In honor of Chicago Theatre Week and the Year of Chicago Theatre, this week Laura and Joelle are joined by six members of Steep Theatre in their newly opened Boxcar venue. Steep is the quintessential storefront theatre and is committed to producing new and under-produced plays that tell the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Their current sold out production Red Rex is about a small theatre company embarking on an explosive new play with the hope of finally breaking it big and has already been named one of Chicago Tribune’s top 10 Chicago shows for 2019. Located at 1115 W. Berwyn, you can find this intimate theatre just two doors down from the Berwyn El Station.
“Watching other people battle these demons [on stage] helps us understand and work through things without having it be about us.”
– Kate Platt-Eckert
Listen to Episode 47 with the Steep Staff!
- Laura and Joelle visited the Boxcar on-site this week to talk with six employees of the Steep Theatre. Get to know them below:
- Kate Platt-Eckert: Daughter of a theatre manager and lifelong thespian, Kate found Steep when working as a stage manager in 2006. She took a break from theatre for a few years after that job, then came back to work as the Executive Director five years ago.
- Peter Moore: Inspired by film, Peter acted in high school and college theatre as much as he possibly could. One of the founding members of Steep, the artistic director, and an actor, Peter has been with the company since 2001.
- Sophiyaa Nayer: Growing up with the magic of Bollywood film, Sophiyaa has been putting on shows ever since she could remember – the earlier ones had costumes made of pillow cases and an audience made up of her family. She ran into Steep six months ago, fell in love with it, and recently started working as the Program Coordinator.
- Sasha Smith: Growing up with an actor dad and a comedian mom, Sasha received the full breadth of theatre growing up. Her childhood destined her for Steep, where she has been working for almost two years as an Artistic Curator and an ensemble member.
- Thomas Dixon: Artistic Curator and Sound Designer at Steep since 2006, Thomas was first inspired by his visits to the theatre with his Grandma. Originally wanting to be in Star Trek, he realized when in college that he also had a passion for sound design.
- Ryan Kling: As the Bar Manager, Ryan has been helping cultivate a menu with a distinct feel for the Boxcar. He grew up in Chicago, has been working for restaurants for 20+ years, and is excited to be able to work with Steep. He’s often inspired by the magic of production and loves the people that populate theatres.
- Steep Theatre was founded in 2000 by three actors that banded together to have more creative control over the shows they were in. Their first show – “Life During Wartime” by Keith Reddin – featured about ten actors and a simple set. In total the production was a few thousand dollars. Although it was a small, low-budget production, “Life During Wartime” was a show that lead to the consistent use of ensembles at Steep because “the stage felt alive with so many voices on it.” View all past productions here.
- The Steep ensemble continued to work and find their aesthetic at their first space in Wrigleyville from 2005-2008. As their budgets grew, so did their cast and audience until they expanded into their Boxcar Location on 1115 W Berwyn in 2018.
- It has been the mission of Steep since the beginning to produce theatre that challenges the audience’s beliefs, offers relatability, and ventures into life’s dark, dusty corners without fear. Steep’s staff works to make their work a personal and accessible experience through the shows they offer and their small, intimate space that seats only fifty-five people.
- Theatre is often considered to be “practice for life.” In shows like the ones performed at the Boxcar, people can look at the problems they grapple with through the eyes of the character. Discussing characters and their experiences can help audiences to better understand themselves and their own experiences.
- This transcendent, vicarious experience can be found in “Red Rex,” which tells the story of a theatre company and their conflicts with gentrification, racism, and ownership. It is very much a story of the theatre scene in Chicago, which generated self-examination for many of the staffers at Steep. Tickets are sold out, but are the possibility of purchase is not lost – there is a waitlist that will put you next in line if there is a cancellation.
- After “Red Rex,” there are two more shows to watch out for in the 2019 season: “First Love is the Revolution,” opening in April, and “Pamona,” which comes out in July. Learn more about the writers, directors, and the stories they are going to tell here.
- The Boxcar was opened thanks to a money-raising campaign. The space features a full bar, cozy seating, and free performances on Sunday and Monday evenings.
- Steep is also attempting to fulfill their mission through non-theatrical performance modes such as music, comedy, storytelling, lectures, and free willing discussions. Local band “The Winchesters” will be playing the fourth Monday of every month until April; there will also be visual artists featured, with a new exhibition coming in every four months.
- The bar dances on the line of a theatre bar and a neighborhood bar, as their local clientele is steadily building – especially with the free Sunday and Monday performances. They feature local brews, like Empirical beer, and have several craft cocktails on the menu. The special during “Red Rex” is the Red Line Boulevard: a mix of Four Roses Bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and a mist of Ardbeg single malt scotch.
- To celebrate the Year of Chicago Theatre, Steep is hoping that every Chicagoan will take the time to see at least one show sometime this year – perhaps during theatre week! There are several shows throughout the city every weekend, and there are very few nights where there is not a show happening somewhere.
- However, if you’re unable to attend a show at Steep or anywhere else, there are other ways you can support the theatre itself: donations are extremely helpful and very appreciated.
- If the Steep Staff could work at any other Andersonville business for a day, they would choose as follows:
“The real magic of theatre is based on humans”
– Sasha Smith