HomeSteppenwolf puts Loft-y ambitions into the new building
Steppenwolf puts Loft-y ambitions into the new building
Steppenwolf finally cut the ribbon on the new theater and educational center on Tuesday after two and a half years of construction, and everyone from Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot (his wife, Amy Echelman, a member of the theater’s Board of Trustees) to several current members of the troupe showed up to celebrate the occasion that was filled with a series of cheerful speeches. (The group’s founding members Gary Sinnis, Terry Kinney, and Jeff Perry opened the festivities with an audiotape salute.)
The Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Center for the Arts and Education (named after co-founder of Groupon Chairman and Steppenwolf and his wife, who were among the $1 million donors to the project) cost an estimated $54 million to complete. The opening ceremony was held at the new Ensemble Theater in honor of Helen Zell. (Yes, that’s the full official name, in honor of the director of the Zell Family Foundation and wife of Sam Zell, the billionaire and former owner of platform. The Zell Foundation also donated the seven-plus-digit range for the new venue, as did the Pritzker Foundation.)
The 400-seat Ensemble Theater replaces the former Upstairs’ venue on the Halsted Street campus in Steppenwolf, which has been reconfigured as a rehearsal space. (The area of this space will now be the same as for the Downstairs Theatre, meaning nothing will need to be re-locked or otherwise modified in the transition from the practice space to the performance space.) The new complex was designed by Gordon Gill from Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecturewith a British company blue charcoal Dealing with theater design and acoustics. The two companies have cooperated in the past The Yard Place in Chicago Shakespeare.
Steppenwolf continues to operate the Front Bar and 1700 Theater, an 80-seat flexible black box space that has been used for performances by smaller companies and multi-gender events coordinated through Steppenwolf’s LookOut series. The new building includes ample lounge and bar spaces, with a “History Wall” gallery of boxes in the second floor foyer (commissioned and designed by Sinise). Arnel Sancianko), featuring a crafty collection of artifacts from past productions and quotes from Steppenwolf artists, labeled with QR codes so visitors can dive deeper into online history. (Some of the standout items include a pair of black high heels worn by Tarrell Alvin McCraney in Multiple sclerosis. President’s restHis 2019 celebration of Chicago queer icon Joan Jet Black, and the scarf of the late Artistic Director Martha Lavie, who is best known for this particular supplement.)
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