EDGEWATER — A heralded theater company is losing its longtime Edgewater storefront, causing the company to look for a new — and possibly bigger — location in the neighborhood.
The leaders of Steep Theatre Company have been told their lease at 1115 W. Berwyn Ave. will end this fall. The brick building the theater company has called home since 2008 has been sold, and the new owner’s plans likely do not include the theater, said Steep Executive Director Kate Piatt-Eckert.
“It seems like the building won’t be around forever,” Piatt-Eckert said. “So, we’re looking” for a new home.
The loss of Steep’s home base comes at a perilous time for Chicago’s theater and live performance industry.
Theaters and music venues were some of the first businesses to close to the public in March, when the city and state enacted precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Performance venues were among the businesses allowed to reopen last week, but the overwhelming majority of such spaces will remain closed, with venue operators saying the finances and logistics of reopening are too tricky at the moment.
Steep is one of the theater companies remaining closed. The closure, although a financial hardship, gives the company more time to focus on its future, including finding a new location, Piatt-Eckert said.
“We’re hoping to be back producing as quickly as we can,” she said. “It’s a unique opportunity to be really thoughtful about our next phase.”
Steep put on its first performances in 2001 in Wrigleyville before moving to Edgewater in 2008. It opened a bar next to its theater, called The Boxcar, in 2018, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The company showcases plays involving intimate stories of everyday people that touch on larger societal issues, said Artistic Director Peter Moore. It’s known for producing the first U.S. productions of British and other international playwrights.
The company routinely sold out its 55-seat theater during recent production runs, Piatt-Eckert said. That has left the company in a good financial situation and allowed leaders to consider expansion.
Steep’s goal is to stay in Edgewater, Piatt-Eckert said. Ideally, the new space will allow for more seating and more space for artists and production crews, she said.
Building out an existing space might be more financially feasible, but it would need to have unique characteristics to work as a theater. The company is looking for a large space not cordoned off by walls or pillars.
The ceiling must be high enough to support lights and other production equipment. The space should be customizable to fit the company’s current productions, as one of Steep’s staples is a new floor configuration for its different performances, Piatt-Eckert said.
That could narrow down the search, but the company is determined to stay in Edgewater, the center of a sizable storefront theater community.
“We’re certainly trying to stay in the Edgewater community,” Piatt-Eckert said. “Being able to share our stories with a few more people would be great.”
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