Steppenwolf Theatre dedicates state-of-the-art addition to Halsted Street campus

"When Steppenwolf succeeds, we all succeed."

So proclaimed Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot on Tuesday during Steppenwolf Theatre's dedication of the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center, a $54 million, 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art addition to the Steppenwolf campus.

Quoting former artistic director Martha Lavey, who envisioned Steppenwolf would "continue to be an access point for another generation of artists and audiences," Lightfoot assured the crowd Chicago will help make Lavey's vision possible.

"When we think about artistic expression, not just in theater but in all mediums, Steppenwolf has and must continue to lead the way," Lightfoot said. "We're going to do everything we can as a city to help support that incredible endeavor because when Steppenwolf succeeds, we all succeed."

Lavey, whose 20-year tenure ended in 2015, did not live to see the expansion, but colleagues and elected officials evoked her spirit and her contribution to the theater whose expansion was 20 years in the making.

Designed by architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the expansion includes The Ensemble Theater honoring benefactor Helen Zell, a 400-seat, in-the-round venue designed by Charcoalblue; The Loft, housing educational programs with classrooms and studios; a costume shop; and two new bars, renovated lobbies and a mural by artist/actor Tony Fitzpatrick commemorating Lavey's leadership and the company's 46-year evolution.

The ensemble - which includes founders Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry and Gary Sinise along with Amy Morton, Tracy Letts, K. Todd Freeman, Carrie Coon, Francis Guinan and William L. Petersen, among others - looks ahead to the next half century, said co-artistic director Glenn Davis.

"We do so with enormous gratitude for our past, humbled by those who stand beside us today, with appreciation for where we are and a promise to pave pathways forward for future generations that will call Steppenwolf their home."

Former artistic director and Tony Award-winner Anna D. Shapiro lauded donors, board members and trustees, Steppenwolf staff and artists who made the space a reality.

"All the time, all the people, all the hours, all the energy, that is this building's story," she said. "I hope its story continues to intersect with the Chicago story, with the Illinois story and which each of your stories as long as you can make it through the door."

Describing Steppenwolf as "one of the greatest theater companies in the world," Gov. J.B. Pritzker heralded its "bold and audacious art" and its perseverance during the COVID-19 pandemic when its artists brought "emotion, exuberance, passion and enlightenment to audiences near and far through whatever medium was available."

  Steppenwolf Theatre co-artistic director Glenn Davis speaks during Tuesday's dedication of the theater's Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center. Barbara Vitello/
  Steppenwolf Theatre realizes an expansion 20 years in the making with Tuesday's dedication of its new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center. Barbara Vitello/
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