WBEZ | Eastland http://www.wbez.org/tags/eastland Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: Lookingglass plans a day of 'Eastland' remembrance http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-lookingglass-plans-day-eastland-remembrance-100982 <p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Ralphie May is back</strong></span></span> and he&#39;s performing at Zanies in St. Charles. It was also brought to my attention that the St. Charles location is at the Pheasant Run Resort. If everyone else knew and appreciated this already, I apologize for being late to the party. Anyway, the show is one-night-only on August 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; ">- Raven Theatre&#39;s welcoming new ensemble members:&nbsp;</span></span></strong>Michael Boone,&nbsp;Cathy Bowren,&nbsp;Cody Estle,&nbsp;Jason Huysman,&nbsp;Teri McCaskill,&nbsp;Sophia Menendian,&nbsp;Jen Short,&nbsp;John Weagly,&nbsp;Antione Pierre Whitfield&nbsp;and&nbsp;Kristen Williams.<strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; ">&nbsp;</span></span></strong>Additionally, ensemble member and&nbsp;Director of Education &amp; Outreach Kelli Strickland has won the DeVos Institute Fellowship. She&#39;ll be in D.C. for nine months at the Kennedy Center.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/070912_Eastland_MustClose.jpg" style="height: 137px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="" />-&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org"><strong>Lookingglass </strong></a>and the <strong>Eastland Disaster Historical Society</strong>&nbsp;are observing the anniverary of the actual Eastland disaster on July 21. &quot;The day will open with the annual wreath laying commemoration event on the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle; the cast of <em>Eastland: A New Musical</em> will perform two musical numbers during the event and the U.S. Coast Guard will lay flowers on the site.&nbsp; Following the ceremony, Lookingglass will host a reception and program, featuring speaker Alberta Adamson from the Wheaton History Center, at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave.&nbsp; Discussions will follow both the matinee and evening performances; descendants and relatives of those impacted by the disaster are expected to attend and participate.&quot; This sounds...intense.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- &quot;You can afford your own Crowns</strong></span></span>,&quot; Hot Tix tells me in an email. Cool!</p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong><span style="font-size: 14px; ">-&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tmsmail.us/t?r=1163&amp;c=507417&amp;l=119528&amp;ctl=1410847:4DE4A83246006CB44E56862546BBA083033AABF93247C536&amp;" target="_blank">The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago</a></span></strong></span>&nbsp;is opening&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.tmsmail.us/t?r=1163&amp;c=507417&amp;l=119528&amp;ctl=1410842:4DE4A83246006CB44E56862546BBA083033AABF93247C536&amp;" target="_blank">Voices of Strength</a>&nbsp;</em>in September, &quot;celebrating the stylistic diversity and talent of African women artists.&quot;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-lookingglass-plans-day-eastland-remembrance-100982 The Eastland Disaster: The Musical! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/eastland-disaster-musical-100231 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3801621382_cf8f6dbc2f_z.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 400px; " title="The Eastland Disaster Commemorative sign along the Chicago River. (Flickr/Sonny Cohen)" />The <em>Eastland</em> Disaster: All Chicagoans of a certain age (ahem, such as myself) grew up hearing about it from parents or grandparents; how, on July 24, 1915, a Lake Michigan cruise ship, overloaded with 2500 &mdash; plus passengers, tipped over while still docked in the Chicago River, killing 844 people in just 20 feet of water. Most of the dead were trapped in cabins below-decks, either drowned or crushed to death by tumbling furniture including a piano. Chicago hardly had recovered from the December 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire in which 602 people were burned, smothered or crushed to death and now, the <em>Eastland</em>.</p><p>Universally, the world still was reacting to the sinking of the <em>Titanic</em> just three years earlier. Parallels were drawn both then and now between the two maritime disasters, but they have few similarities beyond the tremendous loss of life. The <em>Titanic</em> was a 900 foot luxury vessel lost in a vast ocean on its maiden voyage, while the <em>Eastland</em> was a 265-foot lake steamer with a decade of service, docked in a modest river.</p><p>But the biggest differences are the great and ironic hubris attached to the <em>Titanic</em>, declared unsinkable, and the class struggle represented by the wealth and fame of its First Class passengers vs. the nameless immigrants in steerage. The <em>Eastland</em> had no such hubris, especially on that July day when the vast majority of its passengers were working-class employees of the enormous Western Electric works (manufacturers of all Bell Telephone equipment) and their families, on an annual company-paid holiday. The <em>Titanic</em> was glamorous, the <em>Eastland</em> was not.</p><p>It&#39;s easy to create a dramatic work about the <em>Titanic</em> with its inherent themes of mankind vs. nature or god, rich vs. poor and the choices made by passengers and crew &mdash; noble or not &mdash; in the three hours it took the ship to sink. For decades, too, there was the unreachable and unknowable wreck lying 12,000 feet under the sea. There have been at least four major motion pictures about the <em>Titanic</em>, scores of books, several plays and a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.</p><p>The <em>Eastland</em> Disaster commands none of that, as it was instantaneous and absurd, providing no time for personal drama or choices, and offering no inherent themes other than, &quot;Why, God, why?&quot; for the theologically inclined. People died because they arrived early and went below to escape the chill morning air. People lived because, like football great George Halas, they arrived late and were caught in traffic on LaSalle Street. The ship wasn&#39;t even lost: within weeks it was righted, refurbished and renamed (the <em>Wilmette</em>) and saw another 30 years of service as a training vessel at the Great Lakes Naval Base. There are a couple of books about the <em>Eastland</em>, a Chicago-based <em>Eastland</em> Disaster memorial society and now &mdash; 97 years after the event &mdash; a musical, created by the Lookingglass Theatre.</p><p>So, what kind of musical do you make out of the <em>Eastland</em> Disaster? The answer, for author Andrew White and composers Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, is a blue-collar musical; a show as unglamorous and modest and accessible as the folks who boarded and died on her.</p><p>What does that mean? For starters, don&#39;t expect a Broadway-style show with production numbers and big solo songs; they&#39;re not here. Also, don&#39;t look for a lot of precise details of the what, when, where and why variety. If you want to know that the <em>Eastland</em> was docked at Clark Street, or was one of three steamers going out that day with Western Electric employees, or was known as the Speed Queen of the Great Lakes, you&#39;ll have to Google the &quot;Eastland Disaster&quot; for such things are not the concern of <em>Eastland</em>, the world premiere musical.</p><p>Indeed, with the exception of Mara Blumenfeld&#39;s costumes in full shirtwaist/Gibson Girl mode, there&#39;s nothing about the physical production that says &quot;1915.&quot; The same holds true for the score by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, which is broadly folkloric and Appalachian in flavor. Most of the show is underscored by acoustic string instruments and piano, and the tunes don&#39;t stop to allow for applause. The contrapuntal and chorale writing is quite amazing in the few numbers (not specifically named in the program) where it reaches full flower, such as the chorus &quot;Only the river remains.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The result &mdash; and clearly the intent &mdash; is an ethereal work which frequently is moving and haunting but rarely exciting. You may leave with musical impressions but you won&#39;t hum a tune. You certainly will remember the poor boy whose body lay unclaimed for weeks, or &quot;the human frog&quot; who held his breath like Houdini to dive again and again for the quick and the dead, but you won&#39;t leave with much understanding of the event itself. Lacking the obvious themes of the<em> Titanic</em> catastrophe, there is little to understand beyond the frequently-arbitrary and unfair falling out of life.</p><p>Author White instead wants <em>Eastland</em> to reflect the connections of the blue-collar, immigrant communities of which most Western Electric employees were members. His focus is on a few real people, a few fictional ones, and the patterns of love, loss, longing and family which the disaster interrupted. In director Amanda Dehnert&#39;s effectively shadowy staging, people float before you and drift in and out of Christine A. Binder&#39;s pools of light, sometimes suspended in air (as if in water), with dripping-wet clothing hauled out of iron washtubs to represent the dead, and with the audience seated in church pews within a Chautauqua tent.</p><p><em>Eastland</em> wishes to be an elegy and not an exclamation point, an ache rather than a terrible wound, and at this it is highly successful. It continues at <a href="http://lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/eastland">Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Pumping Station through July 29</a>.</p></p> Tue, 19 Jun 2012 13:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/eastland-disaster-musical-100231 Daily Rehearsal: (Chicago) Shakespeare in the Park http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-shakespeare-park-100223 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/taming of the shrew.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Writer&#39;s Theatre has extended</strong></span></span> <a href="http://www.writerstheatre.org/boxoffice/production?id=0084"><em>A Little Night Music</em></a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/don%E2%80%99t-miss-list-may-17-23-may-musicals-and-sports-theater-99203">again</a>, but it needs to close August 12 so don&#39;t go thinking this will happen again.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/rdM_iAZN4J4" width="560"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>-&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,76,10">Chicago Shakespeare Theater</a></strong></span></span> is taking their work outdoors; they&#39;re calling their upcoming summer of free Shakespeare productions Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, without any apparent fear of litigation from the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CHMQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fshakespeareinthepark.org%2F&amp;ei=VODgT62ABoSE2QWPvqnFCw&amp;usg=AFQjCNFOxHeQjBMEyh1xoatUNz56HGANbg&amp;sig2=7GreR78XbrE8vRMG7HH-Yw">New York original</a>.&nbsp;&quot;From July 29 to August 19, a specially equipped truck will roll into each park, a stage will unfold, and a company of professional actors will perform a 75-minute production of <em>The Taming of the Shrew</em>.&quot; The program is free and being funded with grants from Boeing, BMO Harris, Sara Lee and the Chicago Shakespeare Trust. They&#39;ll start with the&nbsp;South Shore Cultural Center on July 29.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Want to know more</strong></span></span> about the story <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/eastland-disaster-99730">behind Lookingglass&#39;&nbsp;<em>Eastland</em></a>? Read this.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Cameron Esposito</strong></span></span> will be performing at Zanie&#39;s for the month of July as house MC.&nbsp;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Tue, 19 Jun 2012 11:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-shakespeare-park-100223 The 'Eastland' disaster http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/eastland-disaster-99730 <p><p>Even at its widest part, the Chicago River is not much of a river. You can walk across one of the downtown bridges in less than a minute. The water here is barely 20 feet deep. Calm, peaceful and not very dangerous.</p><p>July 24, 1915 was a Saturday. That morning the steamship <em>Eastland</em> was moored at the south bank of the river, just west of the Clark Street Bridge. The ship was scheduled to depart for a cruise to Michigan City. Most of the 2,500 passengers were employees at the Western Electric plant in Cicero, on their way to a company picnic.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--The Eastland.jpg" title="The 'Eastland' (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Boarding began at 6:30 a.m. The ship began to list to starboard. This wasn&rsquo;t unusual, and the crew took measures to balance it. &nbsp;</p><p>Shortly before 7:30, the <em>Eastland </em>cast off. After an hour of sways and straightening, the ship was now listing toward port&mdash;in this case, away from the dock. During the next few minutes the list continued. Finally, the ship simply rolled over onto its side.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/E--survivors%20and%20rescuers.jpg" title="Survivors being rescued from the hull (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>The whole thing happened so quickly. There wasn&rsquo;t time to grab life jackets, or get into the lifeboats. Many of the passengers had gone below deck to get out of the cool morning drizzle, and were trapped.</p><p>The <em>Eastland</em> settled into the mud at the bottom of the river. The hull jutted out above the water line. The ship was barely 20 feet from the dock.</p><p>Help was immediately on the scene. Some passengers had made their way to the hull of the overturned ship and jumped off into rescue boats. Others were plucked out of the river. Meanwhile, firemen clambered atop the wreck and began cutting through the hull, hoping to free those trapped below.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/E--crowds.jpg" title="Crowds behind police lines on La Salle Street (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>A total of 848 people died. Among the dead, 22 families were entirely wiped out. The <em>Eastland </em>sinking was the single deadliest disaster in Chicago history.</p><p>Someone had to take the blame. Both state and federal investigations were launched. Though the captain and some others were indicted under various charges, the cases were never brought to trial.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/E--floating morgue.jpg" title="Temporary onsite morgue (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div></div><p>The <em>Eastland</em> itself was raised, sold to the Illinois Naval Reserve, and became a training ship called the <em>Wilmette</em>. It was scrapped in 1947.</p><p>Nobody really knows what caused the <em>Eastland</em> to capsize. One story is that the passengers suddenly rushed to one side of the deck to look at something on shore, and that caused the tipping.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/E--funeral%20in%20Cicero-2.jpg" title="Funeral for Cicero couple (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>Most likely, the original design and later modifications to the<em> Eastland</em> had simply made it top-heavy. And three weeks before the tragedy, the ship had added three lifeboats and six life rafts to its upper deck. This last 12 tons of weight may have been just too much.</p><p>So in the end, we might say the <em>Eastland</em> was victim of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Those new lifeboats and life rafts had been put on board because of new federal safety regulations&mdash;which had been enacted after the sinking of the <em>Titanic</em>. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/E--raising%20steamer.jpg" title="Raising the 'Eastland' (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)" /></div></p> Tue, 19 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/eastland-disaster-99730