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New play confronts violence in Chicago

Three months into 2013, Chicago has endured over 60 murders. Chicago citizens have voiced their anger over the city’s violence with campaigns, and President Barack Obama visited the city’s South Side to speak to civilians about gun control.

A Chicago theater group is taking a different approach to speak out about the violence that is plaguing the city. A non-for profit creative theater group, Collaboraction, developed the play, Crime Scene: An Anthology. The play is developed as a response to the killings throughout the city.

“Going into production, we started asking all the questions that we as citizens need to ask,” said Crime Scene’s director Anthony Moseley.

Moseley along with other members of Collaboraction has created a cast that is passionate about tackling the complex Chicago violence.

“We got some people who are living their lives looking to be part of the solution,” explained Moseley. Casting for the play was based on the actors’ willingness to be “open hearted warriors of peace.” The cast consists of teachers, activists, artists, and community leaders. Moseley made sure that the cast studied up on Chicago’s history, with it being a huge emphasis in the play.

The cast was put through eight weeks of workshop and rehearsing after Moseley decided on whom he wanted to play which roles.

Actor Michael Johnson, 23, feels as if the play is speaking directly to Chicago. Johnson, who grew up in Englewood, believes that the play is timely to what is going on in the city.

“Chicagoans are willing and ready to have this conversation and we need to have this adult conversation without sugar coating it,” he said.

The style of the play is brash and direct with profanity, as well as depictions of violence. The play takes three real life notorious Chicago crimes and creates a portrayal of them. The play follows the story of Orlando Patterson, a 12-year-old who was killed in a case of mistaken identity; it also brings the story of slain aspiring Chicago rapper, Lil Jojo, who was murdered in early September of last year. Police investigated whether the murder had ties to a notable gang dispute with the Black Disciples street gang. Fellow Chicago rapper, Keith Cozart, known as Chief Keef in the hip hop community, had allegedly sent offensive tweets from his Twitter account mocking the death of JoJo. Cozart has denied these charges.

The play ends on the story of Natasha Mcshane, who was brutally beaten on her way to her Bucktown home by an assailant with a baseball bat. After two years, McShane is still confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak.

The play relies on just the acting and the visuals of videos of historic violence that has taken place within the city. There is an outline of a map of the city on the floor and a dark ambiance that captures the mood of the play with lights brightening up towards the end of the final scenes. “Let Hope Rise”, an original song performed by cast member Victoria Blade, became the central theme, as the play spends many moments cycling through the complexities of crime and the redemption of it’s characters.

Crime Scene addresses elements like racism, peer pressure, gangs, and poverty that contribute to the violence in the city.

Actress Medina Perine, believes that Crime Scene can reveal some insight into the city and its youth.

“Some people don’t even care anymore. It’s just like, ‘that’s how it is’. But to hear people say, ‘I’m going to donate’ or ‘I’m going to bring my friend to see this,’ that’s awareness that’s getting closer to revealing a solution,” Perine said.

Moseley chose to have a discussion about violence in the city after every show. Audience members get a chance to voice how they feel about the issue and also get a sense of what may be increasing the violence.

Since the play opened on February 14, Crime Scene has been getting an abundance of press. The show, which was originally slated to end on March 10, has been extended to April 7.

The show is taking place at the Flat Iron Arts Building, located at 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Moseley wants to collaborate with Chicago’s Park District to bring Crime Scene to the parks and extend it to schools and cultural centers. Moseley is hoping that his audiences continue to spread the word of the play and push solutions of violence to the citizens of Chicago.

“We should use our power with our vote but we don’t have to rely on that. I believe in the Chicago people,” he said.

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