Thursday February 22nd 2018

“How Long Will I Cry?:Voices of Youth Violence”

nowisthetime Steppenwolf  For Young Adults, a marvelous program that allows high school students to be exposed to theater (and events through plays) as a part of the “Now Is The Time Initiative ” in Chicago, is presenting a marvelous World Premiere in the Upstairs Theater on specific dates at the theater located at 1650 N. Halsted and then for students at Chicago Public Libraries in the neighborhoods. This play is written by Miles Harvey, who spent three plus years of his thinking about youth violence with his students at DePaul University. By giving voice to the stories of the actual people who lived the words we hear, we can get deeper into what we only skim in the headlines and hear on the news “bytes”. Chicago is indeed a dangerous place to live.

This is certainly not a “feel good” subject for a night at the theater, but it is indeed a chance to open one’s eyes to what might be behind the headlines. Sharply directed by Edward Torres, who himself has witnessed many of these “stories” in his own life, on a simple stage with some videos that are quite compelling and acted by a powerful ensemble of actors, this is a gripping story that only touches the surface of getting this out to the population. These are real stories! They are told to the students and Harvey in hopes that others can learn from them in order to work towards finding a solution. We learn from families of victims, residents of streets where fear is an everyday way of life, gang-bangers, who even when they want to leave, are forced to stay ( or they pay the price). We learn how these youngsters, most of who have no real family at home, become part of a gang as their “family”- someone to take care of them , to watch their backs.

This is part of an initiative in the city designed to show how young people can make positive changes in their communities and hopefully put a stop to this trend of drive by shootings and killing for no reason at all.. “Now is the Time” and The Chicago Public Library in conjunction with Facing History and Ourselves, along with Steppenwolf have all joined forces to take this story to a new level; one where if we can’t get the students to come to the theater, they bring the theater to them, in their own neighborhoods.                                       howlong2

There are some wonderful stories within this 90 minutes ( there is a break at 45 minutes due to the powerful scene witnessed) including the marvelous work being done by The Reverend Brooks, who many know from WGN Radio’s John Williams Show of last year. The Rev. Brooks, wanted to rid his neighborhood of the old Robert’s Motel ( which back in the day was a class destination for visitors) which had become a drug haven and hous eof prostitution. His desire, to rid the area of this eyesore and create a center to get the gangs an dthugs out of his area. He is on his way to accomplishing this, which shows that if you want something and are willing to work at it, it can happen. This story also features the interviews with Diane Latiker, founder of “Kids off the Block”.

This is a show filled with tension, just as life for those involved and portrayed to perfection by the marvelous cast assembled:

The Narrator ( representing Mr.Harvey)-Mark Ulrich,  Celeste Williams as Ms Latiker and others,Mark Smith as Pastor Brooks and others, Jessie David Perez as many others,Gabriel Ruiz ( a powerful Frankie, one of those killed for no reason), Shannon Matesky( spunky Ora and others),J. Salome Martinez,Jr. Tara Mallen ( in many roles, but who stands out as Frankie’s mother) and Charles Gardner in several roles.  Each member of this cast is able to create the correct mood for every narrative as we get to know real people with real lives and see why they live in the fear that they do. Our job is to listen to what they say and watch and learn of how this works so that perhaps, we can let our voice be heard in order to find solutions to the problem on our streets.

The set (William Boles) is very simple as they work on a stage upstairs that has other uses, but this story is more about story, not scenic design. The lighting by J.R. Lederle is again simple, but to the point of what Harvey and Torres are trying to say. The projections (Michael Fernandez) on two sides of the stage, take us into the neighborhoods we are learning about and Gregor Mortis’ sound allows us to hear the sounds of the “streets”, including lots of gunshots.

“How Long Will I Cry” will continue at Steppenwolf Theatre on the following dates: March 9th,18th, and 23rd with a ticket price of  $20 ($15 for students). They are available at the box office, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at

For school locations, contact Lauren Sivak at 312-654-5643.

The TOUR  March 11th-16th FREE all take place at 11 a.m.

3/11 Woodlawn Regional Library 9525 S. Halsted

3/12  Austin Branch  5615 W. Race ( just north of Lake Street)howlong3

3/13  Little Village Branch   2311 S. Kedzie

3/14  Harold Washington Library Center   400 S. State Street

3/16  Humbolt Park Branch  1605 N. Troy

These are the “hoods”, This is your chance to learn!

For more information, visit

To see what others say, visit, go to Review Round-up and click at “How Long Will I Cry?”

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