Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-12-12
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



THEATER 'A Blue Island in the Red Sea' tackles Chicago's racist history
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Catey Sullivan

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Here's a piece of rarely taught Chicago history: Wrigley Field was built by one of the nation's foremost Ku Klux Klan ( KKK ) members.

Charles Weeghman built the field and named it after himself, opening it for baseball in 1914. Weeghman also organized the first KKK rally in Illinois, presiding over a crowd of some 12,000 Klansmen.

If you've never heard of Chicago's baseball-Klan connection, you aren't alone.

"I was stunned," says Collaboraction Theatre Artistic Director Anthony Moseley of learning Weegham's involvement in America's pastime and the Ku Klux Klan. "And then I was, like, 'Why aren't we taught this'?"

With A Blue Island in the Red Sea, Collaboraction presents a docudrama's worth of often hidden history. Going back to the Native American Potawatomi and continuing through the current revival of white nationalism, the production explores the legacy and the causes of racism in Chicago.

"This play opened my eyes," said cast member Shannon Leigh Webber. "For now, I feel like white people need to shut up and listen. We have a tendency to apologize and ask what we should do to be better. But it's not anybody's job to educate us on how to be better. We need to hear other peoples' stories. We need to listen."

Overt racism is hard to miss, Moseley said. Drive through food deserts and past the closed schools that mark some of the city's primarily African American neighborhoods, and it becomes clear that racism is alive and well, systemic and institutionalized and as much a part of the city's history as the Great Fire.

Chicago, Moseley added, pioneered the practice of red-lining in real estate, which effectively kept some neighborhoods off limits to anyone who wasn't white. In 1919, race riots lasted for a week after 17-year-old Eugene Williams was stoned to death for swimming in a "whites only" section of Lake Michigan. And in 1966, Martin Luther King told local reporters that "I have never seen—even in Mississippi and Alabama—mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I've seen here in Chicago."

For Collaboraction Managing Director Dr. Marcus Robinson, moving to Englewood after 13 years in Michigan was a ground-level way to effect change.

"I felt I should go where the pain was," Robinson said. "Most people try to leave areas like Englewood. I decided to swim against that tide. I feel like 99 percent of helping is showing up. That's what I'm trying to do. Going shoulder to shoulder with people who have lived their their whole lives here, trying together to have an impact."

Robinson's work with the Resident Association of Greater Englewood dovetails with his Collaboraction duties. With degrees in music and hypnotherapy, he's spent decades heading up organizations including The Consortium of Community Development and Citizens for ProgressiveChange, Inc. He's also the founder of the Social Innovation Group, which helps clients create inclusive cultures that yield optimal results and high work performance.

Theater can be an effective tool in fighting societal ills, Robinson said. "Theater provides us with the opportunity to learn, to have a deep introspection about issues that really matter. Things like post-show discussions or talkbacks, they can motivate people to activism," he said.

In its early stages, A Blue Island in the Red Sea was comprised of some 20 hours of rehearsal footage as the performers culled through facts, anecdotes and interviews to shape the story. Ultimately, Moseley and his cast came up with a two-act structure that tracks Chicago's history through the lens of a newly opened museum on racism.

"This idea that we're the friendly, jovial, progressive City of Big Shoulders—that's not accurate," Moseley said. "In the South, racism is overt. Here? We're not as obvious, and that's scary to me. It's this invisible thing that is in us. And by us, I mean me as well. As a loud, dare I say sometimes charming white man, I have had huge privilege in my life. And for years, I've been complicit in keeping it that way. My own family made a lot of money in Chicago real estate, because of their privilege. But once you see things, once you know, it's your responsibility to make change."

For Webber, that responsibility gets to the core of creating a drama that is at once utterly compelling and a call to action—or at least awareness.

"People say that theater is a hobby. Frivolous. Not important," Webber said. "But pieces like this? They are important. It's a powerful way to engage."

A Blue Island in the Red Sea runs April 12-May 20 in the Flatiron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $15-$30 ( $5-$15 for students ); visit .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

The Play That Goes Wrong 2018-12-12 - Playwright: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields At: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets: . Runs through: Dec. 16. ...

Gay News

Hedwig' tour in Chicago in 2019 2018-12-12 - John Cameron Mitchell—the Tony-winning, Golden Globe-nominated co-creator of Hedwig & the Angry Inch—will bring his rock spectacle to the United States for the ...

Gay News

The Second City 107th Mainstage Revue, Algorithm Nation or The Static Quo 2018-12-11 - Writers: Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn At: The Second City Mainstage, 1616 N. Wells ...

Gay News

T.R. Knight talks about upcoming 'Dream' role 2018-12-11 - T.R. Knight might still be best known for his five-season run as Dr. George O'Malley on ABC's Grey's Anatomy—and for the infamous 2007 ...

Gay News

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins 2018-12-10 - Author: Michael Daily, from the book by Eric Kimmel At: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Tickets:; $20-$25. Runs through: Jan. 5 ...

Gay News

The Santaland Diaries 2018-12-10 - Playwright: Steve Scott, adapted from the essay by David Sedaris At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets: $15-45; . Runs through: ...

Gay News

Critics' Picks 2018-12-10 - Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque, ( Sub )version Productions at Reggie's Music Joint, through Dec. 26. Fan-dancing snowflakes, a glass-eating "Calavera Catrina" and a ...

Gay News

Stomp 2018-12-10 - By: Luke Cresswell and Steve MacNicholas At: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St.. Tickets:; $39-$84. Runs through: Dec. ...

Gay News

Les Miserables comes to Cadillac Palace Theatre July 2019 2018-12-10 - CHICAGO ( December 10, 2018 ) Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, Les Miserables, will ...

Gay News

Twelfth Night 2018-12-10 - Playwright: William Shakespeare At: Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe. Tickets: 847-242-6000;; $35-$80. Runs through: Dec. 16 In Shakespeare's mostly rollicking ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.