October 4, 2023


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Lookingglass to lay off workers, set programming on maintain

4 min read

In an email to Crain’s, Artistic Director Heidi Stillman verified the reduction in total-time staff members and added: “The work opportunities affect is bigger than that,” indicating that the company will now concentrate on mounting just a single new production in the spring.

“We generally produce three exhibits a season. Future year, we will develop just one,” Stillman continued. “Theaters hire all forms of folks on a for every-clearly show basis (I guess they could be believed of as seasonal staff): actors, designers, specialists, artisans, carpenters, etcetera. When doing a three-exhibit season, we employ the service of in between 250-300 people yearly outside of our comprehensive-time workers. So a lot less get the job done for those people folks, also, with us undertaking one display.”

Regarded properly beyond the Chicago theater scene for offbeat and colourful spectacles, as very well as productions that are normally derived from vintage and historic tales, Lookingglass “is this sort of an significant artistic asset for the town,” states Greg Cameron, CEO of the Joffrey Ballet. “They do function that is so wholly unique than any other organization in Chicago, and I would say in the state, most likely the environment.”

Stillman claimed the theater has witnessed a slide off in audiences as fewer men and women venture downtown for leisure, in aspect, because of the rise of at-household work. Yet another aspect affecting the theater’s enterprise is the perceived basic safety downtown, she mentioned.

“I think there’s a perception of crime,” Stillman mentioned. “I believe it is overblown, truthfully. I’m down at the theater all the time and I do not sense fewer safe and sound than right before the pandemic.”

Although displays are paused, Lookingglass will reimagine its lobby via a renovation which is funded by an old constructing monthly bill. Stillman explained the firm will also re-assess its enterprise product and make a decision how most effective to go forward.

“We’re attempting to be more open-minded than just return to what it employed to be like before the pandemic,” Stillman explained. “It does not have to be precisely as it was before, and we’re giving ourselves the independence to definitely re-think.”

She reported a whole lot of theaters across the place are presently seeking the exact same thing — a far better and more sustainable business enterprise model.

A letter slated to go to supporters now and attained by Crain’s claimed: “It is a hard minute, but we think in unattainable factors. To make this following 12 months of transformation achievable, we are launching a public marketing campaign and are looking for to elevate an formidable $2,500,000 so we can develop into the upcoming variation of Lookingglass Theatre Business. Your aid will empower us to stabilize and emerge anew.”

Due to the fact the pandemic, theaters in Chicago and throughout the nation have struggled to bring audiences back. The pandemic has created customers weary of sitting for hours in shut proximity, and Chicago has struggled to convey patrons back again to leisure districts downtown. 

“While the pandemic has been declared around, theaters in our country are still experience the effects of needing to shut down for so lengthy,” Stillman wrote in the email to its local community and supporters. “Since re-opening, audiences and donations have not returned to 2019 stages, and the American Theatre is battling to endure.”

Lookingglass is not by yourself in battling to locate its footing since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre say ticket gross sales rebounded very last calendar year from 2021, but not adequate to restore their monetary health, as federal bucks that acquired them as a result of the worst of the pandemic are drying up.

If attendance carries on to lag pre-COVID ranges, these and other local arts establishments encounter the risk of persistent running losses that could sooner or later erode their ability to supply the world-class ordeals audiences assume or power them to pause productions like the Lookingglass. Business observers say the scenario reveals the obsolescence of a longstanding economic model that relies on a mixture of ticket subscriptions and philanthropy to bankroll productions and exhibitions.

“The pandemic has exacerbated downward trends and shifts in the organization design in our market,” Claire Rice, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois, the state’s major arts advocacy team, instructed Crain’s. “We just can not count on these very same designs like we did ahead of the pandemic.”

Roche Schulfer, Goodman’s executive director and CEO, has taken care of the need to make extra capital available for the American theater marketplace. 

“The business does not have significant endowments or operating capital to attract from, so you happen to be operating calendar year to 12 months on your contributions and ticket product sales, and if you get a strike on a person or both of them, you might be in difficulties,” he said.

And Schulfer hopes elected officials will get recognize. 

“I wish on the federal, condition and local stage, there was a increased recognition that this evolution is likely on and the money difficulties that people are going through,” he claimed. 

Cameron claimed this is an inflection stage for Lookingglass’s restoration submit-pandemic — and for the wider Chicago cultural group. 

“What comes about to a person of our arts organizations, to me, it impacts all of us,” Cameron explained. “We have to lean in and we have to be supportive and we have to take a look at existing channels to help peers.”

Launched in 1988 by graduates of Northwestern University — such as David Schwimmer, who went on to get fame as a solid member of the strike Television set clearly show “Mates” — Lookingglass moved into Chicago’s old Water Tower pumping station in 2003. The enterprise gained a Tony Award for Excellent Regional Theatre in 2011.

The Chicago Tribune was 1st to report the information.

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