Terry Kinney, the stage, film and television actor, was born on January 29, 1954 in Lincoln, Illinois and attended Illinois State University. While at university, his friend, the aspiring actor Jeff Perry, took Kinney to Chicago to see a production of "Grease" in which his best friend, Gary Sinise, was appearing. The like-minded trio of Sinise, Perry and Kinney opened their own Chicago theatrical troupe, the Steppenwolf Theater, in 1974 in the basement of a church in Highland Park. The company's metamorphosis into one of the country's great regional theatrical companies began in 1976, after Kinney and Perry joined it full-time after graduating from college. The theater has, since 1976, put on a full season of ensemble works.
The founders of Steppenwolf supported the theater and themselves with odd jobs until he company began financially self-supporting in the early 1980s. re-located in the old St. Nicholas Theater, Steppenwolf's productions began to attract a steady audience. Steppenwolf flourished artistically and financially in the '80s, and moved once again to its permanent home at 1650 N. Halsted Street in Chicago.