Welcome to The Infinite Room. Each episode, Lookingglass artists will ask ourselves and others Big Questions—about art and theatre and the planet we live on; we’ll engage in frank conversation—sometimes serious, sometimes decidedly not—about the stories we tell, why and how we tell them, and how they intersect with our city, our country, and our world.
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Lookingglass’ Department of Curiosity brings theater as a tool for change to inquisitive minds and burning hearts of all ages in classrooms and communities all over Chicago. Central to that work (and play!) is our premise that everyone is innately creative – we don’t all get to express that creativity as often as we wish, but it’s there inside all of us, waiting to be released. Lookingglass’ Director of Education Mara Stern Caesar, Teaching Artist Freddie Ramos, and Young Ensemble Member Harmony Elise discuss how arts experiences shaped them as kids, how collaboration is their greatest teacher, and how, even at a time when collaboration has more obstacles than ever, they keep their creative embers burning.
A baby strides determinedly across stage, the actors moving it in plain sight.
The tentacles of a giant squid grab a sailor, its huge eye gazing through the submarine’s porthole.
A terrified pig tells a graphic tale of terror, simultaneously ridiculous and bloody – all in silhouette.
Why do these moments work? How can inanimate objects evoke as much emotion, whether hilarity or sorrow, as their human counterparts? Why has this ancient form maintained a grip on the human imagination?
Lookingglass is one of many Chicago theaters that uses puppetry as part of our storytelling vocabulary. A conversation with masters of the form:
Sarah Fornace, Manual Cinema co-founder
Kasey Foster, Lookingglass Ensemble Member
Blair Thomas, Blair Thomas & Co., Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
In Episode 5, Lookingglass Ensemble Member David Schwimmer and Director/Playwright Alexander Zeldin talked about how experiences in the theatre can impact us, as individuals and as a community. Powerful theatre experiences take place well beyond the four walls of a traditional theatre: they happen in classrooms, gyms, fieldhouses, the streets -- any place people gather to hear a story, to witness an experience. And the impact of this kind of theatre can be every bit as profound. Since 2016, Lookingglass has been in partnership with the Chicago Worker’s Collaborative, bringing their workers to the theatre, and theatre artists to their neighborhoods. Hear how frontline workers use theatre to change their lives.
Plays that grapple with the issues of our times – race, class, gender, civil and human rights, etc. – have been a rich strand of Lookingglass’ history. Productions of The Jungle, Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About The American Obsession, Trust, Plantation!, Beyond Caring and Her Honor Jane Byrne are just some of the company’s works that hold a looking glass to the problems that chronically bedevil our country. But can plays really make a difference in this increasingly complex world? Lookingglass Ensemble Member David Schwimmer and Director Alexander Zeldin talk about the plays they’ve created at Lookingglass and elsewhere, and why they believe theatre can change hearts, minds, and maybe even our world.
Design is a part of the theatre experience anywhere, but at Lookingglass designers create a fully immersive, sensory event. Lookingglass is one of the few companies to have designers among its Ensemble, transforming the theater every time you walk in and helping choose each season. A conversation about why design matters, with Ensemble Members: Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld; Scenic and Lighting Designer Daniel Ostling; and Sound Designer Andre Pluess.
Mr. Rogers told us when things are hard to “look for the helpers.” The Chicago Help Initiative has been bringing people experiencing hunger and homelessness to every show at Lookingglass for three years running. Hear Founder Jacqueline Hayes, Arts & Culture Coordinator Susan Gold, and member of the Arts & Culture group John Riley talk about the bare necessities: food, shelter, and yes – theater.
The Chicago Help Initiative Founder, Jacqueline Hayes
Arts & Culture Coordinator, Susan Gold
Member of the Arts & Culture group, John Riley
Great stories from around the globe and across millennia have found their way to the Lookingglass stage, comprising almost half of the company's world-premieres. Hear Ensemble Members David Catlin and Mary Zimmerman talk about what stories draw them in, how they imagine and create them onstage, and why they think these stories, and our need to hear them, aren't going anywhere any time soon.
A playwright, an activist, and a non-profit leader walk into The Infinite Room and talk about the intersection of art and politics, and the way radical imagination can lead to real change.
· J. Nicole Brooks: Lookingglass Ensemble Member, playwright and director of Her Honor Jane Byrne.
· J.R. Fleming: former Cabrini-Green resident, co-founder and director of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign.
· Lisa Yun Lee: Executive Director of the National Public Housing Museum