World Premiere of Eastland: A New Musical, Based on the Chicago Disaster of 1915, Begins June 6 | Playbill

News World Premiere of Eastland: A New Musical, Based on the Chicago Disaster of 1915, Begins June 6
The Lookingglass Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Eastland: A New Musical, based in part on events from Jay Bonansinga’s novel “The Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy,” beginning June 6, prior to an official opening June 16, at the company’s home inside Chicago's Water Tower Water Works.

Directed by Amanda Dehnert, the limited engagement continues through July 29. The new musical is written by Lookingglass artistic director Andrew White with music by Ben Sussman and artistic associate Andre Pluess.

Here’s how Lookingglass bills the show: “July 25,1915: the S.S. Eastland sits on the Chicago River between Clark St. and LaSalle, overflowing with passengers. Slowly the boat leans to port — and keeps leaning, until finally it tips and comes to rest on its side. By day’s end, hundreds will perish, whole families will vanish, and unexpected heroes will emerge. Unforgettable melodies and haunting harmonies inspired by early American folk music weave a tapestry of working class stories and colorful characters, giving voice to the victims and heroes of that fateful day.”

Eastland: A New Musical features Larry DiStasi (Otto, Olaf and others), Christine Mary Dunford (Marianne and others), Doug Hara (Reggie), Jeanne T. Arrigo (Sister, musician and others), Derek Hasenstab (Husband, Houdini and others), Erik Hellman (Grocer, musician and others), Malcolm Ruhl (musician and others), Michael Smith (Pedersen, musician and others), Scott Stangland (Ernie, musician and others), Tiffany Topal (Solveig and others), Claire Wellin (Bobbie) and Monica West (Ilse).

“This play revives the ghosts of those who drowned in this Chicago disaster of 1915, and asks questions about which events linger in our memory and which become lost to history,” said artistic director White in a statement. “Told through a musical narrative, it weaves three characters' stories into a tapestry of memory and longing, with the strains of American folk music driving the events of that day to their inevitable finish.”

Other members of the creative team include music director Ruhl, scenic designer Dan Ostling, costume designer Mara Blumenfeld, lighting designer Christine A. Binder, sound designers Ray Nardelli and Josh Horvath and props designer Maria DeFabo. Eastland is the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. Works premiered at Lookingglass have been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and St. Louis.

Lookingglass Theatre Company is located inside Chicago's Water Tower Water Works at 821 N. Michigan Avenue at Pearson. For more information and tickets, call (312) 337-0665 or visit

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