major TV awards in the same award circuit — an Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice Television and the Television Critics Association awards.

During the 90-minute discussion, Letts touched on a variety of topics about Paulson’s impressive career in television, film and stage. Her first job was six months after graduating from a performing arts high school in New York as an understudy in “The Sisters Rosensweig” (1992). An early career project included Letts’ play “Killer Joe” (1993). Paulson and Letts appear together in Stephen Spielberg’s most recent film, “The Post.”

Paulson credited her current career success to the series “American Horror Story” and its creator Ryan Murphy for allowing her to showcase her acting range. She acknowledged fellow actors Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Jill Clayburgh, as well as Robyn Goodman, co-founder of New York’s Second Stage Theater, as early mentors.

Paulson’s Emmy win for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie was for her portrayal of attorney Marcia Clark in the critically acclaimed miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” on FX. She told Letts that the project was her “favorite thing she’s ever done.” In addition to the Emmy, Paulson won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for her role.

Paulson’s advice for young actors was to “allow your timetable to be what it is.” When asked which women inspire her, she said, “Given what we’re experiencing now culturally with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it’s an extraordinary thing that we all in the arts have a great platform and opportunity to speak loudly. … I’m most concerned with having an actual impact. … I would say women in general, or any human being who is of service, is an incredible inspiration to me.”

At the end of the discussion, she turned to Letts and joked, “You’re giving James Lipton a real run for his money.”

The event raised $196,000 for Steppenwolf’s educational and professional development programs, including the nationally recognized Steppenwolf for Young Adults, the School at Steppenwolf and its Professional Leadership Program.

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