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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Steppenwolf Theatre Cuts 12 Percent Of Staff

Steppenwolf Theatre laid off 13 full-time employees and closed seven open positions as the theater company faces declining revenue streams.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center, designed by architect Gordon Gill FAIA of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.
Provided/James Steinkamp Photography.
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LINCOLN PARK — Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St., laid off 12 percent of its staff this week amid declining revenue and rising inflation.

Thirteen full-time employees were laid off and seven open positions were eliminated, according to a statement from executive director Brooke Flanagan, who blamed a “protracted post-pandemic economic recovery” and inflation.

“To be sustainable well into the future has required some very difficult decisions,” Flanagan said.

According to the statement, layoffs are necessary to hold up to Steppenwolf’s commitments to being an artistic home for its ensemble, a launching pad for new work and a partner to Chicago schools and youth.

“To maintain these commitments, we need to diversify our revenue streams while also taking steps to reduce expenses,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan told the Sun-Times Steppenwolf is suffering from a decline in series subscription sales — tickets for a set number of shows each season — and overall attendance at the theater.

Steppenwolf conducted studies, which found people aren’t visiting due to concerns around traffic, safety and COVID-19, Flanagan told the Sun-Times. Subscriptions dropped from 10,000 in 2019 to nearly 6,000 this year, while single-ticket sales dropped by 31 percent.

While funding has declined, so has the theater’s programming. The current season has six productions, down from the eight last season and nine in previous years.

“Despite these challenging times, we look to the future with hope,” Flanagan said. “Chicago is a global hub for culture and innovation — home to a robust tapestry of arts workers. We offer a call to action to audiences across the city: reconnect with the wonder of live performance.”

Earlier this year, Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., announced a year-long pause in new productions and layoffs affecting half of its staff, saying that audiences and donations had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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