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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In its rave review of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the Chicago Tribune says “It’s transformational, truly. Barely more than an hour long and does not use a lick of human speech.” But how did the director, choreographer, actors and musicians put together a story without the use of the spoken word? Hear the secrets of collaboration and creation directly from Lookingglass Ensemble members, choreographer Tracy Walsh and actors Kasey Foster and Anthony Irons, as they discuss crafting a story the Chicago Sun-Times calls “gloriously creative and terrifically engaging.”
Her Honor Jane Byrne Revisited: An Introduction to the Radio Play
Live performances of Her Honor Jane Byrne were cut short by COVID-19, but the play now comes to vibrant life as a radio play on WBEZ. Hear all about the play’s creation, its impact on a former resident of Cabrini-Green, and how the play’s events reflect our ongoing national conversations around race, class, and gender. Now featuring new interviews with daughters of the two main characters, Mayor Jane Byrne and activist Marion Stamps.
J. Nicole Brooks, Her Honor Jane Byrne playwright and director, Lookingglass Ensemble Member
Kathy Byrne, attorney, author, speaker, daughter of 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
Guana Stamps, activist, President/CEO of Keep It Moving Transportation, LLC, daughter of Marion Stamps
Pequeños Milagros en La Villita
Las artes nos ayudan a conectarnos unos con otros, y durante el COVID-19, el parentesco y el bálsamo que el arte ofrece son aún más cruciales. Pero, ¿cómo se lleva el arte a la gente durante una pandemia? La BROCHA lo ha descubierto, brindando oportunidades para la creación artística y el compromiso a las personas de la tercera edad, especialmente aquellos individuos con la enfermedad de Alzheimer y la demencia relacionadas en la comunidad latinx. La narradora, activista y artista docente Jasmin Cardenas presenta una conversación con las fundadores de La BROCHA:
Susan Aguiñaga es profesora asistente en el Departamento de Kinesiología y Salud Comunitaria en la Universidad de Illinois en Urbana-Champaign, y directora del Laboratorio de Equidad en la Salud y Envejecimiento, su trabajo se centra en abordar las desigualdades de salud en la cognición.
Yadira Montoya es Analista de Investigación en NORC en la Universidad de Chicago, fue reconocida en 2019 como Líder de Cultura de Salud por la Fundación Robert Wood Johnson por su investigación y trabajo comunitario con adultos mayores latinos y familias que enfrentan la enfermedad de Alzheimer.
Judith Rocha es trabajadora social clínica licenciada, profesora asistente y directora interina del Programa de Maestría en Trabajo Social de la Universidad Northeastern de Illinois. Su investigación incluye temas sociales relevantes para latinx con un enfoque en el cuidado familiar de latinas y latinos mayores con la enfermedad de Alzheimer o demencia relacionadas.
The arts help us connect with one another, and during COVID-19 the kinship and balm the arts provide is even more crucial. But how do you bring art to people during a pandemic? LaBROCHA has figured it out, providing opportunities for artistic creation and engagement for people ages 60 years and older, especially individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD) in the Latinx community. Storyteller, Activist, and Lookingglass Teaching Artist Jasmin Cardenas hosts a conversation with La BROCHA’s founders:
Susan Aguiñaga is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the director of the Health Equity and Aging Lab, where her work focuses on addressing health disparities in cognition.
Yadira Montoya is a Principal Research Analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago, and was recognized in 2019 as a Culture of Health Leader by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for her research and community work with Latino older adults and families facing Alzheimer’s disease.
Judith Rocha is a licensed clinical social worker and Assistant Professor and the Interim Master’s Social Work Program Director at Northeastern Illinois University. Her research includes Latinx-relevant social issues with a focus on family care-giving of older Latinas and Latinos with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.
The isolation and loneliness we all feel due to COVID-19 is real, but it's even more dire for our seniors, especially those in under-invested communities. How can the arts reach into those communities to activate, energize, and connect people -- to one another and to their creative selves that lie ready to be reawakened? Join this conversation with Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Karen Graham and Janice Layne, RADC’s Manager and Coordinator of Community Engagement.
When 844 people died in the Chicago River in the Eastland disaster, the event devastated Chicago and shook the nation. Lookingglass’ 2012 production of Eastland resurrected the ghosts and events of that day in a stunning folk musical. Artistic Director Heidi Stillman sat down with playwright Andy White and co-composer Andre Pluess to talk about why they approached this forgotten calamity, and the journey to bring it to fruition in a production TIME called “remarkable.”
In cities across the country, Americans are fiercely arguing about which statues should stay up or come down. Meanwhile, the bloody Chicago Race Riots of 1919 have gone unmarked with any public monument for more than a century (though that is about to change). What events from our past do we choose to recognize, and which do we choose to erase? And how do those choices inform our present, and shape our future?
Join us in The Infinite Room for a conversation with Dr. Peter Cole and Dr. Franklin Cosey-Gay of Chicago Race Riot 1919 Commemoration Project about Chicago’s Red Summer, and the plans to make history come alive on our streets.
Chicago is no stranger to the anger currently roiling the nation’s streets, or the systemic inequities that underlie that anger. With so much tortured history, and a present that feels no simpler, how do we create a more hopeful future? Art on Sedgwick sits smack in the middle of a community where all those inequalities lie shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor – and is creating a path to move forward.
Charlie Branda, Executive Director, Art on Sedgwick
Adell Thomas, Board Member, Art on Sedgwick
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