Chicago's Lookingglass Will Premiere Musical Tragedy Eastland in 2012; Season Announced

News   Chicago's Lookingglass Will Premiere Musical Tragedy Eastland in 2012; Season Announced
Lookingglass Theatre Company, the Chicago company noted for its productions using ensemble members mixed with guest artists, announced a 2011-12 season to include a new musical about a Chicago nautical tragedy — the sinking of a pleasure boat.

Director Amanda Dehnert
Director Amanda Dehnert

Eastland, written by artistic director Andrew White, with music by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, is set in summer 1915.

According to Lookingglass, "Moored on the Chicago River between Clark Street and LaSalle, 'The Eastland' begins boarding. 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."

Amanda Dehnert (Lookingglass' Peter Pan, the Stratford Festival's Cabaret) will direct the production, which begins June 6, 2012.

Two other moments in American history will be explored in the season: the fire that razed Chicago and Jackie Robinson's game-changing signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The return of The Great Fire, written and directed by ensemble member John Musial, coincides with the 140th anniversary of the 1871 blaze. Performances begin Sept. 21, opening the Lookingglass season. First presented to acclaim in 1999, the play tells of the October 1871 tragedy that changed the face of Chicago. "It has been one of the hottest, driest autumns on record, and now a strong wind blows from the Southwest," according to Lookingglass. "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."

The work is billed as "spectacular, spiritual, highly physical and exquisitely emotional."

Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting, written by Ed Schmidt and directed by ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks, begins Jan. 4, 2012.

In 1947, "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?"

In the play, some of 1947's most prominent African-American figures — baseball great-to-be Jackie Robinson, boxer Joe Louis, entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, actor and activist Paul Robeson — "put their heads together in this imagined meeting, it's not just the future of baseball they're discussing, but the future of the country. Ideas and ideals clash, sparks fly and America's national pastime will never be the same."


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