Steppenwolf Theatre Announcing Leadership Transition and Campus Expansion
Oct 2, 2014
Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation's longest-standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, announced today new leadership and unveiled plans for a future campus expansion. Steppenwolf ensemble member and Tony Award-winning director Anna D. Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey as artistic director at the conclusion of the current season in fall 2015. Lavey will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on the expansion. In addition, Steppenwolf Managing Director David M. Schmitz will succeed David Hawkanson in January 2015 and oversee the management and operations of the theater. Hawkanson, too, will work with Steppenwolf to facilitate the company's campus expansion.
The announcements were made at a news conference today at which Steppenwolf leadership, members of the Board of Trustees and ensemble and the design team, led by internationally acclaimed architect Gordon Gill, shared renderings of an expanded Steppenwolf in Chicago's Halsted Street corridor on the city's near north side.
"Anna Shapiro and David Schmitz are long-standing members of the Steppenwolf family who will ensure a seamless transition and help to build Steppenwolf for the future. At the same time, we are delighted Martha Lavey and David Hawkanson will remain on the Steppenwolf team and play crucial roles in our growth," said Nora Daley, chair of the Steppenwolf Board of Trustees.
"Steppenwolf has always been at the center of everything in my professional life," said Anna D. Shapiro. "Members of this ensemble and the work they have created have shaped not only who I am as an artist but as a human being. It has been my distinct honor to work alongside Martha Lavey since we both came onto the artistic staff 19 years ago and I feel very fortunate that our wishes for the company, as well as the evolution of our own lives has led us to the transition together. I look forward to serving this incomparable organization, to continuing the great work of this storied ensemble and helping to imagine the unlimited future of this great theater."
"David Hawkanson and Martha Lavey have been generous mentors to me over the last nine years and I am honored to continue to work with them in this new capacity. There is no better ensemble of actors and professionals than the one we have at Steppenwolf, and it will be a privilege to serve alongside Anna Shapiro, a dynamic and inspiring leader," said David M. Schmitz.
"Anna and I began our tenure together at Steppenwolf 19 years ago when I came in as artistic director and she led our New Plays Lab. In the intervening years we have worked together closely as colleagues and fellow ensemble members. Anna has directed some of Steppenwolf's most memorable productions over the past ten years, including August: Osage County, The Motherfucker with the Hat, and most recently, This is Our Youth. She is ready to lead Steppenwolf, which has been her artistic home her entire adult life. I am enormously proud to hand over the stewardship of this treasured company to Anna," said Martha Lavey. "David Hawkanson and I have worked with David Schmitz for nearly a decade. David Hawkanson, one of the best managers in the profession, has mentored David Schmitz for an easy transition. Together, Anna Shapiro and David Schmitz represent Steppenwolf's bright future. The theater is in capable and caring hands, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as an ensemble member and in new capacities," Lavey said.
"Serving Steppenwolf for the past 11 years has been a highlight of my 40 years in arts management. Being able to shift my focus to the campus expansion, which is ambitious and bold with two new state-of-the-art theater spaces, is a new challenge I look forward to. David Schmitz, a highly respected colleague and a core part of the Steppenwolf family, is ready for his new responsibilities," said David Hawkanson.
The Vision for Steppenwolf
Steppenwolf has established itself as the nation's premier ensemble theater since moving into its current campus on Halsted Street 22 years ago. On average, Steppenwolf stages 16 productions a year on three stages and attracts an annual audience of 200,000 people. In addition, Steppenwolf hosts approximately 700 public events, which serve artists, audiences and the broader community.
"Steppenwolf remains successful nearly 40 years after its founding because it is relevant," said member of Steppenwolf's Board of Trustees Eric Lefkofsky. "The company's performances address contemporary and social issues of the day while creating a forum for discussion and reflection."
The phased campus expansion will allow Steppenwolf to replace its two temporary performance spaces with purpose-built, state-of-the-art theaters, providing more flexibility and creating opportunities to extend productions, enhance facilities, upgrade audience services and encourage more community engagement. With the additional space, Steppenwolf plans to expand the number of educational and community-based programs offered to the public.
"Steppenwolf is a center for artistic excellence and a foundation for arts and culture in Chicago and Illinois. The state-of-the-art campus will create a local resource not just for artists, but also for patrons, students and the broader community," said Daley.
The architects for the expansion are Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and the theater consultants are London-based Charcoalblue. The vision for Steppenwolf's future plan will expand and unite its campus, adding two buildings that will complement the intimate 500-seat main theater. A new facility south of the main building will house a 400-seat theater to replace the temporary Upstairs Theatre and a Public Square atrium dedicated exclusively to audience engagement and community building. To the north, the newly renovated building at 1700 North Halsted will serve as the Lab at Steppenwolf, housing a black box theater, a flexible space for community and teen programs and offices for artistic, production and administrative staff. The lobby of the existing main building will also undergo major renovation, allowing the three structures to connect seamlessly on the ground floor.
"The new campus will meet Steppenwolf's theatrical and programming needs while being in the scale and context of the neighborhood," said award-winning Gordon Gill, architect for the expansion. "The result will be a unified campus that connects with the community and utilizes a palette of materials that are of Chicago, and on a scale appropriate for the neighborhood."
"Evolution is the lifeblood of Steppenwolf and its strength has been its ability to adapt and stay ahead of the times," said Lefkofsky. "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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