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Regional Spotlight: How Lookingglass Theatre Company is Working Through the Global Health Crisis

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Regional Spotlight: How Lookingglass Theatre Company is Working Through the Global Health Crisis

Now more than ever it is important to support theater and do our part to keep the art form that we love so much alive and as thriving as it can be during these unprecedented times. While the global health crisis has temporarily put the theater world on hold, pausing all live performances and large gatherings to help stop the spread of COVID-19, theaters around the country have taken a hit. During this time of adjusting to our temporary new normal, theaters are figuring out how to take care of their team, and discovering the best ways to virtually bring theater to audiences.

Through our regional theater interview series, we are checking in with theaters all around the country, talking to them about how they are handling these difficult circumstances, learning what they are doing to move forward, and discovering the best way for people to help regional theaters during this time.

Today we're checking in with Lookingglass Theatre Company. We chatted with Heidi Stillman, Artistic Director of the theatre.


First of all, I want to check in on the health and wellbeing of everyone at Lookingglass. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?

We are hanging in there. Our health is good, and that is foremost. As we all know, it is a challenging time for the human race, as well as a dark moment for our field and our beloved art form. When the essence of what you do--bringing people together to have a collective experience-is the opposite of what needs to be done to control the pandemic, it is disorienting and heartbreaking. Many of our Lookingglass Ensemble Members (including me) were performing in Metamorphoses at Second Stage Theater after 9/11. It was profoundly meaningful in that moment to gather in the same room with people and grieve and hope together. I want our field, and my theatre company, to survive this moment so we can get in the room with our communities again, and do plays, and feel things together.

What do the days look like right now for those who work at Lookingglass?

We are all working from home and working very hard as I know all theatres are right now. We have lots of Zoom meetings a day, and are trying to figure out many things: how to stay visible and connected to our supporters and audience without being able to do our core mission; strategizing and planning for how we survive until we can do shows again; and figuring out how to keep our regular work going like designing shows and casting them and teaching our classes. As a company that does almost all original work, we are also figuring out how our ensemble and artistic associates can keep their writing and creating moving forward in this challenging time.

How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater?

Lots of planning is going on with various scenarios of when we can re-open to the public since it is not clear yet. We had to cancel our show Her Honor Jane Byrne, by our Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks right after opening it. That was a true heartbreak; Nic had put years and years of work into that play, and it was SO GOOD and so timely and an important show for our city. We will do it again at some point in the future we just don't know yet when that will happen. We are in the process of figuring out our plans with our summer show, Lookingglass Alice. We have announced our upcoming season: The Odyssey by Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman from Homer's epic poem; Villette based on the Brontë novel, written by Artistic Associate Sara Gmitter ; and Lucy and Charlie's Honeymoon, a new musical written by Artistic Associate Matthew C. Yee. It's a thrilling season. Our main hope is that we get to put on plays again. Lookingglass is 32 years old, and our ensemble has spent those decades making plays with each other, and we have a next generation of artists that have recently joined, and we all have more to say and make.

Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?

We have quite a bit of digital content online right now through our newest initiative, Keeping Curious. Our education department is offering a free weekly workshop with Lookingglass artists, as well as fee-based classes for kids. (Stay tuned for some adult class offerings soon). We have launched a weekly podcast called The Infinite Room where Lookingglass artists ask ourselves and others big questions-about art and theatre and the planet we live on. We have a series called Through the Lookingglass, which are homemade videos-poems, songs, stories-featuring our Ensemble and Artistic Associates, and we had a live house party concert recently, hosted by one of our talented ensemble artists.

What is the best way for people to help Lookingglass right now?

There are many ways to help. You could subscribe to our next season. You could donate money to us. You can listen to our podcast, watch our free workshops, sign up for a class, like and interact with our social media posts, and keep in contact with us. You can advocate for our beautiful art form, so when we can be together again, there are theatres for us to meet in and stories to experience together as humans have done since ancient times.


Learn more about the theatre at lookingglasstheatre.org!


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