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Steppenwolf Announces Major Expansion Plans, 400-Seat Theater

By Paul Biasco | October 2, 2014 12:05pm
 Steppenwolf Theatre announced plans for a major expansion that includes a 400-seat theater.
Steppenwolf Announcement
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LINCOLN PARK — Steppenwolf Theatre Company today announced major expansion plans that include a new 400-seat theater.

The announcement came as the same time the theater company announced a leadership transition that includes Tony Award-winning director Anna Shapiro taking over as artistic director.

“We are bursting out of this building," said Martha Lavey, the current artistic director who will remain in her role until the end of the current season in fall 2015.

"Workshops and readings are tucked into little rooms here and there, so the time for the expansion of the campus is now," Lavey said.

The $50 million expansion project includes a 400-seat theater that will be built in a new facility on the south end of the campus where there is currently a parking lot.

That new building will also feature a public square auditorium that will serve as the main lobby.

Construction is already underway on a building to the north of the current theater at 1700 N. Halsted St., which will serve as the Lab at Steppenwolf, housing a black box theater, space for community and teen programs, and offices.

The project is expected to take between four and five years to complete, and construction of the new building on the south end of the campus will not begin until sufficient money is raised, according to Steppenwolf.

So far the theater company has raised about $20 million of the $50 million goal.

The temporary Upstairs Theatre and Garage Theatre will be replaced as part of the plan.

The lobby of the existing main building will also undergo a major renovation so that the three structures connect seamlessly on the ground floor, according to Steppenwolf.

The plans for the project fit the land's current zoning restrictions, according to Gordon Gill, architect for the expansion.

Steppenwolf built its current theater at 1650 N. Halsted Street in 1991 and has since grown to become one of the country's premier theater companies.

The company averages about 200,000 audience members a year and is looking to grow with the new theater spaces.

After stepping down as artistic director, Lavey will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on the expansion.

Steppenwolf's managing director David Schmitz will take over as executive director in January.

The current executive director David Hawkanson will work with Steppenwolf on the company's campus expansion.

"Evolution is the lifeblood of Steppenwolf, and its strength has been its ability to adapt and stay ahead of the times," said Eric Lefkofsky, a member of Steppenwolf's Board of Trustees and CEO of Groupon. 

Lefkofsky said he has contributed "a lot" toward the current fundraising goal and said he will likely contribute more.

"This bold vision for an expanded campus respects Steppenwolf's past, and positions the company for welcoming new generations of artists and audiences."

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