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August 20August 21, 2020

As our next offering in the Chicago Stories initiative, Lookingglass invites audiences to revisit a largely unknown piece of history that unfolded in the heart of the city. Beginning the evening of Thursday, August 20 at 5PM CT, you’re invited to a free online public fundraiser of our acclaimed production of Eastland: An Original Musical in support of Lookingglass Theatre Company After the show, join creative team members Andrew White and Andre Pluess for a post-show conversation. Since Eastland premiered on our stage in 2012, our audiences have consistently expressed their desire to see this cathartic show again. We are honored to revive, for 24 hours only, this original musical about Chicagoans facing an historic challenge with tenacity, bravery, and hope.

Moored on the Chicago River between Clark St and LaSalle on July 24, 1915, the Eastland began boarding as thousands of Western Electric employees and their families climbed the ramp, excited for their annual company outing. Overflowing with passengers, the boat leaned further and further to port – and was soon tipped entirely on its side.  Within minutes, cries filled the air, families were torn apart and unexpected heroes emerged to rescue dozens of Chicagoans from a watery end. 

Ensemble Member Andrew White resurrects the ghosts of America’s forgotten tragedy in this Lookingglass original musical, with music by Ensemble Member Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, directed by Amanda Dehnert. Inspired in part by Jay Bonansinga’sThe Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy. Eastland was the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. 

Playwright Andrew White saysEveryone knows about The Titanic, but comparatively few know of the Eastland disaster, even though it took place right downtown Chicago.  One reason may be that the Eastland passengers were working-class, first-generation immigrants who, like today, kept the country going but were too easily overlooked, discarded, and forgotten.”  Lookingglass Artistic Director Heidi Stillman says, “So much of the story of the Eastland disaster feels deeply resonant with the current moment: how ordinary people are swept up in an historic event not of their making; how some respond with callousness and others with kindness and courage; and throughout it all, the need to preserve and tell our stories.”

As with Sunset 1919Eastland revisits a piece of Chicago history that is too often forgotten and untold. This public event will be offered to online viewers as a shared celebration of the human spirit—including the everyday heroes who emerge in times of tragedy.

Like many theatres, Lookingglass’ doors are closed right now, and for the near future, to protect us all from the threat posed by COVID-19. As a non-profit who is currently unable to produce live theatre in our space, now— more than ever— Lookingglass must rely on donations to survive this crisis.  Proceeds from this event will directly support the Looking Forward Campaign, a fundraising effort to sustain Lookingglass Theatre Company and its artists through the pandemic.

Lookingglass dedicates this broadcast of Eastland to the memory of Michael Smith, our Captain.

Run Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Archival video by HMS Media. Additional audio post-production by Andrew Twiss/Twiss Audio.

We, of Lookingglass Theatre Company, acknowledge that we ply our craft and paint our dreams on the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi nations. And, that many other tribes — such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sauk, Meskwaki, and Fox — also called this area home. And, that Indigenous peoples continue to live in the region, and Chicago is home to the country’s third-largest urban Indigenous community, which still practices its heritage and traditions, including care for the land and waterways.

Show Program

– The Chicago Sun-Times

– Time Magazine

“Exquisitely theatrical”
– Daily Herald

“Gut wrenching and inspired”
– The Chicago Tribune

“Evocative and enthralling”
– TimeOut Chicago

“A soul-shattering production”
– Huffington Post


Director/Music Arranger
Scenic Designer
Costume Designer
Lighting Designer
Co-sound Designer


Otto, Olaf, and others
Marianne and others
Husband, Houdini, and others
Grocer, Musician, and others
Musician and others
Pedersen, Musician, and others
Ernie, Musician, and others
Solveig and others


Lookingglass is an ensemble based company, with a dedicated group of artists composing its roster of Ensemble Members, Artistic Associates, and Teaching Artists.

Ensemble Member
Ensemble Member
Artistic Associate
Ensemble Member
Ensemble Member
Ensemble Member
Ensemble Member
Artistic Associate
Ensemble Member

Lead Event Sponsors

Matching Challenge Sponsor

Mary Jo and Doug Basler

Consortium Sponsors

Doug Brown and Rachel Kraft
Stephen Colbert and Evelyn McGee Colbert
Marc and Lori Ann Gerdisch
Laura Jones Hunt and Richard Hunt

Event Supporters

Lisa and Curt Bailey
Leigh and Henry Bienen
Vered Hankin and Jeremy Kaufman
Lizzy and Josh Scheinfeld

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