AS+GG’s design for the next phase of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s multi-year campus expansion is a new 50,000-square-foot state-of-the-art theater building, slated to open in the summer of 2021.
The expansion of Steppenwolf will introduce new relationships with its patrons, neighborhood and Chicago as a whole. Architecturally, the design fits within the character of the neighborhood, recognizing the significance of its presence along Halsted Street, while respecting the neighbors.
The expansion will feature an intimate 400-seat theater-In-the-round, designed by UK theater designers Charcoalblue, is only six rows deep, placing the actor at the center and the audience surrounding the stage. No audience member will be more than 20 feet from the stage, blurring the lines between the actor/audience relationship.
Other improvements include a dedicated education floor, a two-story atrium lobby, space to house Steppenwolf’s costume shop and other updated production amenities, as well as a wine bar and a sidewalk lounge, increasing the social gathering spaces where artists and audiences converge.
Key elements of the in-the-round theatre include a modular staging system that allows for designers and directors to control the architecture, adjust the capacity and explore different stage footprints for a variety of audience relationships. Accessibility was at the forefront of the design, including 20 fully-integrated wheelchair accessible locations (versus the six that are required by law), as well as an induction hearing loop and improved sight lines for performances featuring ASL Interpretation and Open Captioning. Once complete, the space will be the only in-the-round auditorium found in a major Chicago theater.