- First acting role came in a grade-school production of Johnny Appleseed. Went on to study theater in college.
- Member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, IL, since 1979; debuted in the 1980 play Bonjour, La Bonjour.
- Honored with her first Jeff Award, given for outstanding accomplishments in Chicago theater, in 1982.
- In 1986, made directorial stage debut in the two-play series Lydie Breeze.
- Made Broadway debut in the 1990 stage version of The Grapes of Wrath.
- First TV role was on the ABC comedy Roseanne in a 1992 episode called "Therapy."
- Made cinematic debut in the 1992 comedy Mo' Money.
- Rejected role of Mattie Fae in the problematic comedy August: Osage County four times before she agreed to do it; her portrayal earned her a Tony Award.
- Landed the role of Peggy in the 2010 CBS comedy Mike & Molly.