Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Coming Full Circle

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Coming Full Circle

Article excerpt

Real estate investments bring ensemble back where it started

When a private developer offered to build Steppenwolf a new m W theater in 1988, the troupe jumped at the chance. This, despite the fact that the developer's plans were a bit ornate - complete with coffers and chandeliers - for Steppenwolf's brand of theatrical mayhem.

Within a year, though, the developer's business had failed, and Steppenwolf took on the construction project itself. It was a bold foray into real estate, but it also meant that the theater company was free to design a building more in line with its "gangsta" image.

Opened in 1991, the new theater, which has a 510-seat mainstage, is Steppenwolf through and through. The walls are rough cement and the ceiling is a web of catwalks, wiring, and lighting grids that gives off a feeling of naked infrastructure, yet the acoustics and sightlines are flawless. The apron of the stage juts out 15 feet into the seats, putting the actors precisely where Steppenwolf wants to be: in the audience's lap (photo, p.67).

A few floors up, a black box studio theater accommodates up to 250 people with its own box office and lobby area. At the time the theater was built, the same floor provided comfortably for administrative offices next to the studio lobby. Other floors offered scene and costume shops, a recording studio, and storage space.

Today, the administrative offices are down the block, in the upper floors of Yondorf Hall, a well-preserved 1887 landmark bought by Steppenwolf in 1998. …

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