Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale

January 24, 2008 11:16:45 AM PST
What do you get when you combine an ancient Greek story and a troupe of talented circus performers? If you're Lookingglass Theatre Company, you'll have a hit show. Lookingglass has brought back Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale as part of its 20th Anniversary Season. The show was a sell-out hit when Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman created it three years ago. The current production has already been extended through March 9 at the theater inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.

Co-director Hernandez, also plays the title role. He's a veteran circus performer who built the show around elite circus performers from around the world, including veteran members of the Wallenda Family, Ringling Bros. and Cirque du Soleil. Evocative storytelling, amazing athleticism and high levels of circus artistry are hallmarks of the production. According to ancient tale, Hephaestus was born weak, disfigured and crippled. Displeased by the sight of her son, the goddess Hera cast Hephaestus from the heavens, and he fell for an entire day before landing in the sea. On Earth, Hephaestus became a great artist, fashioning metal into beautiful works of art. Combining elements of circus, theatre, live music and dance, Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale follows the god of the forge as he encounters sea nymphs, creates men out of steel and falls in love with the most beautiful goddess of all.

"The return of Hephaestus to Lookingglass celebrates both the Theatre's 20th Anniversary Season and its commitment to producing dynamic and daring physical works," says Lookingglass Artistic Associate and Hephaestus co-conceiver Tony Hernandez. "Hephaestus is a both beautiful, and literal, example of theatre without a net."

High wire walking, hand balancing, drumming, hula hooping, juggling and many other amazing aerial acts are performed by a world-class acrobatic cast assembled specifically for this production. Featured cast members include Abigail Droeger (Narrator) last seen at Lookingglass in The Wooden Breeks; Lookingglass Artistic Associate and Hephaestus co-conceiver Tony Hernandez (Hephaestus); award-winning, second-generation circus performer Almas Meirmanov (Ares); cloudswing artist Anna Vigeland (Iris / Doria); seventh generation member of the world renowned Wallenda Family Lijana Wallenda-Hernandez (Hera / Doriana); and Barrel of Monkeys company member Rani Waterman (Dorice). New cast members include Anna Stankus (Aphrodite / Thetis); NCAA World Champion Gymnast Richie Maguire (gymnast); Flying Griffin Circus member Rick Kubes (percussion); and Jarrett Daiper in his Lookingglass debut performance (percussion).

The design team includes Brian Sidney Bembridge (set, lights), Lijana Wallenda-Hernandez (costumes), Josh Horvath (co-sound, composer), Ray Nardelli (co-sound, composer), Kevin O'Donnell (composer, drum captain) and Andre Pluess (composer). The stage manager is Patia Bartlett.

Tony Hernandez (creator, co-director, co-writer, co-producer) also played the title role in the 2005 Lookingglass production of Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale. He is a company member of Lookingglass, and works on staff as the Lookingglass Mediagrapher. This is Tony's 11th production with Lookingglass; other onstage credits include Lookingglass Alice, (Chicago, NYC, NJ) The Baron in the Trees, La Luna Muda, Nelson Algren: For Keeps & A Single Day (film), Hard Times (Chicago & Philadelphia) and The Yuki & Bruno Show (outreach). Lookingglass production credits include Her Name Was Danger (choreography & Stunts), The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World (shadow puppets & media) and 1984 (media). Hernandez met his wife Lijana Wallenda when they were child circus performers in Florida, at ages 9 and 7 respectively. They married in 1998. Hernandez has since performed on numerous occasions as part of the Wallenda Family, including a 2001 eight-person Wallenda Family pyramid high-wire walk in Kurashiki, Japan noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Heidi Stillman (co-director) is an actress, writer, director and ensemble member. She most recently directed Lookingglass' Wooden Breeks, Hillbilly Antigone and Hard Times in Philadelphia. Other directing credits with Lookingglass include Hard Times and The Master and Margarita, co-directed with David Catlin. Adaptation credits include Hard Times, The Baron in the Trees, co-adapted with Larry DiStasi, and The Master and Margarita. Stillman was last seen on stage at Lookingglass in The Secret in the Wings. She has performed at the Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Remains Theatre in Chicago, and Second Stage Theatre in New York. Heidi has served as Artistic Director and currently serves as the Director of Artistic Development at Lookingglass.

Tickets are $30 - $60 and are available through the Lookingglass box office, 821 N. Michigan Ave., at Pearson, by phone (312) 337-0665 or at lookingglasstheatre.org. Discounted parking is available for Lookingglass patrons at nearby Olympia Centre Garage (161 E. Chicago Ave.). Target Saturday Matinees (buy one, get one free tickets are available to all 3 pm Saturday matinees.) This program is made possible with the generous support of Target, working with Lookingglass to make the arts accessible to all.

About Lookingglass Theatre Company

Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 20th anniversary 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. Lookingglass has staged nearly 50 world premieres at 23 venues across Chicago, and garnered 39 Joseph Jefferson Awards and Citations. Its work has toured to New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford and St. Louis. The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003. In addition to developing and presenting ensemble work, Lookingglass Education and Community programs encourage creativity, teamwork and confidence with more than 15,000 students each year.