Yasen Peyankov was born and raised in Bulgaria where he graduated from the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. Since his arrival in Chicago in 1990 he co-founded the European Repertory Company in 1992 and has worked as an actor in some of the finest theatres in the city—Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Next Theatre, American Theatre, and many others. His role as Greenspan in Morning Star at Steppenwolf earned him a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also received a nomination for Best Adaptation for his translation/adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov, which was consequently published by Ivan R. Dee.
Since 2002, he has been a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble, where he has appeared in Time to Burn, The Time of Your Life (also in Seattle and San Francisco), Berlin Circle, Hysteria, Morning Star, Frankie and Johnny In the Clare De Lune (also in Dublin), The Cherry Orchard, Lost Land, The Pillowman, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Tempest, The Hot L Baltimore, Penelope, Three Sisters, Superior Donuts (also on Broadway), A Doll’s House Part 2, The Children and others. Also, for Steppenwolf Theatre he directed Russian Transport, Grand Concourse, Between Riverside and Crazy (Jeff-nominated for Best Production in 2016) and The Fundamentals. He currently serves on Steppenwolf Theatre’s Board of Trustees.
In 2011 he directed the Bulgarian premiere of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts at The National Theatre in Sofia in his own translation. He has also translated and adapted plays by Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nikolai Kolyada, and Vasily Slgarev.
Professor Peyankov has also appeared on film in Captive State, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, Contagion, Transformers 3, Gifted Hands, The Company, Payback, US Marshals, Novocain, Lana’s Rain, and in many television shows such as FBI, Stranger Things, Chicago PD, The Beast, The Mob Doctor, The Unit, The Evidence, Alias, Numb3rs, The Practice, Early Edition, and others. He had a recurring role as the Russian Foreign Minister on CBS’ hit series Madam Secretary from 2016 to 2019. Most recently he appeared in Chicago Med and wrapped filming for Maestro, a biopic about Leonard Bernstein, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper.
Professor Peyankov has been teaching acting at UIC since 2000 and accepted the position of Head of the Theatre Program in the fall of 2007. He has also taught at the Steppenwolf Summer School, Steppenwolf West, Act One Studio, the University of Chicago, and Eolia Conservatory in Barcelona, Spain. He is a recipient of a 2002 Walter and Eva Fox Acting Fellowship and the first Distinguished Scholar Award awarded by the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts at UIC.
He last appeared on stage in Lindiwe at Steppenwolf Theatre alongside Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Most recently he directed the inaugural production of his own translation/adaptation of Seagull by Anton Chekhov at Steppenwolf’s new theatre-in-the-round space which opened in May, 2022.