Lookingglass Theatre Company, in collaboration with WBEZ 91.5 Chicago, presents a World Premiere audio play of Her Honor Jane Byrne, written and directed by Ensemble Member and Mellon Playwright in Residence J. Nicole Brooks. Her Honor Jane Byrne will air on Chicago’s NPR news station WBEZ 91.5 FM and wbez,org on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26 from 11am-1pm CT and Saturday, November 28 from 2pm-4pm CT.
Chicago is “The City That Works”—but does it work for everybody? It’s 1981, the city’s simmering pot of neglected problems boils over, and Chicago’s first woman mayor is moving into Cabrini-Green. Is this just a P.R. stunt, or will it bring the City together? For the next three weeks, residents, activists, media, the “Machine,” and the Mayor herself will collide as the City’s raw truths are exposed. Tune in to find out who will come out on top in Lookingglass Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks’ bold new work, Her Honor Jane Byrne?
Her Honor Jane Byrne premiered on the Lookingglass stage in March 2020 just five days before the Theatre had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lookingglass Theatre Company has partnered with WBEZ, Chicago’s National Public Radio Station, to present Her Honor Jane Byrne as a radio play.
The cast features Ensemble Members Christine Mary Dunford (Jane Byrne), Thomas J. Cox (Alderman Roti, Swibel, Photographer, Evidence Tech) and Tracy Walsh (Reporter, Kathy, Claudia) with Robert Cornelius (Black Che, Seller), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Tiger, Rival Kid), Renee Lockett (Mabel Foley), Frank Nall (O’Donnell, Jay McMullen, Daley, Spilotro), Josh Odor (Superintendent Brzcek, Tavern Owner, Bodyguard, Pilot, Host), Taron Patton (Marion Stamps), Willie “Mudlife Roc” Round (Kid, Tral).
The creative team includes Michael Huey (composer), Christopher M. LaPorte (sound designer), Artistic Associate Wendy Mateo (associate director) Jason K. Martin (dialect specialist), Sarah Burnham (production manager), Jeremy Phillips (production assistant) and Ensemble Member Philip R. Smith (casting).
“Our play joins history to myth. Some of it is dramatic interpretation, and some of it is real,” comments J. Nicole Brooks. “When you grow up in a city that’s hyper segregated, run amuck with corruption, and political stunts and discord, you have to work hard to love it. I love the city of Chicago. I love the history. I’m fascinated by ethnic clans. I’m curious about patronage, councils, aldermen, and committeemen. Who gets elected and how? Who gets to lead us, and will they actually listen to us? Though I was very little, I can remember when it was announced that Mayor Jane Byrne was moving into Cabrini-Green. Can she stop the violence? Well, no one person can. Here we are decades later, asking the same questions. I hope our audiences walk away with a bit of the past, so they may know how to shape our future.”
““It was devastating to close Her Honor Jane Byrne last Spring just after it opened. A play takes years of work to get it to the point of production, and this play was speaking directly to our city about our city. So we are thrilled and grateful to WBEZ for giving us a new platform to share J. Nicole Brooks’ timely and brilliant play in its new audio form,” comments Artistic Director Heidi Stillman. “Over the past months since the show closed, it’s subject matter has only become more relevant. Her Honor Jane Byrne is ambitious, timely, and an important piece of work about the way geography, race and inequality line up in Chicago – and how choices made in the past are still playing out in our city today.”
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The following sponsors generously supported the premiere of Her Honor Jane Byrne on the Lookingglass stage last spring: Production Sponsors—National Endowment for the Arts and Edgerton Foundation; Lead Sponsors—Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime; Production Support—Leigh and Henry Bienen, Linda Karn, Rachel E. Kraft and Douglas R. Brown, and Abbie Roth.
About the Artists
J. NICOLE BROOKS (Playwright/Director/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is an actor, playwright, and director. Recent theatrical credits include Lottery Day (Goodman Theatre), Beyond Caring (Lookingglass Theatre Company), and Immediate Family (Mark Taper Forum, Goodman Theatre). Directing credits at Lookingglass include: Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure (co-directed with Krissy Vanderwarker), Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting, and Black Diamond. J. Nicole is author of Fedra: Queen of Haiti, Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten, The Incredible Adventures of Yuri Kochiyama, HeLa, and Her Honor Jane Byrne.
ROBERT CORNELIUS (Black Che, Seller) is making his Lookingglass Theatre debut with the world premiere of Her Honor Jane Byrne. Other Chicago credits include the world premiere of Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre; The Total Bent at Haven Theatre in association with About Face Theatre; Rightlynd, Spiele 36, On the Block and Whitley at Victory Gardens Theater; Picnic with American Theatre Company, W;t with The Hypocrites, Raisin with Court Theatre, Taming of the Shrew at First Folio Theatre, Hamlet at The Gift Theatre, and Aida at Drury Lane Theatre. Regionally, Robert has worked at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Madison Repertory Theatre, Montana Repertory Theatre, and St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre. Film/TV credits include: Chicago PD, South Side, Shameless, Hoodlum, and The Chi.
THOMAS J. COX (Alderman Roti, Swibel, Photographer, Evidence Tech/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) most recently appeared at Lookingglass in 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. A founding Ensemble Member, Thom has appeared in many productions since 1988, including: Cascabel, The Jungle, The Odyssey, West, The Arabian Nights, The Master and Margarita, The Great Fire, Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day, 1984, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Peter Pan (A Play). Regionally, he has appeared at Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, The House Theatre of Chicago, Court Theatre, The Gift Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Most recently, Thom was seen in Bernhardt/Hamlet and A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Writers Theatre). TV/Film: Brotherhood (Showtime), Chicago Fire (NBC), Since You’ve Been Gone (Miramax).
CHRISTINE MARY DUNFORD (Jane Byrne/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) has appeared in nearly two dozen Lookingglass productions. Christine’s three most recent productions include Blood Wedding, Trust, and Our Town. For Lookingglass’ 25th Anniversary Season in 2013, she directed her own original adaptation (Jeff nominated) of Still Alice, based on the book by Lisa Genova, which has been translated into multiple languages and is being produced in small theatres across the world. Over the years Christine has served the company as managing director and director of development, and she co-founded and taught with Lookingglass’ Education and Community program. Christine is Director of the School of Theatre and Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and she co-founded and helps run the Memory Ensemble—a partnership between Lookingglass and Northwestern’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC)—that uses improvisational performance activities to improve life for people with memory loss.
NICOLE MICHELLE HASKINS (Tiger, Rival Kid) is making her Lookingglass debut! Acting credits include: The Color Purple (Drury Lane Theatre), U.S. Premiere of Hopelessly Devoted (Piven Theatre Workshop, Jeff nomination: Best Actor in a Play), Caroline, or Change (Firebrand Theatre, Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination: Best Supporting Actress in a Musical), Spitfire Grill (Refuge Theatre Project, Jeff Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress in a Musical), World Premiere of HeLa (Sideshow Theatre Company); Music Man, Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1,2 & 3, and How to Catch Creation (Goodman Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions, Jeff Award nomination: Best Supporting Actress in a Musical), Parade (Writers Theatre), and RENT (Theo Ubique Caberet Theatre). Proudly represented by Shirley Hamilton. School at Steppenwolf Acting Fellow 2014, Associate Artist with Black Lives, Black Words, International Theatre Collective, and MOSAIC Youth Theatre of Detroit Alum.
RENEE LOCKETT (Mabel Foley) is making her Lookingglass debut. Last seen in First Floor Theater’s Jeff recommended Sugar in our Wounds. Other Chicago credits include: Familiar (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Jeff nomination: Ensemble), Surely, Goodness and Mercy (Redtwist Theatre, Jeff nomination: Performer in a Drama, Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination: Best Actress), A Wonder in My Soul (Victory Gardens Theater), Crowns (Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination: Best Ensemble). Renee has also worked with Babes with Blades, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Prologue Theatre, Collaboraction Theatre Company, Three Cat Productions, Black Ensemble Theater, ETA Creative Arts, and Black Lives, Black Words. Renee is an ensemble member of MPAACT and an Artistic Associate with Black Lives, Black Words. Most recent Film credits include: The Plow and Freelancers Anonymous, as well as TV roles on The Chi and a recurring guest star role on Comedy Central’s South Side. Renee is represented by DDO Artists Agency.
FRANK NALL (O’Donnell, Jay McMullen, Daley, Spilotro) is making his Lookingglass debut in this powerful piece by J. Nicole Brooks. A member of the Artistic Home Ensemble, Frank was last seen in their production of Vanya on the Plains as Elijah. Other Chicago credits include: Frankenstein (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Jeff Award winner) and Traitor as Howard (A Red Orchid Theatre, Jeff Award winner). Film and TV credits include: the CNN reporter from Spygame, Transplant surgeon on Empire, Carlisle on Boss, and assorted commercials. Frank has an MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign.
JOSH ODOR (Superintendent Brzcek, Tavern Owner, Bodyguard, Pilot, Host) is working with Lookingglass for the first time. Chicago credits include: To Catch a Fish and Blood and Gifts (TimeLine Theatre), El Grito del Bronx (Goodman Theatre/Collaboraction Theatre Company), Oorah! (Steppenwolf Theatre Company/LiveWire Chicago), Scientific Method and The Firebirds Take the Field (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Welcome to Jesus (American Theater Company), Moment, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui (Steep Theatre), You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Life On Paper (Jackalope Theatre), Hit the Wall (The Inconvenience), Winterset (Griffin Theatre), The Nutcracker (The House Theatre of Chicago) and Sweet Bird of Youth and The Time of Your Life (The Artistic Home). Regionally Josh has worked at the Long Wharf Theatre. TV/ Film credits: The Chi, Chicago Med/PD/Fire, Boss, Betrayal, Janie Jones, Empire, and The Express.
TARON PATTON (Marion Stamps) returns to the stage in Her Honor Jane Byrne. Producer credits includes: N (Greenhouse Theater Center) and Misty Tanner (Q&A Productions). Directing credits: N (Greenhouse Theater Center) Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (Steppenwolf Garage Rep), Bulrusher and Nativity Tribute (Congo Square Theatre). Acting credits: Meet Vera Stark (Goodman Theatre), Hot L Baltimore (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Bluest Eye (Steppenwolf Theatre Company and New Victory Theater), King Hedley II (Congo Square Theatre), and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Goodman Theatre). Television credits: The Chi, Empire, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, A Different World.
WILLIE "MUDLIFE ROC" ROUND (Kid, Tral) is a songwriter, playwright, videographer, mentor, and hip-hop artist hailing from the West Side of Chicago, who has performed across the country and opened for Grammy Award-winning artist Lil Wayne as well as Gucci Mane. He does extensive outreach in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago (also known as “The Holy City”) and has mentored inner city youth as part of the College Mentoring Experience, as well as his own youth movement called MUD LIFE (Motivating the Urban to be Determined). He holds a B.A. in Communications, Radio, and Television Broadcasting from Central State University. His play Broke Down Drone (also co-written with G. Riley Mills) played during the 2019 Peacebook.
TRACY WALSH (Reporter, Kathy, Claudia/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is a Lookingglass Ensemble Member where she has performed in, choreographed, directed, and written many plays on the Main Stage and for the Lookingglass Young Ensemble. In recent seasons at Lookingglass, Tracy provided dances for The Steadfast Tin Soldier, wrote, directed, and choreographed Cassandra for the Young Ensemble, provided intimacy choreography for Beyond Caring, movement for Acts of God, and choreographed Blood Wedding. She appeared in and choreographed Iphigenia in Aulis (Court Theatre/Getty Villa in Los Angeles), choreographed Agamemnon (Court Theatre) and appeared in and choreographed Electra (Court Theatre). Other Chicago choreography credits include: Arcadia and All’s Well that Ends Well (The Goodman Theatre), The Jewel Box and Don Giovanni (Chicago Opera Theatre), Carmen (Court Theatre) and the Napoleonade (Eclipse Theatre Company). Tracy and her husband own and teach at Lighthouse Yoga in Evanston.
Her Honor Jane Byrne will air on Chicago’s NPR news station WBEZ 91.5 FM and wbez,org.
Title: Her Honor Jane Byrne
Written and Directed by: Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks
Featuring: Ensemble Members Christine Mary Dunford, Thomas J. Cox and Tracy Walsh with Robert Cornelius, Nicole Michelle Haskins, Renee Lockett, Frank Nall, Josh Odor, Taron Patton, and Willie “Mudlife Roc” Round.
Creative Team: Michael Huey (composer), Christopher M. LaPorte (sound designer), Artistic Associate Wendy Mateo (associate director) Jason K. Martin (dialect specialist), Sarah Burnham (production manager), Jeremy Phillips (production assistant) and Ensemble Member Philip R. Smith (casting).
Dates: Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26 from 11am-1pm CT and Saturday, November 28 from 2pm-4pm CT.
Also happening online with Lookingglass
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. An Opening Night Livestream will take place December 1, 2020 at 6:30PM Central. Opening night is $75 and includes a pre-show event with live music hosted by Ensemble Member Kasey Foster, who plays the Ballerina in The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Following the show, Artistic Producer Kareem Bandealy will host a Q&A with Adaptor/Director and Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman, Co-Sound Designer, Composer and Ensemble Member Andre Pluess, and Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic.
Tickets are on sale now at www.lookingglasstheatre.org.
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.
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 Sneek Peek, 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 lookingglasstheatre.org/secret-passage
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 lookingglasstheatre.org.
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Beyoncé, Making Obama and Making Oprah; an investigative podcast series, Motive; 16 Shots: A podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Curious City. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.