Sunday, December 20, 2020

FREE Streaming worldwide Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure Via Chicago Shakespeare Theater Through New Year's Day

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List 

Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure

Newly re-mastered performance recording filmed in front of a live audience

Streaming FREE on-demand worldwide this holiday season

now through January 1, 2021

Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) leads the Darling siblings (Carter Graf, Elizabeth Stenholt, and Cameron Goode) on a high-flying adventure to Neverland in Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure, directed and choreographed by Amber Mak, streaming free on-demand for the holiday season, December 19, 2020-January 1, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Here at ChiIL Mama, we're so excited that Chicago Shakespeare Theater is offering families a FREE on-demand streaming performance of Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure through New Year’s Day. CST has long been a hometown favorite of ours and we're thrilled that their world class productions now have a worldwide audience. Don't miss this.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater invites audiences of all ages to return to Neverland with a FREE on-demand streaming performance of Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure beginning . The newly re-mastered recording of the Theater’s 2018 production—directed and choreographed by Amber Mak—was filmed by multiple cameras in front of a live audience, and now gives at-home viewers a front-row seat to the show. The 80-minute performance event will be available for worldwide distribution through New Year’s Day at

Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) is the boy who never wants to grow up

Based on J.M. Barrie's beloved tale about the boy who wouldn’t grow up, Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure dazzles with a score written by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe—the award-winning songwriting duo behind smash hit Mary Poppins and the Olivier Award-winning Honk!. This newly updated version by Elliot Davis is based on the book by Willis Hall. The heartwarming musical follows Peter and the Darling children—Wendy, John, and Michael—on a high-flying journey to the enchanted world of Neverland, where the Lost Boys take on the villainous Captain Hook and his bumbling band of pirates. The 80-minute streamed production is the perfect opportunity for families to come together and experience the delights of theatrical performance this holiday season.

Wendy Darling (Elizabeth Stenholt) and Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) become fast friends

"What’s remarkable about young audiences is how they can transform the mundane and everyday into the fantastical," Director Amber Mak shared. "Yet in our world, as we tell them they have to grow up, that spark of imagination can be extinguished. Peter Pan has endured for so long because it inspires that imagination, hope, and freedom. Now more than ever, young people—and all of us, in fact—need that."

As part of the Theater’s commitment to making its programming accessible to all through its Access Shakespeare of initiatives, the streamed run of Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure includes options for closed captioning, ASL duo-interpretation, and audio description. Chicago Shakespeare is also virtually bringing the performance and supplementary activity materials to children's hospitals, senior care centers, and other residential facilities to spark joy when so many are unable to gather with loved ones due to distance or COVID-19 precautions this holiday season.

Captain Hook (James Konicek) is startled by the sound of the dreaded ticking crocodile while taunting the captured Lost Boys and Darling siblings, with the help of Starkey (Christina Hall)

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents

Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure 

music by George Stiles

lyrics by Anthony Drewe

in a new version by Elliot Davis based on the book by Willis Hall

directed & choreographed by Amber Mak

Streaming Free On-Demand now playing through January 1, 2021

Wendy (Elizabeth Stenholt) spars with Captain Hook (James Konicek) as the Lost Boys take on the Pirates

CAST: Johnny Shea (Peter Pan), Elizabeth Stenholt (Wendy Darling), Cameron Goode (John Darling), Carter Graf (Michael Darling), James Konicek (Hook/Mr. Darling), Rengin Altay (Storyteller), Sean Patrick Fawcett (Smee), Roberta Burke (Mrs. Darling/Cecco), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Nana/Bill Jukes), Christina Hall (Starkey), Colin Lawrence (Curly), Michael Kurowski (Tootles), John Marshall Jr. (Slightly Soiled), and Travis Austin Wright (Nibs). 

CREATIVE TEAM: Amber Mak (Director and Choreographer), Kory Danielson (Music Director), Jeff Kmiec (Scenic Designer), Theresa Ham (Costume Designer), Greg Hofmann (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer), Mike Tutaj (Projections Designer), Richard Jarvie (Wig and Make-up Designer), Matt Deitchman (Orchestrator), Jerry Galante (Fight Choreographer), Susan Gosdick (Dialect Coach), Megan E. Farley (Associate Director and Choreographer), Deborah Acker (Production Stage Manager), and Sammy Brown (Assistant Stage Manager). Onstage flying effects by ZFX.

Toodles (Michael Kurowski), Nibs (Travis Austin Wright), Curly (Colin Lawrence), Slightly Soiled (John Marshall Jr.) rejoice in being part of “The Lost Boys Gang”


Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be—a company that defies theatrical category. A leading international theater company and recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s year-round season offers a vibrant array of classics, musicals, new works, and family programs for 225,000 audience members annually. Chicago Shakespeare is the city’s leading presenter of international work, and has toured its own productions across five continents. The Theater’s nationally acclaimed arts in literacy programs support the work of teachers, and bring Shakespeare to life on stage for tens of thousands of students annually. Each summer, the company tours a free professional production to neighborhood parks across Chicago. In 2017 the Theater unveiled The Yard, which, together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs, positions Chicago Shakespeare as Chicago’s most versatile performing arts center.

Sunday, December 13, 2020





Paramount School of the Arts in Aurora, Illinois is commissioning a new play for young audiences that it intends to tour to schools throughout the greater Fox Valley area. The new work initiative, supported by the NEA Arts Work Grant Program, is the first such grant for Paramount from the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts.To get the project rolling, Paramount School of the Arts is inviting playwrights of color anywhere in the U.S. to submit a proposal for an original new play with music for young audiences.Proposals will be reviewed by jurors from Paramount Theatre’s artistic and new works departments, staff and teaching artists at Paramount School of the Arts, and a committee of diverse local educators and community members.

One proposal will be selected and the writer will receive a $3,000 commission to collaborate with Paramount to develop the work.

The deadline to submit a proposal is by 11:59 p.m. CST on January 5, 2021.

To apply, writers must complete an online submission form, posted at, and digitally submit the following via email to

A one-page play proposal for a new or in progress, 45-60 minute, unwritten play with music for young audiences (generally targeting grades 3 to 5)

A one-page resume

A three-to-five page sample scene

An already finished play, for reference only

Proposals for new plays must:

Center the story around global majority people (non-white), with particular interest in stories that center around Mexican-American culture (44% of Aurora’s population)

Utilize four performers or fewerExplain the use of singular, flexible or representational scenic elements as this play will be toured to schools with a variety of performance spaces

Demonstrate how the use of music will play a role in the script

Demonstrate how audience members will be engaged in the storytelling (this could be audience participation of some kind, such as children assisting in creating an environment, or contributing to the music making)

Paramount will select one proposal and offer a commission contract in February of 2021, which will be announced upon signing.

Then, Paramount will spend the winter and spring of 2021 developing the piece with the writer, a director, actors and a dramaturg, culminating with a workshop reading. The intention is to tour the play to Fox Valley schools during the 2021-2022 school year. 

Shannon Cameron, Director of Education and Community Engagement, Paramount Theatre

“We understand that many schools don’t have the resources to bring their students to Paramount’s student matinees,” said Shannon Cameron, Director of Education and Community Engagement, Paramount Theatre. “So we decided creating a new work of live theater, particularly one that celebrates equity, diversity and inclusion, and take it directly to the schools aligns perfectly with our mission to break down barriers to enjoying and learning from live theater.”

Paramount School of the Arts is the state-of-the-art anchor tenant in the new $35 million John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center at 20 S. Stolp Avenue, right next to downtown Aurora’s beautiful Paramount Theatre. Currently more than 250 area youth ages 0 to 100 are participating in live theater, music and dance classes, private lessons and online workshops now on offer virtually as part of the school’s fall session.

Visit to enroll your child in virtual performing arts classes. To be the first to learn about the return of in-persona classes, follow the school on Facebook and Instagram at @paramountschoolofthearts, or Twitter at @PSAAurora.

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in the second largest city in Illinois. Since launching its Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre has also grown to be the second largest subscription house in the nation. Last season, more than 41,000 subscribers enjoyed Broadway-quality productions at highly affordable prices at Paramount.

Paramount has also grown a reputation for bringing new works to the stage thanks to last season’s smash hit world premiere musical The Secret of My Success, and its collaboration the season before, August Rush.

For the latest news from Paramount Theatre, please visit or follow Paramount on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, all @ParamountAurora.


 ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List

FREE Family Friendly Covid-Safe Fun 


Check out this amazing pivot from one of our long time favorites, Chicago Children’s Theatre. Families have been walking together more than ever this year, with so much remote learning going on. Now your walks can be educational as well as recreational. Here at ChiIL Mama we love this idea so hard. Full disclosure, we haven't checked them out personally yet. My kids are both doing online school from home but they're older now and loaded down with homework, so I'd love to hear feedback from families who've checked out one or more of these Walkie Talkies. Comment below. I'd love to know how it went. Looks like a ton of fun, and I may go do them solo or with my dogs if I can't wrangle the teens.

We're so excited Chicago Children’s Theatre has launched Walkie Talkies, a free, all-new adventure podcast just for you. Walkie Talkies are fun, totally original, story-based audio experiences that encourage families to get outside and explore Chicago neighborhoods together. Not only that, Walkie Talkies are a new way for families to take a walk, release stress and create happy shared family memories until we can be back together at the theater.

The first three Walkie Talkies are self-guided strolls through South Shore, Little Village, and around Lincoln Park’s North Pond Nature Sanctuary. Each episode was commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre and created by local theater artists. The result is a fun and educational new audio series that children and families can enjoy together, outdoors and safely, even over the winter months, while learning more about the beautiful city they live in.

So lace up your sneakers, pop in your ear buds, and take a walk through some of Chicago’s most distinctive neighborhoods. Each pod is under one hour and comes with a walking map to guide families and field trips on each bite-sized journey, plus resources including photos of top tour highlights, vocabulary keys, recommended reading and song lists, and other fun family activities.

Go to to download and stream Walkie Talkie episodes directly to your smart device via Spotify, Soundcloud, Pocketcast and soon on Apple iTunes.

Adventure-seeking families should “smash the subscribe button” to be the first to download future Walkie Talkies exploring even more Chicago neighborhoods and attractions.

Walkie Talkies: More about the first three episodes

The Green Heron - or - Should I Be Scared?

A guided tour of Lincoln Park's North Pond Nature Sanctuary

Written by Shawn Pfautsch

Produced and presented by Shawn Pfautsch and Jessica Ridenour

Tune in:

This Walkie Talkie starts on top of the hill behind the North Pond restaurant at the north end of the park near Diversey Street, heading south. From behind the Richard Oglesby Monument, kids and families follow a spunky young Green Heron south along the shores of North Pond, beside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum until the story ends at Fullerton Parkway. You’ll meet some of the heron’s animal friends on the way, and learn a little bit about nature here in the heart of the city too. Just hit the pause button to take a break, look at your map, or wait to watch some Canadian geese to fly by.

Chicago-based artists Shawn Pfautsch and Jessica Ridenour are excited to collaborate at Chicago Children’s Theatre for the first time. Although they’ve been married for five years, The Green Heron is their first play together. You may have seen Pfautsch on stage at The House Theatre, The Hypocrites or in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s productions of A Year With Frog and Toad and Frederick. Parents may have seen Ridenour on stage at Second City or on their televisions on Chicago PD.


Shawn Pfautsch and Jessica Ridenour, co-creators, The Green Heron


Butterflies, Aztec Gods and Puerquitos/Sweet Piggie Bread

A guided tour of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood

Created and narrated by Jasmin Cardenas

Produced by Anthony Lombard

Tune in:

Chicago storyteller Jasmin Cardenas, her son, Mateo, and daughter, Catalina, lead listeners in a game of “I Spy” through Chicago’s quintessential Mexican American community, Little Village.

Listeners are encouraged to keep count how many decorative monarch butterflies and Mexican flags they see along the way. Stops at neighborhood landmarks like Café Catedral, Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Our Lady of Tepeyac Mural and the Little Village Public Library provide opportunities for Jasmin, Mateo and Catalina to sing traditional songs, tell stories about Mexican mosaics, legends, history and culture, teach some simple Spanish vocabulary, and share how Little Village became such a vibrant and colorful home for Mexican immigrants new to Chicago.

Jasmin Cardenas is an actress, arts activist, professional storyteller and lifelong Chicagoan. Working with children and young people is her passion and using theater to find solutions to real world problems is her joy. Devising plays with brilliant young people across the city gives her hope. She has performed at The National Storytelling Festival in Jonesburough, TN, will be featured in 2021 and has toured across the United States from Portland, Oregon to NYC. As a theater actor and director she has worked with many companies including Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Sojourn, Lifeline, Free Street and Collaboraction. Currently a commissioned playwright by 1st Stage Theater in Virginia she is working on a new solo show about working people. She is the winner of the 2018 Outstanding Storyteller Award from ALTA, the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists of Chicago. Cardenas is a mom and enjoyed collaborating with her two children, Mateo (8) and Catalina (5) for this project.


Jasmin Cardenas

Creator and narrator, Butterflies, Aztec Gods and Puerquitos/Sweet Piggie Bread


Stacey’s Walk

A guided tour of Chicago’s South Shore community

Written and directed by Quenna Lené Barrett

Voice of Stacey performed by Jameela Muhammad

Produced by Anthony Lombard

Tune in:

While on a walk to cool down from an argument with her mother, Stacey, a young, Black Chicagoan finds herself exploring a neighborhood close to home. She encounters several places from her family's memories like the Jeffery Theater, Woolworth’s, South Shore Beach, and Majani’s Restaurant, and conjures up a few of her own. Take a walk on Stacey's path through Chicago’s South Shore community as she recounts these stories, remembering the past to plant seeds for her future.

Barrett is a Chicago-based theater artist and practitioner, developing programs to amplify teen and community voices and holding space to rehearse, tell, and change the stories of their lives. She is a company member with the ICAH’s For Youth Inquiry, Associate Artist with Pivot Arts, and is the Associate Director of Education at the Goodman Theatre. As a director and performer, she has worked with Chicago companies including Sojourn, The Theatre School at DePaul, Free Street, Pegasus, Court, eta, and Theater Unspeakable. Continuing to build the world she wants to see and live in, Barrett is currently rewriting the Declaration of Independence as a participatory play. 


Quenna Lené Barrett, writer and director, Stacey's Walk

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Walkie Talkie series is produced by artistic director Jacqueline Russell, and director of production Will Bishop. The series announcer is Chicago actor Anthony Lombard.

Walkie Talkies join Chicago Children’s Theatre’s growing roster of free, online theater and storytelling resources designed to keep kids engaged and entertained at home until we can all be together in a theater again.

Examples include the critically acclaimed toy theater video production of Frederick: A Virtual Puppet Performance based on Leo Lionni’s Frederick, read by Michael Shannon, and Doll Face Has a Party!, a romp of a video about a directed by Brian Selznick.

Both productions are racking up thousands of views on Chicago Children’s Theatre’s new YouTube channel CCTv: Virtual Theatre and Learning from Chicago Children’s Theatre, launched in April when CCT pivoted from creating live to delivering virtual productions directly to families’ homes in response to the current Covid pandemic.

The channel also boasts a deep play list of short, “how to” videos on theater crafts like costume design, prop making, puppetry and coloring activities hosted by CCT teaching artists. CCTv also hosts more than a dozen original short plays created and submitted by families on video during quarantine to CCT’s Ralla Klepak Foundation Play@Home Contest.

Play@Home classes: More online learning opportunities from Chicago Children’s Theatre

In addition to its new YouTube channel, Chicago Children’s Theatre is offering a robust line-up of virtual Play@Home youth performing arts classes and school’s out day camps this fall.

Online education from Chicago Children’s Theatre starts with live, interactive online group learning sessions via Zoom, supplemented with at-home assignments that keep children engaged and active while stuck at home. CCT offers a wide selection of unique weekly classes for theatre novices, accomplished performers, and everyone in-between. Led by experienced and enthusiastic teaching artists, our classes help students gain confidence, develop their artistic voices and build lasting friendships. For children on the autism spectrum, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Red Kite Project continues to offer classes like Shakespeare and Autism.

To learn more and register for classes or camps, visit

About Chicago Children’s Theatre

Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Fifteen years later, Chicago Children’s Theatre is the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families, with a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.

In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families.

Inclusion and access are core values at Chicago Children’s Theatre, where every child can have access to the company’s programming regardless of financial position. Thanks in part to the Susan M. Venturi Fund in memory of James and Roslyn Marks, CCT provides scholarships for children and families with demonstrated need. As a result, one in five youth at CCT receive financial assistance annually. Additionally, tens of thousands of free and reduced price tickets are distributed to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools.

Chicago Children’s Theatre won the 2019 National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA for its pioneering work creating and presenting live theater experiences that tear down barriers for persons with disabilities. In addition, Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Armando Chacon. For more, visit

Review: Manual Cinema's Magical Shadow Puppet Christmas Carol Now LIVE Streaming Through December 20, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based interdisciplinary performance collective, premieres its all-new adaptation of the most famous holiday tale of all time now playing through December 20, 2020

Each show will be performed live in Manual Cinema’s Chicago studio in a socially distanced manner, and live streamed directly to audiences at home by Marquee TV ( – the foremost digital deliverer for performing arts content. In signature Manual Cinema style, hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score come together for an imaginative reincarnation of Dickens’s holiday classic.


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Looking for holiday fun to enjoy at home this season while you quarantine or keep covid at bay? Manual Cinema's A Christmas Carol is an excellent choice for multigenerational magic making. We adore this brand new world premiere production, streaming LIVE each night of the run, with a Q & A following. We've seen almost all of Manual Cinema's productions since their inception in 2010 and they are mind blowing, particularly at an affordable $15-$50 ticket price! 

Sure, A Christmas Carol is ubiquitous holiday fare and an old familiar tale, but Manual Cinema has added a smart, new twist, that's pure 2020. Set during the pandemic, the narrator is a strong, black woman with a high powered career, Zooming a shadow puppet show to her socially distanced family. In the process, she experiences her own Scrooge-style epiphany. 

The traditional version of A Christmas Carol is presented as a show within a show, with an original score and Manual Cinema's infamous puppetry style. We love the choice to livestream each show. It adds that live theatre element of risk and interconnection. Despite a stripped down cast and crew, to make covid safety parameters, this show is a full on production and a dogged, determined celebration in a time of loss. 

The pandemic has been particularly brutal on the theatre industry, as everyone scrambles to pivot to streaming until it's not deadly to meet in person again. Manual Cinema is one of the best suited to this new hybrid medium since they're already working in projection and their art form and style translates well to the screen. 

Manual Cinema is a long time favorite of ours and we're so excited that audiences beyond their home town of Chicago now have equal access to their stellar storytelling. Highly recommended. Don't miss this. 

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 


Christmas Past

Scrooge and Christmas Present

Scrooge and Marley

Tickets are now on sale for the world premiere of Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol, a live streaming adaption of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic created specifically for the 2020 holiday season.


Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based interdisciplinary performance collective, will present the most famous holiday tale of all time December 3-20, 2020. Each show will be performed live in Manual Cinema’s Chicago studio in a socially distanced manner, and live streamed directly to audiences at home by Marquee TV ( – the foremost digital deliverer for performing arts content.

In signature Manual Cinema style, hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score come together for an imaginative reincarnation of Dickens’s holiday classic.


Aunt Trudy, an avowed holiday skeptic, has been recruited to channel her late husband Joe’s famous Christmas cheer. From the isolation of her studio apartment, Trudy reconstructs Joe’s annual Christmas Carol puppet show over Zoom while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown. But as Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own, and the family’s call transforms into a stunning cinematic retelling of Dickens’s classic ghost story.


Scrooge and Ghost of Christmas Past

Tickets to live streamed performances of Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol are on sale now at Regular ticket prices are $15-$50: $15 (individual), $30 (duo or trio, 2-3 viewers) and $50 (family and friends, 4+ viewers). $100 tickets are also on sale for patrons who wish to support Manual Cinema. Closed-caption (for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing) and audio-described (for patrons who are blind or have low vision) tickets will be available December 9-20 for $10.

Ghost of Christmas Future and Scrooge

Since each show is performed live, patrons pick a show date and time and purchase a ticket, same as always.

Show times are Thursday and Friday, December 3 and 4 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, December 5 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Wednesday, December 9 at 10 a.m.; Thursday, December 10 at 7 p.m., Friday, December 11 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, December 12 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 13 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Wednesday, December 16, matinee at 10 a.m.; Thursday, December 17 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 18 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, September 19 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 20 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (all times CT).

Before each show, all audience members will receive an email with a private URL to access and stream their chosen performance. After each performance, audiences will have the opportunity to ask Manual Cinema’s artists questions live and in real time via a post-show “Puppet Time” live chat.

Manual Cinema’s A Christmas Carol is adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens and written by the Manual Cinema Artistic Directors: Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter.

Cast members are Lizi Breit, puppeteer; Sarah Fornace, puppeteer; Ben Kauffman, guitar, piano, lead vocals; N. LaQuis Harkin, Aunt Trudy/puppeteer; Julia Miller, puppeteer; and Kyle Vegter, cello, keys and vocals.

The production team is Drew Dir, storyboards; Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter, original music and sound design; Drew Dir, puppet design; Lizi Breit and Sarah Fornace, puppet build assistants; Drew Dir, additional puppetry; Maddy Low, costume design; Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter, set design; Andrew Morgan, Trudy lighting design; Mike Usrey, technical director and sound engineer; Shelby Sparkles, stage manager; Ben Kauffman, streaming and UX; and Julia Miller, production manager.

To create their adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Manual Cinema has been actively seeking commissioning and presenting venues around the country. The idea is to help replenish Manual Cinema’s primary source of income – touring – while also offering a prescient work created for the times to its presenting partners and their audiences during this unprecedented time.

Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol was made possible by the contributions of co-commissioners: Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; COCA – Center of Creative Arts; College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Millersville University – The Ware and Winter Centers; Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech; Stanford Live; Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Arts & Issues; Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (“The Soraya”); Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College; and Writers Theatre, with substantial in-kind commissioning support from Marquee tv; additional commissioning support from South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, and support from the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at University of Denver.

Manual Cinema’s event hosting and ticketing platform is Mixily (

More about Manual Cinema

“Chicagoans of the Year: Directors of Manual Cinema have created a whole new art form”

- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for…”

-Ben Brantley, New York Times


The five founders and co-artistic directors of Manual Cinema are (standing, from left) Kyle Vegter, Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, (front, from left) Julia Miller and Ben Kauffman.

Since its founding in 2010, Manual Cinema has been turning heads in Chicago and around the globe for a decade, combining handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen.

The Emmy Award winning performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company was founded in Chicago by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality.

In addition to A Christmas Carol, upcoming projects include the debut of their shadow animations in the film remake of Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, slated to open in theaters in 2021.

Manual Cinema is also creating an adaptation of two Mo Willems’ children’s books, Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World, premiering at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. followed by a Chicago premiere with Chicago Children’s Theatre in spring 2021.

In August, the company threw a month-long virtual birthday party, Manual Cinema’s 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular!, streaming four of the company’s most seminal shows from the past 10 years. Lula Del Ray, The End of TV, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks and Frankenstein were all presented for free, on demand viewing on multi-camera, high-definition video in their entirety. The 10th anniversary celebration culminated with the live, online world premiere of Dream Delivery Service, Manual Cinema’s first socially distanced performance made exclusively for live streaming.

In sum, Manual Cinema has created nine feature length live multimedia theater shows (Lula del Ray, ADA/AVA, Fjords, Mementos Mori, My Soul’s Shadow, The Magic City, The End of TV, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, and Frankenstein); a live cinematic contemporary dance show created for family audiences in collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance and the choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams (Mariko’s Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure); an original site-specific installation for the MET Museum (La Celestina); an original adaptation of Hansel & Gretel created for the Belgian Royal Opera; music videos for Sony Masterworks, Gabriel Kahane, three time GRAMMY Award-winning eighth blackbird, NYTimes Best Selling author Reif Larson and Grammy Award winning Esperanza Spalding; a live non-fiction piece for Pop-Up Magazine; a self-produced short film (Chicagoland); a museum exhibit created in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum (The Secret Lives of Objects) a collection of cinematic shorts in collaboration with poet Zachary Schomburg and string quartet Chicago Q Ensemble (Fjords); live cinematic puppet adaptations of StoryCorps stories (Show & Tell) and NPR’s Invisibilia and four animated videos for the Poetry Foundation (We Real Cool, Poem, Three WWI Poems and Multitudes). Manual Cinema’s Emmy Award-winning collaboration with The New York Times (The Forger), was nominated for a documentary short Peabody Award and won 2nd prize in the World Press Photo 2017 Digital Storytelling Contest, Long Form.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), La Monnaie-De Munt (Brussels), Brooklyn Academy of Music (NYC), Underbelly (UK), Adelaide Festival (AU), The Avignon Off Festival (France), The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), Theatre World Festival Brno (Czechia), A Tarumba – Teatro de Marionetas (Portugal), The Chan Center for the Performing Arts (British Columbia), The Kennedy Center (DC), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The O, Miami Poetry Festival, Handmade Worlds Puppet Festival (Minneapolis), The Screenwriters’ Colony in Nantucket, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), the NYC Fringe Festival, Arts Emerson (Boston), Yale Repertory Theatre (New Haven), The Poetry Foundation (Chicago), The Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival, Pop-Up Magazine, The Chicago International Music and Movies Festival, The Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution, The Public Theatre’s Under the Radar Festival (NYC), and elsewhere around the world.

Manual Cinema was ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago in the Theater and Performance Studies program in the fall of 2012, where they taught as adjunct faculty. They were an ensemble in residence at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in partnership with the Public Theatre in winter 2019. They lead the Catapult: Professional Training Workshop with the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival and the Poetry Foundation during spring 2018.

Manual Cinema has taught workshops at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), Stanford University, Yale University, Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution, the Chicago Parks District, and many other theaters and universities around the country. The company offers extensive workshops and education opportunities as part of its touring engagements.

In Fall 2016, Manual Cinema contributed visuals, music, and sound design for an immersive adaptation of Peter Pan with producer Randy Weiner (Sleep No More, The Donkey Show, Queen of the Night) which premiered in Beijing in December 2016. The company was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for “The Forger,” a video created for The New York Times. In summer 2018 Manual Cinema premiered and self-produced a sold-out run of The End of TV at Chopin Theatre, which was quickly followed by its world premiere adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Chicago’s Court Theatre. By year’s end, the Chicago Tribune named Manual Cinema Chicago Artists of the Year in 2018. Frankenstein subsequently had its New York City premiere in January 2019 at The Public Theatre’s Under the Radar Festival.

For more information, visit, follow the company on Facebook at, on Instagram at and on Twitter @ManualCinema.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Chicago's Andersonville Community Mounts Virtual Variety Show Sunday 12/13/20

ChiIL Mama's Holiday Picks: 

Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Presents

Andersonville at Home for the Holidays: A Virtual Variety Show

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Full Living Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail. Photo by Chamere Orr

Check out some free fun from some of our longtime favorites like Hell in a Handbag Productions, Laura Doherty, Meghan "Big Red" Murphy, PlayMakers Laboratory, Rendezvous Brass Band and Senn High School, where my grandma graduated top of her class in the 1920's. 

Meghan Murphy. Photo by Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

I'm also excited to embrace my Swedish roots with recipes for Glogg from Simon’s Tavern (an annual must from the "before times") and an apple cider bourbon cocktail. Check it out from the comforts of home.

Simon's Tavern Glogg

Hell in a Handbag Productions. Photo courtesy HIAH

Laura Doherty. Photo by Jill Liebhaber

PlayMakers Laboratory. Photo courtesy PML

Although we can’t all gather for the traditional caroling and festivities that are customary in the Andersonville business district during the holiday season, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce (ACC) is pleased to present Andersonville at Home for the Holidays: A Virtual Variety Show on Sunday, December 13 at 7 pm. Similar to last summer’s Andersonville at Home: A Midsommarfest Experience & Fundraiser, the free program celebrating Andersonville’s small business community will stream as a live Facebook Premiere and YouTube Premiere with real-time commenting.

Comments Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Associate Director Laura Austin, “The holidays are always such a special time in Andersonville. Between the Holiday Trolley, the tree-lighting, late night shopping, carolers, and visits with Santa and The Real Elf, December in the neighborhood is magical. And while that can’t be replicated this year, we wanted to create something memorable and connecting for the community.”

Santa in Andersonville. Photo by Lindsay Lenard

Variety show highlights include a virtual tree lighting; a message from Santa sponsored by Urban Pooch; performances by Cezanne Fink, Dance Loud, Defloured: A Gluten-Free Bakery, Gus Giordano Dance School, Hell in a Handbag Productions, Kimberly Lawson, Laura Doherty, Meghan "Big Red" Murphy, PlayMakers Laboratory, Rendezvous Brass Band, Senn High School and Walker; recipes for Glogg from Simon’s Tavern and an apple cider bourbon cocktail from A Full Living; plus special appearances, holiday greetings and more from Andersonville’s three aldermen, the Chamber staff and the neighborhood’s many small businesses and local residents.

For the full line-up, click here to visit Andersonville at Home for the Holidays event page.

Video editing by Jacob Wissman. Sponsors: Cheetah Gym and Women and Children First. Special thanks to City Grange, Foursided, Gethsemane Garden Center, Patch Landscaping, SSA #22 and Swedish American Museum.

The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce fosters a vibrant environment in which Andersonville businesses can thrive by attracting a diverse customer base; providing business support services and advocacy; and engaging in business attraction, long-range planning, and economic development.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Review: Lookingglass' Steadfast Tin Soldier Streaming Joy Amid Covid Through December 27, 2020

 Lookingglass Theatre Company Streaming

Critically Acclaimed Production of

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Written and Directed by Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman

From the Story by Hans Christian Andersen

Through December 27, 2020


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

We were utterly and completely charmed by Lookingglass Theatre Company's Steadfast Tin Soldier, from their first opening night in 2018, and we're thrilled it has becomes a holiday tradition. The stellar acting, stage sized advent calendar, puppetry, costumed orchestra, and visuals are stunning. Using just music and physical theatre instead of dialogue, audiences are immersed in this strange and whimsical nonverbal world of toys. Don't let the colorful costumes fool you into thinking this is a playful holiday fluff piece. These toys endure bullying, overcome misfortune, fall in love and out windows, go on wild unintended journeys, and they don't all get a happily ever after. This ill fated love story was one of our top holiday favorites on stage the past two years, and it translates well to the streaming format. Oh SO highly recommended.

Joe Dempsey, Ensemble Member Anthony Irons, John Gregorio, and Ensemble Member Kasey Foster
All Production Photos by Liz Lauren

The Steadfast Tin Soldier Holiday Stream is available 8 times a week now, through December 27th, and the best thing is, you no longer have to live in or travel to Chicago to catch this stellar show. You can purchase a ticket for your family and watch from anywhere, so get cozy and watch the magic unfold. This show has become a beloved holiday tradition for my family. My teens and I were in the audience for their first opening night, 3 years ago, and I returned for opening night in 2019 with my parents. Of course they all adored it! Lookingglass Theatre has crafted a brilliant, multigenerational story that transcends words and truly appeals to all ages. 

Dates:  December 1-27, 2020

The production will offer 8 showtimes/week. All patrons will have access to the production for 48 hours after the performance date and time.

Prices: $25 for Livestream (with 48-hour access) 

Box Office:  Buy online at                                              

The production will stream online through Stellar.  The production was filmed by HMS Media.

 Running time: 1 hour, no intermission.

In what we now wistfully call "The Before Times", pre March 2020, when no-one had heard of covid-19 and social distancing, and masks were for theatrical fun, not a matter of life and death, I used to average 6-8 theatre openings a week. This year has been an abrupt and unpleasant detour for so many professions, and theatre arts and artists have been hit particularly hard. The Steadfast Tin Soldier Holiday Stream brings some of the magic back to covid weary audiences, puts a paycheck back in the hands of those who worked on this production, and opens access to this incredible show to those who live beyond Chicago or couldn't afford the ticket price to catch it on stage. This season, Lookingglass Theatre Company's Steadfast Tin Soldier is adventuring right to your door, the whole family can check it out for $25, and drinks are cheap! Lookingglass has even concocted a signature themed cocktail you can DIY at home in case you're pining for the fun, show themed drinks of yesteryear. 

Through the lens of 2020, The Steadfast Tin Soldier is more poignant and powerful than ever, even at a distance. This year has brought so much loss to so many, loss of loved ones, jobs, stability, security, peace of mind...  Yet, we have gained clarity and insight into what everyone is truly like. The pandemic is an amplifier, making hard things even tougher, the mentally ill more unstable, the sick and poor more vulnerable, and the rich more wealthy. It's also brought forth an outpouring of kindness, generosity, self sacrifice, social and political change, and bravery under daunting and sometimes lethal conditions. Lookingglass Theatre Company's Steadfast Tin Soldier IS the holiday story for our times.

Alex Stein, Ensemble Member Kasey Foster, and John Gregorio

Sure, we're all missing the intimacy, immediacy, and interconnectedness of live theatre, but until we can safely meet again, this story will brighten and enlighten your holidays. Highly recommended. 

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Joe Dempsey, Alex Stein, John Gregorio, and Ensemble Member Anthony Irons

“The real appeal of this show is for anyone who feels they are different than the others. Which I think is virtually all of us. Even when no one is watching, there remains this idea of honor or bravery that is not for the eyes of others. Just because that’s human dignity: to maintain your courage, even as you’re going down, even as you’re losing. In the end, it’s sort of profound that way.”
—Mary Zimmerman, Ensemble Member/Director and Playwright of THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER

Lookingglass Theatre Company presents the holiday stream of Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Experience Chicago’s beloved holiday tradition with your family this holiday season, as the production streams into your home this December!  Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a little tin soldier who never gives up, this production is a gorgeous spectacle of music and movement that is perfect for the whole family.

Online access to the production is $25 and includes Livestream and On Demand. 

Tickets are on sale now at

Ensemble Members Kasey Foster and Anthony Irons, and Joe Dempsey

The cast of the Steadfast Tin Soldier features Ensemble Members Kasey Foster (Ballerina) and Anthony Irons (Goblin), with Joe Dempsey (Nursemaid), John Gregorio (Rat), and Alex Stein (Steadfast Tin Soldier).


Original music for The Steadfast Tin Soldier is composed by Ensemble Member Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert. Musicians include Leandro López Várady (Music Director/Piano), Greg Hirte (Violin), Juan Horie (Cello), and Constance Volk (Flutes).

The creative team includes Todd Rosenthal (scenic design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), TJ Gerckens (lighting design), Ensemble Member Andre Pluess and Christopher M. LaPorte (sound design), Leandro López Várady (associate arranger), Ensemble Member Tracy Walsh (choreography), Ensemble Member Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus choreography), Chicago Puppet Studio (puppet design), Amanda Herrmann (properties),Rigability Inc. (rigging design), Katrina Herrmann (stage manager) and Liz Anne Larsen (assistant stage manager). The production was filmed in 2019 by HMS Media.

Ensemble Member Anthony Irons, Joe Dempsey, and John Gregorio

“I’m very glad that our little Tin Soldier managed to march his way into the hearts of so many, and that he’ll be coming back again in the Holiday season steadfast as ever. We wanted to make something that was visually and emotionally overpowering—as well as very funny—and do that with no spoken language at all,” says Mary Zimmerman. “I’m thrilled that people of all ages and from around the world will be able to watch the show and feel it all the same, no English required. I think the silence of the characters—and the beautiful music that accompanies their adventures—allows older members of the audience to fall into a private, younger part of themselves; and for children, they are watching something in the manner they are used to: gathering up the story through the intensity of their earnest attention, through their intelligence which has no words.”

Production Support provided by Nancy and Michael Timmers

John Gregorio and Ensemble Members Kasey Foster and Anthony Irons

About the Artists

MARY ZIMMERMAN (Playwright/Director/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is a writer and director and has worked with Lookingglass for more than 25 years. For Lookingglass, Mary has adapted and directed The Odyssey, The Secret in the Wings, The Arabian Nights, S/M, Eleven Rooms of Proust (Co-production with About Face Theatre), Argonautika, Treasure Island, and Metamorphoses, which toured to Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Guthrie Theater the winter/spring of 2019. Mary is also part of the Goodman Theatre artistic team where she adapted and directed The White Snake, The Jungle Book, Candide, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Silk, Journey to the West, Mirror of the Invisible World, and a re-creation of The Odyssey, as well as directing Wonderful Town, Pericles, The Baltimore Waltz, All’s Well That Ends Well, and most recently The Music Man. She has also worked with: New York Shakespeare Festival in the Park, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Huntington Theatre Company, McCarter Theatre, Arena Stage, and Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. New York credits: Lincoln Center, Second Stage Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre. In the world of opera, she directed and co-wrote the libretto Galileo Galilei (composed by Philip Glass) that was produced at Goodman Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Barbican Theatre in London. She has directed four operas at Metropolitan Opera: Rusalka, Lucia Di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula, and Rossini’s Armida, each of which has been broadcast live into movie theatres worldwide. In 1998, Mary received a MacArthur Fellowship and in 2002, the Tony Award for Best Director of a Play for Metamorphoses on Broadway. She is a Professor at Northwestern University, where she holds the Jaharis Family Endowed Chair in Performance Studies.

JOE DEMPSEY (Nursemaid) last appeared at Lookingglass in The Steadfast Tin Soldier (2019) ,previously in 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas , Around the World in 80 Days, The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, Summertime, Baron in the Trees, and My Life in Pop. Recently, Joe was in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Frederick (Chicago Children's Theatre), and The Rembrandt (Steppenwolf Theatre Company). Chicago credits include: Goodman Theatre (Mary Zimmerman's Silk, Trojan Women), Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Paramount Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, and Theater Wit. Regional credits: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses), Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Centerstage (Laura Eason's Around the World in 80 Days), and City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh). TV/film: Imperfections, Chicago Fire, What About Joan?, E.R., and Early Edition. Joe is an alum of the Neo-Futurists, The Second City National Touring Company, and is an artistic affiliate with American Blues Theater.

KASEY FOSTER (Ballerina/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is a performer, choreographer, producer, and puppeteer. She a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Kasey was most recently seen on the Lookingglass stage in last winter’s production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Other Lookingglass credits include 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Treasure Island, Moby Dick, and The Little Prince. Recent on camera credits include: Chicago Med and IFC’s Documentary Now! Kasey sings with bands Babe-alon 5, Grood, Kevin O’Donnell, Old Timey, This Must be the Band, and Nasty Buoy. She has created over fifty original works, and produces two annual series called Dance Tribute and The ACTual Show.

JOHN GREGORIO (Rat) is delighted to return to Lookingglass and The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Regional credits include: The Villain Supper Club (Merrimack Repertory Theatre); The Royale (Milwaukee Repertory Theater); Little Shop of Horrors, The 39 Steps (Geva Theatre Center); A Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (North Shore Music Theatre); The Legend of Pecos Bill (Alliance Theatre); and The Mystery of Irma Vep (Dad’s Garage Theatre Company). Off-Broadway credits include: Around the World in 80 Days (The New Theatre at 45th St); Silent Laughter (Lamb’s Theatre); The Nuclear Family (founder/performer, The Belt Theatre); and Clinton the Musical (New York Musical Theatre Festival). TV credits include: Extended Family (Sundance Channel), Good Eats (Food Network), and Smoking Gun TV (Court TV). John is a founding member of Dad’s Garage Theatre Company (Atlanta) and a faculty member of the Heifetz International Music Institute.

ANTHONY IRONS (Goblin/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) returns to Lookingglass where he was last seen in Act(s) of God. Anthony a Congo Square Theatre Ensemble Member and has garnered Black Excellence Awards, Black Theatre Alliance Awards, and three Jeff Nominations. Chicago credits include: Support Group for Men and Two Trains running (Goodman Theatre), How to Use a Knife (Shattered Globe Theatre), Jitney (Congo Square Theatre), History of Chicago (The Second City) and Waiting for Godot (Court Theatre). Regional credits include: Black Eagles (Penumbra Theatre), Hamlet (Illinois Shakespeare Festival), and As You Like It (Georgia Shakespeare Festival). TV/Film credits include: Empire, Sirens, Chicago Fire, Boss, Let’s Go To Prison, and The Lucky Ones.

ALEX STEIN (Steadfast Tin Soldier) returns to Lookingglass to reprise his role in Mary Zimmerman’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Stage: Walt Whitman BodyJolt (Corkscrew Theatre Festival, NYC), A Shayna Maidel (TimeLine Theatre), Between Covers (Goodman Theatre, New Stages Festival), The New Sincerity (Theater Wit), A Night Out (A Red Orchid Theatre), Kiss (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago), and The Merry Wives of Windsor (First Folio Theatre). TV & Film: Chicago PD, The Last Shift, Death to Metal, Sweaty Scales, and World of Facts. Alex received an honors degree in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Chicago, and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity. 

LEANDRO LÓPEZ VÁRADY (Associate Arranger/Music Director/Piano) was previously seen at Lookingglass in last season’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Leandro was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and graduated from the Catholic University of Argentina as Licentiate in Music, majoring in Composition with a Gold Medal and Awards. He traveled Asia with the Eldeé Young Quartet, and worked in Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church as Music Director. Leandro has performed around the world, including Poland, Cuba, and Bulgaria as pianist of the Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic; as well as Symphony Center, Harris Theater, Millennium Park, Auditorium Theater, Chicago Jazz Festival, Taste of Chicago, and the Jazz&Pop Festival in Buenos Aires. Leandro is the pianist for the Doug Lofstrom’s New Quartet, Steve Hashimoto's Sueños, Juli Wood's Chicago Calling, and the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Music Ensemble. Leandro received a Gold Record Award for his work on Mietek Szcześniak’s Nierówmi album. He teaches at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL.

GREG HIRTE (Violin) is an actor, musician, and composer in LA and Chicago. Greg was most recently seen at Lookingglass in last season’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier and before that, Treasure Island. Other recent theatre credits include: his 19th season with Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, Luther in Ring of Fire: Music of Johnny Cash, and Leon in Hank Williams: Lost Highway (American Blues Theater). Other Chicago credits include: performance and musical compositions for Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and Piven Theatre Workshop (Jeff Award Nomination for Best Original Score, Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play), as well as several international theater and music festivals. Greg is a member of several bands both local and national.

JUAN HORIE (Cello) makes his debut at Lookingglass. He has previously worked with Teatro Vista in The Abuelas as a cellist and musical consultant. Since his arrival to Chicago in 2017, he has performed with prominent Ensemble Dal Niente, is member of the 5th Wave Collective, Unconducted Orchestra, and often joins regional orchestras in the Chicagoland area. In his native Venezuela he was part of the renowned Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra, participating in five European tours and one Asian tour, and in festivals such as Salzburg Fetzspiele and Beethoven-fest, and halls like Berliner Philharmonie, and Amsterdam Concertgebouw, among others. Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra became Teresa Carreño Symphony Orchestra after a nation-wide audition, in which Juan earned a seat. He also played in Orquesta Barroca Simón Bolíva. Juan studied cello at Academia Latinoamericana de Violoncello in Caracas, and IUDEM, and Baroque Cello at the Academia Latinoamericana de Música Antígua.

CONSTANCE VOLK (Flutes) Constance Volk is a returning performer with Lookingglass for The Steadfast Tin Soldier. She performs with and is a founding member of Ensemble Dal Niente. Constance doubles on flute and vocals with Musical Bridges to Memory. She plays with Fulcrum Point New Music Project. Constance has worked with Spokane Symphony, Spektral Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Sympathy for Astronauts. She sings and flutes with Vicarious Tool Tribute. Constance also works as a visual artist in a variety of styles. Her paintings, poster art, coloring books, and portraits can be viewed at:

KATRINA HERRMANN (Stage Manager) Chicago credits: Seussical the Musical, Rock of Ages (Drury Lane Theatre); Cabaret (Theatre at the Center); The Hundred Dresses, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Mary Page Marlowe (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Royale (American Theater Company). Regional credits: Diana, Queens, The Cake, At the Old Place (La Jolla Playhouse); Twisted Melodies (Baltimore Center Stage). Off Broadway: The Flick (Barrow Street Theatre); The Flick, The Whale, The Big Meal, Completeness, The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, Kin, The Burnt Part Boys, Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons); Close Up Space (Manhattan Theatre Club); In the Wake (The Public Theater). Katrina is a proud alum of The Theatre School at DePaul University and a member of Actors’ Equity Association. For nine years during the holidays, she worked for Santa Claus at Macy’s in New York City.

LIZ ANNE LARSEN (Assistant Stage Manager) has been a part of the stage management teams at Lookingglass for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Steadfast Tin Soldier (2018 and 2019), Plantation!, and Hard Times (2017). Chicago stage management credits include Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Teatro ZinZanni—Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Court Theatre, Sideshow Theatre Company, Haven Theatre, and 16th Street Theatre. Liz is a proud graduate of Oklahoma City University, BFA. Theatre Design & Production: Stage and Production Management.

Alex Stein


Joe Dempsey and John Gregorio

About The Secret Passage

The Secret Passage is a digital membership that reveals a corridor of hidden doors. And behind each door lives an exclusive peek into the Lookingglass process. From mind-expanding artist conversations to first-ever play workshops to archival audio recordings of our former glories to discounts on classes and public Lookingglass events, the perks of the pass will cast you as a true “insider” and a key player in preserving our future.  

The Secret Passage memberships are $50, for access through August 2021, or $8 monthly. Members will receive a discount to The Steadfast Tin Soldier, along with access to the following monthly programming, plus more to be announced:

The Jungle Radio Play by Upton Sinclair, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member David Schwimmer

The Master and Margarita Radio Play, by Mikhail Bulgakov’s adapted by Artistic Director/Ensemble member Heidi Stillman, directed by Heidi Stillman and Ensemble Member David Catlin, featuring many Ensemble Members including David Schwimmer, Philip R. Smith, Joy Gregory, and our beloved friend and Steppenwolf ensemble member Mariann Mayberry. 

The Scarlet Letter Radio Play by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adapted by Ensemble Member Thomas J. Cox

Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon Developmental Workshop, a new musical by Artistic Associate Matthew C. Yee

The Hidden Door: Artist Conversations: Online conversations featuring exclusive conversations with Ensemble Members David Schwimmer, Kevin Douglas, Mary Zimmerman, Mellon Playwright in Residence J. Nicole Brooks, Anthony Fleming, Kareem Bandealy, and David Catlin, among others.  

Live Concerts: Coffeehouse and House Party, features Artistic Associates Matt Yee and Sully Ratke, with a special appearance by Ensemble Member Kareem Bandealy. House Party is an intimate concert by Ensemble Member Kasey Foster and partner Charlie Otto.

For more information on The Secret Passage, visit

About Lookingglass Theatre Company 

Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company, recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award, was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 32nd Season, Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. The Company, located in Chicago’s landmark Water Tower Water Works, has staged 70 world premieres, received 161 Joseph Jefferson Award Nominations, and produced work all across the United States. In 2016, Lookingglass received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and in 2017, was the recipient of the League of Chicago Theatres’ Artistic Achievement Award.  

 Lookingglass continues to expand its artistic, financial, and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Heidi Stillman, Executive Director Rachel L. Fink, a 29-member artistic ensemble, 22 artistic associates, an administrative staff, and a dedicated board of directors led by Chair Nancy Timmers and President Richard Chapman. For more information, visit   


Ensemble Members Anthony Irons and Kasey Foster, and Joe Dempsey