TimeLine Theatre Company, in partnership with the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation and the Chicago Teachers Union, will present a reading of John Conroy’s play My Kind of Town in support of curriculum that teaches Chicago Public school students about the police torture scandal that plagued Chicago for more than three decades, focusing on learning about abuse of government power and violation of the public trust and empowering students to be agents of change. The reading will take place on Monday, April 29 at 11 a.m. at Chicago Teachers Union, 1901 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago, for an audience of approximately 300 students from four schools, and their teachers.
Guest speakers at the event will include playwright and veteran investigative journalist John Conroy, and Darrell Cannon, a survivor who was picked up and tortured by Burge’s detectives in 1983 and spent 24 years in prison before being released in 2007.
The reading is part of the Chicago Teachers Union effort to support teachers with fulfilling curriculum requirements, titled “Reparations Won: A Case Study in Police Torture, Racism, and the Movement for Justice in Chicago,” created in response to the reparations package passed by the City of Chicago in 2015. It teaches all 8th and 10th graders about Jon Burge, former Chicago police commander who, along with officers working under his command, has been accused by more than 100 African-Americans of torturing and physically abusing them while they were in police custody in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Activists in Chicago’s black community worked for many years to uncover the scandal, to curtail the torture program, to seek justice for survivors, and to gain public acknowledgment of the systemic nature of these abuses, eventually winning an unprecedented series of state and local government responses. After working for months with African American community leaders, civil rights advocates, law enforcement, academic researchers and the Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department unveiled the curriculum in 2017.
My Kind of Town puts a human face on the police torture scandal. Conroy covered the story as it unfolded, often in the pages of the Chicago Reader, challenging public indifference to become one of the leading voices drawing attention to the charges. My Kind of Town is his passionate, groundbreaking drama revolving around one imprisoned man’s fight for justice, inspired by the stories of numerous victims, police officers, prosecutors and families whose lives have been poisoned by the allegations. With interlocking storylines that humanize the play’s issues of corruption and responsibility, My Kind of Town sets the stage for a conversation about today’s culture of law and order.
TimeLine presented the play’s world premiere in May 2012, when its story was acclaimed as being “told with spellbinding power” by Time magazine. The Chicago Tribune wrote that the drama “gripped its audience” and that “despite the moral force of this play, and the explosiveness of its content, the tone is strikingly careful and balanced.” And Time Out Chicagosaid that “My Kind of Town is an important play, one that successfully depicts the complicated ecosystem in which men and women who’ve sworn to serve and protect the citizenry can become its greatest oppressors.”
“We’re proud to host this very special opportunity for students to experience this story of torture and survival,” said Jennifer Johnson, Chief of Staff for the Chicago Teachers Union. “It’s such an important moment to be able to engage with survivors who are still here and able to tell their stories themselves. We believe that these kinds of experiences are critical to supporting the curriculum and ensuring that it is taught in all of our Chicago Public Schools. We are grateful that survivor Darrell Cannon and John Conroy—whose journalistic work was critical to the fight for justice—will be present and able to guide students through the stage reading.”
“My Kind of Town provides a different lens to look at the torture scandal and the community activism that resulted in the reparations,” said Juliet Hart, director of TimeLine’s Living History Education Program. “It is a complicated look at human nature and the fabric of the City of Chicago. Living History is honored to be a small part of bringing the Reparations Won curriculum to life.”
The April 29 reading will be directed by TimeLine Associate Artistic Director Nick Bowling and will feature much of the original cast from its world premiere, including TimeLine Company Members Charles Andrew Gardner and David Parkes and TimeLine Associate Artist Danica Monroe, with Carolyn Hoerdemann, Maggie Kettering, and A.C. Smith. Joining them will be TimeLine Company Member Tyla Abercrumbie, Tony Garcia, and Kenneth Johnson.
ABOUT TIMELINE’S LIVING HISTORY EDUCATION PROGRAM
Founded in 2006, the Living History Education Program brings TimeLine’s mission to Chicago Public Schools, working with students on creative exercises related to historically inspired stories on TimeLine’s stage and elsewhere in literature. During arts integration residencies of six to 13 sessions, students explore connections between history, art and their own lives, developing critical thinking and communication skills. TimeLine currently partners with nine schools to present the program.
In 2018, Living History piloted a new program, TimeLine South—a unique arts program that provides teens a safe space for self-expression, creativity, and ensemble building on the south side of Chicago. Offered free of charge for six weeks during the summer, TimeLine South promotes leadership in the arts and teaches teens that theatre can also be a vehicle for social justice.
Major supporters of Living History include The Crown Family, JoAnne Dobrick, Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, John and Jessica Fullerton, Michael and Mona Heath, A.L. and Jennie L. Luria Foundation, Robert and Eleanor Meyers, Polk Bros. Foundation, and multiple anonymous contributors, as well as the donors to TimeLine’s Annual Fund and Step Into Time gala.
ABOUT TIMELINE THEATRE COMPANY
TimeLine Theatre Company, recipient of the prestigious 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, was founded in April 1997 with a mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today's social and political issues. Now in its 22nd season, TimeLine has presented 78 productions, including 10 world premieres and 34 Chicago premieres, and launched the Living History Education Program. Recipient of the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence and the Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award from the Association for Strategic Planning, TimeLine has received 54 Jeff Awards, including an award for Outstanding Production 11 times.
Now playing at TimeLine is the Chicago premiere of Too Heavy for Your Pocket by Jiréh Breon Holder, a play about the intersection of family, responsibility, and progress at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, directed by TimeLine Company Member Ron OJ Parson, through June 29, 2019.
For more information, visit timelinetheatre.com or Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@TimeLineTheatre).
ABOUT THE CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION
AND CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION FOUNDATION
The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at ctulocal1.org.
The Chicago Teachers Union Foundation (CTUF) is the philanthropic arm of the Chicago Teachers Union whose mission is to develop networks that advance education for students, advocate for teachers, and resource under-served communities through student scholarships, professional development, and grant making. CTUF advocates for policies centered on public education such as restorative practices and career and technical education by collaborating with community organizations and external partnerships.
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