Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Lookingglass Theatre Company announces that Rachel Kraft has decided to step down as executive director after 12 years with the company. Kraft will remain at Lookingglass through the end of the calendar year as they search for a successor. Lookingglass is in the process of choosing a search firm and the search is anticipated to begin in July.
Rachel has been the executive director of Lookingglass Theatre since September 2005. During her tenure, the company and its ensemble were honored as the recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award; Best Production for Moby Dick from the Joseph Jefferson Awards in 2015; one of the first Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s grants for Commissioning and Playwriting Initiative in 2015; the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions recognizing exceptional nonprofits in 2016 along with a one million dollar grant; and the Artistic Achievement Award from the League of Chicago Theatres in 2017.
Under her leadership, the company created 29 world premieres, toured and/or co-produced nine original productions, including Lookingglass Alice, Clay, Around the World in 80 Days, Metamorphoses, The Last Act of Lilka Kadison, Treasure Island and Moby Dick. The company also twice produced the story/circus/food extravaganza, Cascabel, with partners Frontera Grill and Silverguy Entertainment and retired $500,000 in debt. Lookingglass has maintained operating surpluses seven out of the past 11 years and completed a Capacity Building Assessment (CBA) looking at critical business drivers of the company.
Board Chairman John McGowan notes, “Under Rachel’s steadfast leadership, the company has enjoyed the most stable and productive period in our history. She has built a strong staff, assisted by a very capable deputy in General Manager Michele Anderson. Rachel orchestrated a new board structure and responsibilities and was the chief architect of our CBA, which has led to critical changes and investments in our infrastructure. She has been a champion of our Ensemble and their vision while always considering that our ‘theatre without a net’ cannot be achieved by putting the company at risk. With her guidance, we look forward to identifying a new leader to guide us in our fourth decade.”
Rachel Kraft comments, “From a very young age, the arts, and specifically theatre, have been my greatest passion. After 12 years at the Goodman and 12 years at Lookingglass, I am convinced of the unique place Chicago theater occupies in our country. Lookingglass’ bold mission to develop new work, primarily from within its ensemble, while sharing with the community its values of innovation, transformation and collaboration, remains an inspiration to me. I am proud of the Lookingglass marriage of Artists, Board and Staff and how the company is not afraid to learn and change. As Lookingglass prepares for its 30th Anniversary, I look forward to supporting a smooth transition and taking a personal ‘intermission’ to consider what form my service will take in the future.”
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 29th 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 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 thousands of community members each year.
For more information, visit lookingglasstheatre.org.
12-year executive director of Lookinggass Theatre, Rachel Kraft (photo courtesy of Lookingglass Theatre).