David Catlin, a founding member of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, will come to the Woodstock Opera House Feb. 16 as part of the Woodstock Fine Arts Association’s Creative Living Series.
An actor, director, playwright and Northwestern University instructor, Catlin was instrumental in establishing Lookingglass nearly 30 years ago alongside seven other undergraduates in Northwestern’s theater department. The world-renowned theater company has produced more than 50 world premieres, many of them with a foundation in literature. The company’s first performance was a version of “Alice in Wonderland” inspired by Andre Gregory and the Manhattan Project. The company took its name from the sequel to “Alice in Wonderland,” “Through the Looking Glass.”
As a founding member of the company, Catlin has been involved in many productions over the years, but he said a few favorites stand out. The company’s first production of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” in the early 1990s was directed by David Schwimmer and was an immediate hit, leading to a story in the arts section of the Chicago Tribune and grant funding for the fledgling company. Mary Zimmerman directed a production of “Arabian Nights,” one of Catlin’s favorite stories, during the Gulf War years, when the culture of western Asia had taken on a negative connotation, he said.
Catlin said the play gave actors and audiences “more empathy for the world and appreciation of the stories.”
The company’s current production is “Moby Dick,” which requires the audience to practice the suspension of disbelief and imagine themselves on a 19th-century whaling expedition. Catlin said he hopes “everyone leaves the theater wondering what their Moby Dick is — driving them even past the point of passion to obsession.”
Catlin will speak about his experiences in the theater at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St. Tickets are $25.