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

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