To see the continued results of the Steppenwolf’s audience-building work, see this 2019 update.

This case study describes how the Steppenwolf Theatre Company has addressed the vexing problem of falling ticket subscription rates by developing deeper relationships with both subscribers and non-subscribers. To that end, it launched an experiment centered on promoting a dialogue among audience members and the artists about the process of creating theater. Audience members took part in nightly post-show discussions, attended special thematic events and were offered access to a rich selection of online content—including videos, podcasts, blogs, articles and slide shows—in which the artists talked about their work from a variety of perspectives.

The result: During a two-year period, many audience members who used to attend only one performance per season bought tickets to two, three or more shows. At the same time, the relationship-deepening initiatives had the added benefit of supporting high subscriber renewal rates.

This report is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones.

 Points of Interest

  • After the Steppenwolf Theater launched its audience-building efforts, the total number of non-subscribers who bought multiple tickets to productions increased over three years by 61 percent—from 1,416 to 2,281.
    @SteppenwolfThtr’s audience-building efforts: 61% jump in non-subscriber multiple-ticket purchases. #theater #arts
  • Total attendance at post-performance discussions at the Steppenwolf Theatre fluctuates between 12 percent and 16 percent of the audience, with online content reaching even more audience members.
    Post-performance talks at @SteppenwolfThtr attract 12-16% of audience; online content extends reach. #arts #theater
  • By building consensus throughout its organization early on, the Steppenwolf Theatre achieved clarity about the role different departments and staff members should play in helping build and deepen audience relationships.
    Study: Early consensus helped @SteppenwolfThtr understand role of all depts. and staff in building audiences. #arts