Upstairs, Downstairs Drama at Chicago's Steppenwolf

News   Upstairs, Downstairs Drama at Chicago's Steppenwolf Seasons at Chicago's renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company will be of a more fluid nature in the future. The company announced that, beginning with the 2004-05 season, the troupe's subscription series of five plays will be split between the larger Mainstage and smaller Studio Theatre, which will be rechristened Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre and Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre.

Currently, and for years past, Steppenwolf presented all five attractions in its subscription season in the 515-seat Mainstage. Meanwhile, a separate line-up of plays was staged in the Studio. During the 2004-05 season, four subscription plays will get Mainstage treatment while the fifth will be housed in the intimate Studio space. "We have learned over the past nine years of producing plays in our Studio Theatre that the work we present in that space is as professional and high-quality as the work on our Mainstage, and in an even more intimate setting," said artistic director Martha Lavey in a prepared statement. "We believe that some of the shows we present as part of our subscription series would be better served by the intimacy of the Upstairs Theatre."

However, there is also a pressing economic reason for the change. The popular Steppenwolf's subscription base is at capacity, servicing 23,500 theatregoers. In addition, the limited time between shows has meant that even the company's biggest hits can only be extended one or two weeks. Those two factors have allowed for little or no growth in the outfit's audience.

A Mainstage season booked for only four plays, instead of five, will allow for increased subscribers and potentially longer runs. Director of marketing and communications Jennifer Bielstein argued that the new arrangement is a preferable option to either building a costly and less intimate new home or raising ticket prices.