CONTEXT

CONTEXT, our issues series, engages our community—here at the theater and across the city—in conversations that both illuminate our productions and act as catalysts for deeper exploration. Unlike post-show discussions that focus primarily on the production, CONTEXT events concentrate on particular issues raised within the plays and explore how they resonate in today's culture. CONTEXT offers public space for debate and discussion.

CONTEXT topics are myriad, and have included concepts of identity and how we define ourselves; the ways race and class play themselves out in our communities; and a call to action for education reform or a critical look at musical mash-up acts. CONTEXT formats vary, ranging from evenings of interactive role playing to panel discussions with local and national experts. Whether on our stage or in your neighborhood, CONTEXT encourages lively discourse beyond the curtain. 

Past CONTEXT Events

Myth of Separation: Politics, Religion and Secular Space

Conflicting Harmonies: Conversations on Cuba in Music and Words

The Legacy of Emmett Till: Race, Youth and Violence in Chicago

Remixed, Revised, Ripped Off? The Fine Line Between Fair Use and Musical Infringement.

Tool of War: Sexual Violence Against Women in African Conflict

Performing Other: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off

Reading, Writing, Revolution: Our Role in Education Reform

Music, Politics and Revolution

Paying Attention: Art, Artists and Social Responsibility

Too Broken to Reform? How We Can Fix Public Education

Transforming Classics: Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century

Race, Class and Gender in the Post-August Wilson Black Theater

Fierce Conversations

The Great Divide: Women of Color, Cancer and the Price of Survival

Airing Dirty Laundry

God's Love is for All?: Homophobia and the Church

The Price of Fame

The Social Construction of Sexual Violence

The Soundtrack of a Movement

Dark Eyes: Visions of Black Women

The Price We Pay: The Costs of Deportation and Mass Incarceration

Chicago Bound:  The Great Migration of the Blues

Wednesday's Child

Unleashing Your Inner Dominatrix

Authentic Artifice: Crafting Identity Online

Passion Play CONTEXT: October 15, 2007

Myth of Separation: Politics, Religion and Secular Space

Inspired by Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, this discussion focused on how religion has changed the political landscape of this country, especially in the last 30 years. Panelists included Barbara Ransby, associate professor of history and African American studies at the University of Illinois Chicago; Rev. Robert V. Thompson, minister at Lake Street Church in Evanston; Cassie Meyer from Interfaith Youth Core and Adam Walker of Center for Inquiry Chicago.

The Cook CONTEXT: November 5, 2007

Conflicting Harmonies: Conversations on Cuba in Music and Words

Join some of Chicago's most talented Cuban musicians for an evening of music and memories of home. Inspired by Eduardo Machado's The Cook, panelists addressed the ways in which displaced people maintain their cultural identity and stay connected to their homeland.

The discussion was led by Maria de los Angeles Torres, director of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Other panelists and musicians included Carlos Equis-Aquila, member of Comparsa Jardinera, Tercio Moderno, Los Principales and percussion leader of the Orchestra of the Americas and KUBA!; Angel D'Cuba, lead singer of Angel D'Cuba in the Solar System; Victor Miranda, celebrated Cuban violinist/guitarist and Hector Silveira, lead member of Hector Silveira y Su Orquestra.

The Ballad of Emmett Till CONTEXT: June 1, 2008

The Legacy of Emmett Till: Race, Youth and Violence in Chicago

Of the 24 Chicago Public School students killed during the 2007/2008 school year, three were participants in Goodman Theatre's Student Subscription Series. In conjunction with The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza, journalist Laura Washington moderated a panel discussion about the increasing intra- and interracial violence among Chicago youth, the proliferation of gangs and efforts to reverse this tide.

Panelists included Cathy Cohen, professor of Political Science at University of Chicago and principal investigator for the Black Youth Project; Salim Muwakkil, senior editor at In These Times and contributing columnist for the Chicago Tribune; Laura Washington (moderator), senior editor at In These Times, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Ida B. Wells,  professor at DePaul University.

Turn of the Century CONTEXT: November 3, 2008

Remixed, Revised, Ripped Off? The Fine Line Between Fair Use and Musical Infringement.

With the rise of hip-hop and music mash-up acts like Girl Talk who create "new" songs by mixing together phrases and melodies from the old (Vanilla Ice from Queen or Rihanna from Michael Jackson), modern music has focused more and more on sampling the old to create something new. With such a liberal use of others' material, when does the creative process turn into cutting and pasting—or plagiarism?

In conjunction with Goodman Theatre's world premiere of Turn of the Century by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, four music industry notables—Hank Hofler of controversial label Illegal Art (home of Girl Talk); author/professor Ronald W. Staudt; cover band guru Dave Dillard and local D.J. Tamara Roberts—discuss the creation of "new" music using an existing beat, riff or melody.

Ruined CONTEXT: December 7, 2008

Tool of War: Sexual Violence Against Women in African Conflict

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tens of thousands of women have been raped in what United Nations officials have called the worst violence against women in the world. In a culture where rape brings victims more shame than assistance, how are women finding safe ways to speak out about their suffering?

Panelists in this discussion included Lynette Jackson, professor of gender studies and African studies at the University of Illinois Chicago; Ngozi Udoye, CEO and president of African Women in America and Prexy Nesbitt, speaker and educator on Africa, foreign policy and racism.

The Emperor Jones (Wooster Group) CONTEXT: January 7, 2009

Performing Other: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off

What is the performative nature of race?  How do we learn to read gender in an increasingly androgynous society?

Co-sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, panelists included Holly Hughes, performance artist; Romi Crawford, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Tanya Saracho, playwright and co-founder of Teatro Luna and E. Patrick Johnson, chair of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.

Goodman Education and Community Engagement CONTEXT: May 12, 2009

Reading, Writing, Revolution: Our Role in Education Reform

America's education system is in crisis. Nowhere is it more evident than here in Chicago, where less than 60 percent of public school students graduate high school. Thousands of children are being left behind without the skills to compete in our information-driven global society. This event is a call to action on education reform, and highlights ways teachers, parents and activists can improve the lives and the chances of young people.

Panelists included William Ayers, distinguished professor of education and senior university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Erica Meiners, associate professor of education and women’s studies at Northeastern Illinois University; Therese Quinn, associate professor of art education and undergraduate division chair at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; David Stovall, associate professor of educational policy studies and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Kevin Kumashiro, chair of educational policy studies and interim co-director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rock n’ Roll CONTEXT: May 18, 2009

Music, Politics and Revolution

Two of the most respected music critics and best-recognized pop music writers in the country—Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune—as explored the revolutionary power of rock and roll during their radio show, Sound Opinions, at the Goodman.

Sound Opinions, the world's only rock and roll talk show, fires up smart and spirited discussions about a wide range of popular music, from cutting-edge underground rock and hip-hop, to classic rock, R&B, electronica, worldbeat or just about any other genre, every week.

A True History of the Johnstown Flood CONTEXT: April 19, 2010

Paying Attention: Art, Artists and Social Responsibility

It's been said that the role of an artist is to keep their eyes open, when everyone else's are shut. In a world increasingly fractured by poverty, racism and religion, what is our responsibility as artists to address the problems we see? Does art have the power to bring change? To heal? Must artists be cultural watchdogs or are we only responsible to our creative vision? This lively discussionused the Goodman's production of Rebecca Gilman's A True History of the Johnstown Flood as a springboard to explore the role of artists and art in today's society with how we understand and cope with disaster through creativity.

Panelists included painter David Gista; playwright-performers Rohina Malik and Coya Paz and psychotherapist Deborah Hellerstein.

Goodman Education and Community Engagement CONTEXT: May 11, 2010

Too Broken to Reform? How We Can Fix Public Education

America's education system is in crisis and nowhere is that more evident than Chicago, where less than 60% of public school students graduate each year. Thousands of children are being left behind and many of the developing "solutions" to our broken education system are problematic.

Goodman's second event on education reform explored misconceptions and problems within our reform discussions. We determine what's actually broken... and how we can start fixing it. Panelists include scholar-academicians Valerie Hannon and Dr. Tim Knowles.

The Seagull CONTEXT: November 8, 2010

Transforming Classics: Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century

Panelists explored the enduring legacy of the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov, his intercultural appeal for a new generation of writers and his continuing relevance to contemporary audiences.

Panelists included the Goodman's Artistic Director and Adaptor/Director of The Seagull, Robert Falls, playwright Tanya Saracho (El Nogalar) and Columbia College Chicago Theater Department Chair Sheldon Patinkin, who explored the enduring legacy of the great Russian writer, his intercultural appeal for a new generation of writers and his continuing relevance to contemporary audiences. This discussion was moderated by the Goodman's Literary Associate Neena Arndt.

Mary CONTEXT: January 15, 2011

Race, Class and Gender in Post-August Wilson Black Theater

August Wilson's Century Cycle helped introduce the world to the stories of African Americans in this country. But there are other playwrights—both Wilson’s contemporaries and predecessors—whose voices are as powerful as Wilson's but whose works are not being produced. For many, Wilson's work—and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun—define black theater. What do the depictions of race and gender in these plays say about African Americans today? Are there stories that are not being told or produced because they do not fit this norm? And who gets to set that agenda? Four panelists and a moderator discussed the landscape of African American theater today and whether it produces a diversity of stories that reflects the realities of our society.

Panelists included Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith; Kimberly Dixon, managing director of Chicago’s Literary Guild Complex; Thomas Bradshaw, playwright and Danai Gurira, playwright. The Goodman's Director of Education and Communication Willa Taylor moderated the discussion.

Mary CONTEXT: Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fierce Conversations

Freedom of expression is an essential tenet of a free society. But that freedom often comes under fire when artistic institutions present works that express different and sometimes incendiary points of view. This conversation looked at recent visual and performing arts controversies and the role of cultural collaborators in preparing audiences for controversial work.

Panelists included Kathleen Tolan, playwright; Sydney Chatham, blogger and founder of The Tofu Chitlin Circuit; Kelly Kleiman, arts critic and Eric Reda, artistic director of Chicago Opera Vanguard. Leonard Jacobs of The Clyde Fitch Report moderated.

The Trinity River Plays CONTEXT:  January 31, 2011

The Great Divide: Women of Color, Cancer, and the Price of Survival

Cancer—specifically breast cancer—is the leading cause of death among African American women. While breast cancer death rates among white women have decreased by 11 percent in recent years, the rate of breast cancer deaths among black women has increased by 13 percent. This panel of oncology experts, community activists and journalists examined some of the factors that contribute to the disparities in cancer treatment, research and resources. The panel included University of Chicago Medical Center doctors Blasé Polite and Monica Peek, National Public Radio reporter Cheryl Corley and Goodman Theatre's Willa Taylor.

Mary CONTEXT: February 15, 2011

Airing Dirty Laundry

This panel explored at the taboos artists of color and women often face in the kinds of stories they can tell, the types of characters that are "acceptable," and the relatively limited images we see in film and television and on our stages. Panelists included Coya Paz, writer, director, and performer; Shilpa Bavikatte, producer of Voices of Resistance, the annual South Asian arts festival; Vaun Monroe, filmmaker, screenwriter, director and Rebecca Rugg, dramaturg and Steppenwolf Theatre Company's  associate producer. Harvey Young, a professor at Northwestern University, moderated.

Mary CONTEXT: February 21, 2011

God's Love is for All?: Homophobia and the Church

This panel looked at the biblical references used to justify the discrimination of LGBTQ people, gave some historical and contextual background and discussed what people of faith are doing now to make congregations welcoming and affirming. Panelists included Reverend Irene Monroe, theologian and coordinator of the African American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion, a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist; Rabbi Laurence Edwards, rabbi of Congregation Or Chadash, book review editor of the Newsletter of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and an adjunct faculty member at Catholic Theological Union; and Ann Louise Haak, associate minister at Lake Street Church in Evanston.

Red CONTEXT: October 10, 2011

The Price of Fame

For this CONTEXT event we created an interactive experience with the help of our friends at Collaboraction, during which we examined the cost of fame and what happens when artists become commodities. The atmosphere was that of a red-carpet event, in which each attendee was essentially fulfilling the role of a celebrity—forced to make their way past a throng of paparazzi just to get in. Once inside, panelists Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of WBEZ’s Sound Opinions discussed fame and how it plays out—in both good and bad ways—in today’s music industry. They also discussed the price of fame in comedy and performance with Charna Halpern of Chicago’s own iO, and closed the event with questions and conversation with audience members and the Collaboraction artists.

Race CONTEXT: February 6, 2012

The Social Construction of Sexual Violence

Our understandings of sexual violence—and our notions about the victims—are shaped by entrenched ideology and recurring media messages and are inextricably intertwined with race, gender, sexuality, poverty, immigration and community. Even with the scandals of Penn State and Syracuse University in today's headlines, men remain invisible as victims.

This conversation with activists, advocates, scholars and survivors explored David Mamet's Race in its real-world context. Featuring Aishah Shahidah Simmons, producer, writer and director of NO! The Rape Documentary; Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates; Rachel Caidor, founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence; and Caleb Probst, education outreach associate for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, and was moderated by Alison Cuddy, host of WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight.

Crowns CONTEXT: July 23, 2012

The Soundtrack of a Movement

It is impossible to think of any struggle for justice—especially the Civil Rights Movement—without calling to mind the sacred and secular music that underscored it. This CONTEXT event was a tribute to the words and music that sustained a movement through its setbacks and successes; and the words, raps and rhythms of the march toward justice and equality for a new generation.

By The Way, Meet Vera Stark CONTEXT: May and June, 2013 

Dark Eyes: Visions of Black Women

 Goodman Theatre hosted a series of film screenings and discussions during the run of the Goodman’s production of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark focusing on films by and about African American women. The series, Dark Eyes: Visions of Black Women, featured the work of directors, producers and writers whose work should have wider visibility, in screenings that took place at ICE Theatres in the Lawndale neighborhood. The series will also showcased performances by African American actresses that deserve a second look. Films included I Will Follow, Mississippi Damned, and The Watermelon Woman.

Home/Land CONTEXT: July 17, 2013

The Price We Pay: The Costs of Deportation and Mass Incarceration

Albany Park Theatre Project’s Home/Land examined what happens to a family torn apart by a father’s deportation. In this country, nearly 400,000 immigrants are deported each year and more than 2.3 million people are held in American prisons at any given time. Panelists Beth Richie (University of Illinois at Chicago), Elena Quintana (Adler School of Professional Psychology), Reyna Wences (Immigrant Youth Justice League) and Todd Belcore (Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law) look at the intersections of immigration and criminalization policies, explore the school-to-prison pipeline, and explore alternative justice initiatives in Chicago and around the world.

Pullman Porter Blues CONTEXT: October 7, 2013 

Chicago Bound: The Great Migration of the Blues

From the Mississippi Delta to neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city, Chicago Bound: The Great Migration of the Blues showcased blues travelers and their works -- music that served as chronicle of history through word and song. Narrated by Cheryl Corley. Music featured the band Autumn in Augusta with  Ernie Adams, drums;  Marcin Fahmy, piano; Donovan Mixon, guitar; Joshua Ramos, bass; and Lucy Smith, vocals.

Luna Gale CONTEXT: February 3rd, 2014 

Wednesday's Child

Recent stories of the deaths of children in Illinois from abuse and neglect have shown the spotlight on the Department of Children and Family Services.  But these are a tiny glimpse into a labyrinthine system where there are often few good options.We discussed what happens to our most vulnerable children and the people that are their safety nets while looking at adoption, reunification, foster care and the system designed to support them all.

Featured: Tony Arnold, WBEZ’s Illinois politics reporter; Cece Lobin, Women’s Empowerment Director and local foster parent; Diane Redleaf, Executive Director of the Family Defense Center; and Anita Weinberg, director the ChildLaw Policy Institute at Loyola University Chicago; moderated by Susy Schultz, Executive Director of the Community Media Workshop at Columbia College Chicago.

Venus in Fur CONTEXT: March 31st, 2014 

Unleashing Your Inner Dominatrix 

Participants joined us at Early to Bed to learn new ways to explore their more dominant side. Taught by seasoned professional, Sophia Chase, this sex positive workshop discussed the basics of BDSM. Safety, terminology, props and techniques were covered in this exciting and fun workshop that took place in the relaxed atmosphere of Chicago's feminist sex shop, Early to Bed. 

Ask Aunt Susan CONTEXT: June 16th, 2014 

Authentic Artifice: Crafting Identity Online

Ask Aunt Susan introduced us to an online advice guru whose web of deceit grew with her popularity. How do people, tasked with creating and maintaining false personas, hold the line between their creation’s identity and their own? Real life “Aunt Susan’s,” professionals in search engine optimization, social media, and digital marketing, discussed the creation of content versus identity and the space that lies between. Panelists included Dan Fietsam, the former creative director of BBDO and a current U of C instructor in Creativity, Branding and Technology, Shannon Downey, owner of Pivotal Chicago, and Alex Mohr, formerly of Ketchum Inc. with NPR's Cheryl Corley moderating (panelist bios available here).