Play highlights real life Chicago gun violence

March 14, 2013 3:35:45 PM PDT
Real life stories from those directly impacted by gun violence have made their way to the stage in an effort to show the community that now is the time to work toward change.

You might remember Frankie Valencia. In real life, he was a DePaul University student who was gunned down after leaving a Halloween party.

On stage, he is the central figure in a web of familiar characters that help tell the story of violence in Chicago and the fight to make a difference.

Diane Latiker's efforts to curb violence in Roseland through founding the group Kids Off the Block is chronicled.

Pastor Corey Brooks is also portrayed as he spent months living on a rooftop. It's all part of a collaboration between the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and a DePaul University professor. He had his students cull stories of youth violence to craft the stage play, How Long Will I Cry.

"What we're hoping to do is give young people who watch this a sense that there is a choice but also a real sense, some of these kids already know this, a real sense that there's a real cost to this. We're just trying to measure the cost," said Miles Harvey, assistant professor, DePaul University.

The production is touring Chicago neighborhoods this week. These high school students from Christ the King caught it at the Austin branch library.

"It was really touching because it really relates to what's happening in Chicago right now," said Marcel Washington, junior at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep.

"When I heard the ages of the gang members that were involved in it, it was just devastating to me," said senior Tiszara Green. "I didn't know they were that young."

"One decision could change everything," said sophomore James Dale.

The play returns to Steppenwolf Theatre next week. Harvey hopes it will help unite the city for common cause.

"I want to get people from the North Shore and North Side thinking that this is their neighborhood," he said. "I also want to get kids from these communities feeling that they're a part of something bigger, too."

How Long Will I Cry is part of a larger initiative called Now Is the Time to Act. Nearly 20 local theatre companies have pledged to focus their programming on issues of youth violence and intolerance for the rest of the year.

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