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About Downstate

At a registered address in downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes share a group home where they live out their days post-incarceration. When a man shows up to confront his childhood abuser, it becomes hard to locate the line between justice and retribution. This gripping, provocative new play from Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris zeroes in on the limits of compassion and forgiveness.

Downstate was co-commissioned and its world premiere was presented by Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Anna Shapiro, Artistic Director; David Schmitz, Executive Director) and The National Theatre, London (Rufus Norris, Artistic Director; Lisa Burger, Executive Director).

This production has received generous support from the Roy Cockrum Foundation and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.

Photos by Michael Brosilow of the Steppenwolf Theater Company's production of Downstate.

Gallery / 3 Images
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Tell Me More

Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris's newest play, Downstate, makes its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons this fall. Get Downstate tickets now.

The Downstate play is about four men — Fred, Dee, Felix, and Gio — living in a group home for formerly incarcerated sex offenders. One of their victims, Andy, arrives at the home one day to confront his abuser and finally get closure. Or perhaps he's actually seeking retribution. Downstate explores the line between justice and revenge and at what point, if any, one's punishment is enough for their crimes.

Playwrights Horizons hosts Downstate off Broadway, but the play premiered in 2018 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago to acclaim. Pam MacKinnon directed that production, and she returns to direct Downstate in New York. She's collaborated with Norris before, having directed his Pulitzer-winning play Clybourne Park on and off Broadway.

Clybourne Park, a companion play to Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, is perhaps Norris's best-known work. It is the only play of his to appear on Broadway, though Norris previously performed in three other Broadway shows between 1985 and 2000. He has also performed in nearly a dozen Off-Broadway productions and had seven plays off Broadway, including Downstate.

Get Downstate tickets on TodayTix.

What to Watch For

  • Bruce Norris has set multiple shows in Illinois. Clybourne Park is set in Chicago, and Downstate takes place in southern Illinois.
  • The five lead actors from the play's Chicago world premiere all reprise their roles in Downstate off Broadway.
  • Downstate is Norris's fourth play at Playwrights Horizons. Clybourne Park, The Qualms, and The Pain and the Itch all previously appeared there.
  • Before his plays began appearing at Playwrights Horizons, Norris acted in a play there, Plunge, in 1997.
  • During the world premiere of Downstate in 2018, two events involving sex offenses made headlines: Bill Cosby's conviction for sexual assault; and the Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, before which Christine Blasey Ford testified that he allegedly assaulted her years before.
Run time

2 hrs 25 mins (with 15 minute intermission)

Start date

October 28th, 2022

End date

December 11th, 2022




Playwrights Horizons

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