Chicago— It’s my kind of town for theatre. From Tony award-winning plays at the Steppenwolf and Goodman to big name Broadway productions, to smaller ethnic theatres, there’s something for everyone— including kids! Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre proves this.
Follow Me Through the Lookingglass
One of my favorite family-friendly theatres in Chicago is the Lookingglass Theatre. Founded in 1988, it’s housed in the historic Old Water Tower building just off Michigan Avenue. This landmark was one of the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It’s an intimate theatre with only 220 seats, right in the heart of the Magnificent Mile. Taking in a show here is a great choice if you’re visiting the Windy City with kids.
Not Just Child’s Play
Don’t confuse it with children’s theatre, though. This is theatre using high-flying acrobatics and special effects to create a visual spectacle, with acting that’s just as impressive.
Lookingglass Theatre was founded in 1988 by 8 Northwestern University graduates, including actor David Schwimmer of “Friends” fame. In 2011, Lookingglass won the Tony award for best regional theatre, a well-deserved honor for such a creative troupe.
“Lookingglass Alice” has become one of their signature productions. It’s a whimsical take on the Lewis Carroll classic, with a flying Alice and a juggling Mad Hatter. It’s an acrobatic spectacle that’s as entertaining for adults as kids.
But not all their productions involve high-wires and circus stunts. My son and I recently saw their inventive play on how baseball became integrated. There were no acrobatic acts in “Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting”. The only agility required was a quick and clever tongue to master this terrific script.
The story of how Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson into major league baseball was masterfully acted and directed, scoring a home run with my 13 year old. I loved seeing him introduced to historical greats Paul Robeson, boxer Joe Louis and entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson through theatre. What a great history lesson! The dialogue contains some strong language, so I’d only recommend it for teenagers and up.
Step through the Lookingglass when you’re in Chicago and you’ll likely be rewarded with an engaging and memorable theatre experience!
Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist focusing on family travel. She spent many years as a writer and producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites.
A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. After giving birth to 2 beautiful children she’s had the joy of becoming a mom again through adoption. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers! Follow her on Twitter @AndreaGuthmann.