When Lookingglass Theatre Company’s artistic director Andrew White accepted the 2011 regional theatre Tony Award® on Lookingglass’ behalf, he outlined three fundamental principles that drive the award-winning company: take risks, support each other, and tell the story. These principles are very much alive in Lookingglass’ bold 24th season, which focuses on three key historial events: The Great Fire that razed Chicago, Jackie Robinson’s game-changing signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the 1915 Chicago tragedy of the sinking of The Eastland.
Having missed the original 1998 run of The Great Fire — a play written and directed by Lookingglass ensemble member John Musial that looks back at this devastating event and the pivotal role it had in forging our city’s future — I’m greatly anticipating this remounted production. Not only does it coincide with the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, Lookingglass’ space is located downtown in the Chicago Water Tower — one of the only buildings that managed to survive the 1871 disasters, providing one of the few links between the Chicago of yesteryear (before the fire) and the Chicago of today. So, a play about the Great Chicago Fire inside one of the only structures to survive the fire on the 140th anniversary of the fire? How awesome is that?
Lookingglass ensemble members describe the 24th season in this video, followed by additional 24th season details. Keep in mind, dates for these shows are subject to change; visit lookingglasstheatre.org for more information.
The Great Fire
Written and directed by Ensemble Member John Musial
Begins September 21, 2011
Coinciding with the 140th Anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire
October 8, 1871
It has been one of the hottest, driest autumns on record, and now a strong wind blows from the Southwest. At 9:40 pm, the Chicago Fire Department gets their first report of a small blaze on the city’s southwest side. Soon there is no stopping the Great Chicago Fire until it finally runs out of things to burn. In one night, the very rich, the very poor, and everyone in between are transformed forever.
Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting
Written by Ed Schmidt
Directed by Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks
Begins January 4, 2012
April 9, 1947
Baseball’s Opening Day is one week away, and Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, will call up Jackie Robinson to break the color-barrier and play as the Major League’s first black ballplayer. If he does, Robinson will face loud and heated opposition from virtually every owner, manager, and player in baseball – and it won’t be a cakewalk with the fans, either. Who will be his allies if he makes the most daring and important play of his life?
An Original Musical
Written by Andrew White
Music by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
Begins June 6, 2012
July 24, 1915
Moored on the Chicago River between Clark St and LaSalle, The Eastland begins boarding and thousands of Western Electric employees and their families climb the ramp, excited for their annual company outing. Overflowing with passengers about to depart, the boat leans to port – and doesn’t lean back. Within minutes, cries fill the air, families are torn apart and unexpected heroes emerge to rescue dozens of Chicagoans from a watery grave.