Steppenwolf Theater unveils 50,000 square foot theater and education center


LINCOLN PARK – The Steppenwolf Theater Company inaugurated its expanded campus on Tuesday with the opening of a new theater and education building.

The $ 54 million Liz & Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center features a 400-seat round theater surrounding the stage on all sides. The complex also includes classrooms, art gallery walls and two new bars.

Glenn Davis, co-artistic director of Steppenwolf, said the 50,000 square foot building was the “company’s love letter to Chicago”.

“This building will allow us to expand our reach in this great city as we operationalize our theater’s commitments to inclusion, diversity, equity and access,” Davis said at a grand opening. Tuesday.

Credit: Supplied / James Steinkamp Photography.
The intimate 400-seat round theater is one of a kind in Chicago.
The transformed lobby space at 1650 N. Halsted Street seamlessly connects the existing Steppenwolf building to the new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Art and Education Center.

The new building – designed by architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture – is part of Steppenwolf’s multi-phased $ 73 million Focus on excellence expansion campaign.

“What an amazing day for our company and for Chicago,” said Brooke Flanagan, Executive Director of Steppenwolf. “We are investing in this expansion of our artistic home in Chicago to serve our extraordinary city and support the work of generative and diverse theater artists for generations to come.”

Credit: Supplied / James Steinkamp Photography.
View from the main hall of the new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Art and Education Center of the Steppenwolf Theater Company.

The Ensemble Theater In Honor Of Helen Zell is an intimate space only six rows deep. Spectators are never more than 20 feet from the stage. The space was designed by Charcoalblue, a company that has worked with Steppenwolf for over a decade to optimize and design their theaters.

The Théâtre Ensemble is the third of the company. Steppenwolf also stages productions at the 1700 Theater, where Davis said the company can partner with local emerging artists; and the Downstairs Theater, which has been a launching pad for many new plays.

“And now our Ensemble Theater empowers us to make a more intimate connection with our audiences by creating a new opening through which they can experience our work,” said Davis.

The Ensemble Theater will open in February with the adaptation by Steppenwolf for Young Adults of “1919” by Eve Ewing.

Credit: Supplied / James Steinkamp Photography.
A view of the Loft Reflection Gallery, the Steppenwolf Theater Company’s dedicated educational space that encompasses the entire fourth floor of its new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Art and Education Center.
Credit: Supplied / James Steinkamp Photography.
A classy studio in The Loft, the Steppenwolf Theater Company’s dedicated educational space that encompasses the entire fourth floor of its new building.

The fourth floor of the new building houses The Loft, which aims to increase the company’s training program from 20,000 to 30,000 students per year.

The Loft has three classrooms, as well as gallery walls featuring works by young Chicago artists.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman also attended Tuesday’s opening. Eshleman, a Steppenwolf administrator, said the Loft will be a “room for mixing bold ideas and collaboration.”

“These authentic youthful experiences are so important right now,” Eshleman said. “Our resilient youth from neighborhoods across town yearn to be together again in safe spaces to heal, find a voice and engage with one another.”

The new building also includes two full-service bars, designed by fc Studio, inc. where people can socialize before and after shows.

Bars will open at 6 p.m. before the evening performances and close 30 minutes after the curtain. On two-show days with a matinee and an evening performance, the bars will be open from the pre-morning to the evening show.

A view of the new upstairs bar of the Steppenwolf Theater Company, designed by fc STUDIO, inc. as part of the expansion and renovation of the Steppenwolf campus.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America body member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across town for Block Club Chicago.

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