When Evanston native Anna D. Shapiro won a Tony award for directing “August: Osage County” in 2008, it changed her life.
Only the second American woman to ever receive the award for Direction of a Play, Shapiro now finds herself in the enviable and unfamiliar position of being able to pick and choose her projects.
“It requires a lot of saying no,” she says, “which is hard when you’ve worked your butt off to get to the point where people want to hire you.”
Shapiro has been a Steppenwolf Ensemble member since 2003 and heads the Graduate Directing program at Northwestern, so she already had a busy schedule before winning the Tony. But in 2009, another life-changing event occurred that placed even greater demands on her time: Shapiro and her husband, actor Ian Barford, adopted two unrelated local infants within days of one another.
Now, at the top of her game professionally and mom to two active toddlers, Shapiro is trying to figure out how to keep all the balls in the air.
This month, Shapiro is directing Chris Rock in his Broadway debut, “The Mother****er with the Hat” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. It’s a new partnership she’s excited about.
“I got off the phone with my agent and said to Ian, ‘Gosh, I’m not only on the A-list; I’m on the cool list!’ ” she recalls. “It’s one of the best plays I’ve ever read.”
“When you are given a platform, you start thinking less about what you’re going to do and more about what you want to say,” she says.
A constant theme in Shapiro’s work is emotional paralysis, the conflict between the way a person wants to be and the world in which they live. But in real life, she’s a lot less conflicted than her characters.
“Right now my dreams are about my kids and my husband,” she says. “I’d rather Olivia and Giovanni and Ian be on my tombstone than ‘August: Osage County.’ ”