In August 2017, Executive Director David Schmitz evaluated Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 41st season in Chicago, Illinois. The 2016-2017 season that had just closed marked the first year of the organization’s experimental season model: expanding its traditional subscription series from five shows to seven.
After many years working at Steppenwolf, the country’s longest-standing ensemble theater, Schmitz ascended to one of the organization’s top leadership roles alongside Artistic Director Anna Shapiro in 2015. Together they developed a new vision for Steppenwolf that emphasized flexibility and inclusion. They shortened production run lengths and added two shows to the main subscription series to improve ensemble participation, diversify the plays, and increase ticket sales. Schmitz and Shapiro also tied their vision to the capital campaign they inherited from the previous leadership team. The campaign had been launched in 2012 to renovate and expand Steppenwolf’s campus. Schmitz and Shapiro wanted to build a new, larger theater so that Steppenwolf could eventually produce an eight-show subscription season.
Schmitz hoped to break ground on the new building in August 2018, but his ideal timeline hinged on the outcome of the first expanded season. The Board of Trustees wanted to be sure Steppenwolf had a sustainable business model. With the next board meeting less than four months away, Schmitz had to present the results of the experimental season model to the board and determine if he ought to recommend moving forward with construction next summer.
This case contains a link to a video.
Publication Date: 2018-05-15
Suggested Citation: Caitlin Crombleholme, "Steppenwolf Theatre Company (2017)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #17-84, May 15, 2018
Keywords: Chicago, Capital Campaign, Financial Management, Growth, Organizational Direction, Strategy
Teaching Notes: Yes (contact email@example.com)
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