"All this stuff" includes what Arrington's youngest sister, Anne, 25, calls "Kate's No. 1 role." That's as mother to Sylvia Grace, who turned 2 in June.
Sylvie's dad is Arrington's partner, longtime Chicago actor Michael Shannon. They met when they were performing in different plays here.
Revolutionary Road." (Shannon was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the electroshocked mathematician John Givings.)
"What's funny is I had given both of them ('Revolutionary Road') because that was my favorite book. Isn't that ridiculous?" Kate Arrington says, roaring. "I should get casting credit on that movie."
This summer, Shannon worked on films in Grafton, Ohio, and in Detroit. A third movie shooting soon is a "huge budget" action thriller, "Premium Rush," about a bike messenger and a dirty cop, played by Shannon.
"It's hilarious," says Arrington, accustomed to the pared-down staff (and low wages) of most stage productions. "The movie's costume designer and his assistant showed up here yesterday. They flew to Chicago to try a suit on him!"
Those who have worked with Arrington describe her as the un-diva. "I don't find her at all demanding. There's nothing self-dramatizing. … She's not vain," says Steppenwolf artistic director Martha Lavey. That became evident when Arrington sat for the photos for this story after a morning outdoors with Sylvie, falling down and skinning her knee and remarking cavalierly, "I haven't showered … I'm fine." On with the show.
Shannon's out-of-town film schedule means that the family can be together in Chicago only once a week.
Meanwhile, Arrington does the heavy-duty parenting, tootling around town with Sylvie all day, then leaving her with family or a Steppenwolf school actress-slash-baby sitter so she can go to work — eight or nine performances a week in the new play written by one of her college idols, Bruce Norris. She also will open the new Steppenwolf season next month in the debut of "Detroit."
Arrington is close to her parents, both teachers with doctorates in literature, who have nurtured her career and visit her often on the road and at her Brooklyn apartment, which has a view of the Statue of Liberty. They and her sisters see virtually every play she performs in — across the country — and she texts them with updates on Sylvie when they're not there to see the little girl.
"Out of the blue she sent me a text message today," says Arrington's dad, Tom Bauso, saying, "Sylvie has learned her mother's name is 'Kate Arrington Shannon Mommy.'"
During a Chicago visit, Arrington's mom, Jean, would take Sylvie to watch a little of the rehearsal and to meet her mom for the dinner break.
"Sylvie knew she had to be absolutely silent and she was. And was absolutely fascinated. I think Sylvie has already got theater entirely in her blood," Jean Arrington says.
"The most telling thing about Kate is the way she undertook motherhood," says Steppenwolf's Lavey. "They get pregnant and 'Yes, so now we'll have this family and by the way, Sylvia will sort of come with us everywhere.' I love how game all that is. I'm sure it's difficult. I've never heard Kate speak of it in a sense of weariness or complaint. It's something she just made a part of her life. There's a kind of fortitude and acceptance of life on happy terms.
"It's her way."
"A Parallelogram," the last play in Steppenwolf's 2009-10 season, closes Aug. 29. Arrington will appear in "Detroit," a new play by Lisa D'Amour that debuts for the opening of Steppenwolf's 2010-11 season. "Detroit" will be in previews Sept. 9-18 and officially opens Sept. 21.