Steppenwolf, the little theatre that could, started in in a Unitarian church on Half Day Road in Deerfield, Illinois in 1974, has come a long way from its humble beginnings--growing physically and artistically.
The latest announcement came today. They are breaking ground on a new 50,000 sq. ft building at 1646 N Halsted (between the existing parking garage and the main building) that will feature an intimate 400-seat In-the-Round Theatre six rows deep; a dedicated education floor, a two-story atrium lobby, a wine bar and a sidewalk lounge.
The new building will also house Steppenwolf’s costume shop and other updated production amenities.
The space designed by world-renowned architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, and London-based theater design team Charcoalblue is slated to open in the summer of 2021.
“What powers this project is an ambition to bring artists and audience together into a single space exemplifying the highest level of intimacy, density, flexibility and excitement. Our shared focus and enthusiasm for the project is matched by Steppenwolf's relentless energy to get this right—to fine-tune the theatre for the company, their loyal audience and open themselves up to newcomers,” says Gavin Green, Senior Partner at Charcoalblue.
“The new building will be an open invitation to all—with performance, rehearsal and social places intentionally built to place artists, audiences and students in constant engagement with each other. The In-the-Round theatre design will highlight what makes our company unique—visceral, human and intimate experiences of incredible acting. Our first-ever purpose-built learning space, which is the crowning jewel of the building, will allow us to place education at the heart of our mission and increase the number of teens impacted by our programming from 15,000 to 40,000,” shares Executive Director David Schmitz. “In collaboration with the ensemble, the architects and designers and a community of supporters, today it is a true honor to break ground on our next phase, which will reshape the Steppenwolf experience and enable us to become the theater we aspire to be.”
The parking garage at 1624 N. Halsted will remain and undergo cosmetic changes to its façade to create symmetry across the campus. Increased valet service will be offered to continue to make parking easy, and accessible parking will be available next to Front Bar at 1700 N Halsted. During construction, the parking garage will continue to be available to patrons.
Steppenwolf--a Chicago Story
In 1975, Steppenwolf incorporated as a non-profit and produced one play that summer, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds.
In the summer of 1976, with a newly formed ensemble that included founders Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, Gary Sinise and H.E. Baccus, Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Alan Wilder, the company moved from the Unitarian church in Deerfield to a vacant basement space of the Immaculate Conception Catholic school in Highland Park. There they produced its first season of plays.
In 1980 the company moved from Highland Park to the city of Chicago into a 134 seat theatre at the Jane Adams Center and expanded the ensemble.
The most recent expansion project began in 2016 with Phase One: the completion of the 1700 Theatre and Front Bar: Coffee & Drinks. Following the completion of Phase Two—the new theater building and renovation of the existing Downstairs Theatre lobbies—Steppenwolf enters Phase Three of the expansion with accessibility-minded renovations to the current Downstairs Theatre that will greatly enhance the audience experience for the entire community.
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Filed under: Theater in Chicago