The brand new Steppenwolf Theatre campus is all about collision.

Glass panes collide with ribbed concrete panels. Conventional playwriting collides with a brand new fashion of artwork for performers to think about. Within the new in-the-round theater, artists collide with audiences, who sit shut sufficient to see the sweat bead on actors’ foreheads.

“What we’ve is an funding within the theater that we’re right this moment with the architectural funding in our legacy to return,” stated E. Brooke Flanagan, Steppenwolf’s government director. “Now we have area to develop into the theater firm that we are going to be. However it’s based within the rules of ensemble, innovation and the dedication to being a Chicago-based theater.”

Steppenwolf Theatre’s new training and humanities middle constructing on North Halsted Road is photographed earlier this month.
Victor Hilitski/For the Solar-Occasions

Steppenwolf’s new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Schooling Heart is a $54-million undertaking designed by Gordon Gill, of Chicago’s Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Structure.

The area is outfitted with a wine bar, an outside sidewalk lounge, a two-story atrium foyer and a teen loft space spanning the whole fourth ground.

However the coronary heart of the brand new campus, Flanagan stated, is the Spherical Theater, a six-row, 400-seat room the place the stage sits within the middle and no viewers member will likely be greater than 20 ft from the actors.

The new upstairs bar area at the Steppenwolf Theatre’s education center is situated directly across the Steppenwolf History Wall, which boasts a collection of artifacts and memorabilia. The exhibit is sponsored by Steppenwolf co-founder Gary Sinise.

The brand new upstairs bar space on the Steppenwolf Theatre’s training middle is located instantly throughout the Steppenwolf Historical past Wall, which boasts a group of artifacts and memorabilia. The exhibit is sponsored by Steppenwolf co-founder Gary Sinise.
Victor Hilitski/For the Solar-Occasions

Bookending Steppenwolf’s renovation fund-raising marketing campaign have been two international calamities — the 2008 monetary disaster, which got here simply as talks of the undertaking have been getting underway, and the COVID-19 pandemic, as development wrapped up. These challenges required Steppenwolf to “drill right down to our core values,” Flanagan stated.

“It’s been a testomony to the grit and resilience of this firm, which is reflective of Chicago,” Flanagan stated. “Out of nice limitation comes creation. Out of tragedy comes resiliency and a decided give attention to the long run.”

The brand new campus is “a love letter to the town and a promise to our subsequent era of artists,” she added.

Steppenwolf Theatre Firm was based within the mid-Nineteen Seventies in a church basement in Highland Park by three younger actors who needed to alter the world by way of their artwork. The famend ensemble group moved to the town after which settled at a everlasting house at 1650 N. Hasted Road in 1991. Rapidly increasing, the corporate outgrew the area and began envisioning tips on how to remodel the present constructing into one thing larger within the early 2000s.

The new Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell sits at the heart of Steppenwolf’s new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center. The round theater places the actors at the center of a 400-seat audience.

The brand new Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell sits on the coronary heart of Steppenwolf’s new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Schooling Heart. The spherical theater locations the actors on the middle of a 400-seat viewers.
Victor Hilitski/For the Solar-Occasions

A gathering in 2007 with architect Gill kickstarted the $73 million campus enlargement plan, for which Steppenwolf has raised greater than three-quarters of the cash.

Gill stated he was drawn in by the individuals at Steppenwolf even earlier than the architectural construction.

“It was the mutual respect that, ‘Let’s attempt to determine one thing out collectively,’” stated Gill, who lives blocks from the theater. “I really like that. There have been no preconceptions. There was no ‘do it my manner or else.’ It was a really open dialogue.”

The enlargement started by reworking what was an Ethan Allen furnishings retailer right into a small black-box theater and the Entrance Bar, a social cease for espresso and drinks, with that work wrapping up in June 2016. What adopted was iteration after iteration of design concepts, a course of to seek out what would finest serve Steppenwolf’s 49-person ensemble and its viewers, Gill stated.

Brooke Flanagan, executive director for Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, are photographed earlier this month  at the new Steppenwolf Theatre campus on Halsted Street.

Brooke Flanagan, government director for Steppenwolf Theatre Firm, and architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Structure, are photographed earlier this month on the new Steppenwolf Theatre campus on Halsted Road.
Victor Hilitski/For the Solar-Occasions

The majority of the funding has gone towards the brand new Arts and Schooling Heart, constructed across the new Spherical Theater, formally named the Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell, a longtime backer of arts in Chicago. The flexibility to open the stage ground mixed with detachable ceiling grids and catwalks give the stage 45 vertical ft — flexibility to supply units of all styles and sizes.

A handful of Steppenwolf ensemble members acquired to see the brand new theater forward of the middle’s upcoming ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, stated Audrey Francis, who was named co-artistic director with Glenn Davis earlier this 12 months.

“Each time we stroll in, there’s an audible gasp,” Francis stated. “All of us have the identical sense of awe and reverence for what this area really means for us as artists coming off of 19 months of being instructed that we’re not important” throughout the pandemic.

Steppenwolf co-artistic directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis are photographed inside the new Round Theater, which places the stage at the center of a 400-seat audience.

Steppenwolf co-artistic administrators Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis are photographed inside the brand new Spherical Theater, which locations the stage on the middle of a 400-seat viewers.
Victor Hilitski/For the Solar-Occasions

A central walkway connects the Spherical Theater to the Downstairs Theater — which has been house to ensemble productions for greater than 30 years — and continues by way of to the Entrance Bar on the northernmost a part of Steppenwolf’s constructing. A back-of-house walkway likewise connects the backstage areas of all three theaters. What was the Upstairs Theater will now maintain two devoted rehearsal areas for the ensemble.

It received’t be till February that Steppenwolf will welcome theater-goers to a play in-the-round. However Steppenwolf will proceed to carry out within the Downstairs Theater.

The brand new training and humanities middle formally opens to the general public on Nov. 11, with the return to in-person performances with Tracy Letts’ “Bug.”