News

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nearly a year after Profiles, Chicago theater professionals are still learning to talk to each other about abuse

Posted By today at 02.18 PM

Lori Myers and Laura T. Fisher, two of the leaders of Not in Our House - DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • Lori Myers and Laura T. Fisher, two of the leaders of Not in Our House

In the two years since the secret Not in Our House Facebook group was formed, a number of things have changed. Chief among them is that Profiles Theatre no longer exists. Profiles was the group's initial inspiration to organize and support people who have been harassed and abused at non-Equity theaters; it closed last June following an investigation by the Reader into more than 20 years of verbal abuse and physical attacks on actors and crew members. The investigation helped spark a conversation about how to prevent such abuse, and seemingly lowered the theater community's collective tolerance for it—most recently, Dead Writers Collective shut its doors after one of its members posted abusive comments from the company's artistic director on Facebook.

More significantly though, Not in Our House has finalized its code of conduct for non-Equity theaters, now known as the Chicago Theatre Standards. An early draft of the standards was unveiled at a community meeting last April, and 20 theaters in the city volunteered to be part of a pilot program to test them out. Many smaller theaters aren't part of Actors' Equity, the actors' union, which has its own extensive codes of conduct and, crucially, a governing body to which actors who claim to have been mistreated can bring their complaints. The standards are an attempt to provide the same sort of clear, written documentation of the rights and responsibilities of non-Equity theaters and actors—that is, theaters and actors that aren't part of the union.

These 20 companies have put on 30 shows in the past year, and have used the standards at least five times to resolve various conflicts and misunderstandings, says actress and activist Laura T. Fisher, who cofounded Not in Our House and has been supervising the pilot program.

"What used to be most comfortable was sweeping stuff under the rug," Fisher says. But now, "if we see it, we have to deal with it. . . . Little problems that could have festered and corroded the happiness and success of a production were addressed without drama."

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Sessions: DOJ will crack down on federal grants for sanctuary cities, and other Chicago news

Posted By today at 06.00 AM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, talks to the media at the White House Monday. - AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK
  • AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, talks to the media at the White House Monday.

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

  • Sessions: DOJ will crack down on funding for sanctuary cities, including Chicago

The U.S. Department of Justice will "claw back" police money for about 200 sanctuary states and cities, including Chicago, if they continue not to hand over undocumented immigrants for deportation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday. Cities will have to prove that "they aren't impeding communication between their police and federal immigration authorities in order to continue receiving Justice Department grants," according to Bloomberg. "The American people are not happy with these results," Sessions said. "They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce our immigration laws, our nation is less safe." After past threats to cut funding to sanctuary cities by President Donald Trump's administration, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised that Chicago will remain one. [Sun-Times] [Bloomberg]

  • An ICE agent shot and wounded a man while serving an arrest warrant

A man was shot and wounded by a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood Monday morning. The ICE agent was serving an arrest warrant at a home when the father of the man named in the warrant allegedly pointed a gun at agents. One of the agents fired at the father and injured him, according to a statement from ICE. Family members identified the wounded man as Felix Torres; his daughter Carmen Torres denied allegations that he was armed. "It's a lie when they say he was holding a gun. He doesn't even own a gun," she told DNAinfo Chicago. "They shot my dad. They shot him, and I don't know why." [Tribune] [DNAinfo Chicago]

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New study finds segregation costs Chicago billions in income, tens of thousands of college degrees, and hundreds of lives each year

Posted By today at 12.01 AM

The remaining rowhouses of the Cabrini-Green public housing development stand empty as a new upscale apartment building is erected nearby. - RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Rich Hein/Sun-Times
  • The remaining rowhouses of the Cabrini-Green public housing development stand empty as a new upscale apartment building is erected nearby.

A new study released Tuesday by the Metropolitan Planning Council found that Chicago-area segregation is costing the regional economy more than $4 billion in lost income, 83,000 college degrees, and hundreds of lives lost to homicides each year. The nonprofit urban planning and development group hopes to stimulate new policy solutions by demonstrating how racial and economic segregation leaves everyone in Chicagoland worse off, not just the people living in segregated areas.

The study was undertaken together with researchers from the Urban Institute and analyzed U.S. Census data going back to 1990 as well as economic indicators. It found that among the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas, Chicagoland is the tenth-most segregated region for African-Americans, the ninth-most segregated for Latinos, and the 20th-most economically segregated metro area. The authors also found that Chicagoland lags far behind metropolitan areas with comparable demographics in its rate of desegregation. Though white-black segregation in the area is declining by about 10 percent every 20 years, at the current rate it would take us until 2070 to reach today's national median levels.

"With lost income, lives, and potential on the line, we don't have that kind of time," the report states. "We need more deliberate interventions to accelerate our progress."

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Monday, March 27, 2017

New Algren bio slanders my poker table

Posted By on 03.27.17 at 04:19 PM

Nelson Algren in 1972 - ROBERT MCCULLOUGH/SUN-TIMES ARCHIVE
  • Robert McCullough/Sun-Times Archive
  • Nelson Algren in 1972

A new biography of Nelson Algren is out, and I immediately turned to the part about me. I hadn't come off well in Bettina Drew's 1992 Nelson Algren a Life on the Wild Side, and I wondered if Mary Wisniewski's Algren: A Life would be any kinder.

It isn't, although Wisniewski's more efficient.

Our paths had crossed in 1976, when Algren was leaving Chicago. Drew wrote: "As collectors, fans, hangers-on, old friends, reporters, and photographers descended on the Evergreen apartment, asking, How much for the signed Playboys? Was the dishwasher for sale? Algren gloried in his own swindles: he'd fetched a tidy sum for a table he said was the very one on which he'd played poker with the neighborhood guys while writing Golden Arm. Actually, it was just an old table."

Wisniewski uses fewer words: "Before he packed to leave, Algren held an auction of much of what he had stuffed into his Evergreen apartment over sixteen years, trying to sell every piece of junk he had—photographs, autographed magazines and copies of manuscripts, ancient crockery and a rickety table he pretended was his legendary poker table."

The notion that Algren flimflammed a putz—me—has taken on a life of its own. That's OK. I can live with it.

But what about the table's feelings? Rickety?

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Trump, Sessions, Chicago FOP president Dean Angelo will meet to discuss gun violence, and other news

Posted By on 03.27.17 at 10:46 AM

Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, speaking to the City Club of Chicago in 2016 - RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Rich Hein/Sun-Times
  • Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, speaking to the City Club of Chicago in 2016

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Monday, March 27, 2017.

  • Trump, Sessions, FOP president will meet to discuss gun violence

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 president Dean Angelo Sr. will meet with President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and members of Trump's staff in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to discuss gun violence in Chicago. "We could only assume the topic of Chicago crime might find its way on the agenda," the union said in a statement to members regarding the meeting with Trump. "It may to include [sic] the necessity to impose a consent decree. To that point, President Angelo will carry the message of the working police to the White House in an attempt to ensure that your voices are not only heard but that our input toward any future federal supported solutions are seriously considered." [Sun-Times]

  • There won't be limits on campaign donations in upcoming governor's race after Kennedy donation

Businessman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy donated $250,100 to his own campaign fund, ending the limit on campaign donations for the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial race. If a candidate gives him- or herself more than $250,000 or an "outside independent expenditure group uses that amount of money to try to influence the outcome of an election," the donation limit of $5,600 for individuals and $11,100 for unions and corporations is lifted in a statewide race, the Tribune reports. Governor Bruce Rauner put $50 million of his own money into his campaign, which didn't lift the donation limit because it happened before 2017, and businessman and potential candidate J.B. Pritzker recently put $200,000 of his own money into his exploratory bid. "I don't think this kind of tremendous amount of money from the very richest people in our state is what's good for our state," rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Illinois state senator Daniel Biss said in an interview with WGN Radio. [Tribune]

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Latin American immigrants are unique in the history of U.S. immigration

Posted By on 03.24.17 at 01:16 PM

The cover of issue 13 of The Point - COURTESY THE POINT
  • Courtesy The Point
  • The cover of issue 13 of The Point

The most recent issue of the Point—the Chicago magazine of philosophical writing named for south-side Promontory Point—wrestles with the question posed on its cover: "What is America for?" One way they're approaching the question is to ask people who recently came here "Why?," and then, what the reception was when they did. To this end, earlier this month the Point cosponsored a panel discussion with Contratiempo, a Chicago magazine of Hispanic literature and culture, at the Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen. A video of the event is now online.

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Kwame Raoul wants to stop the violence. Will his new bill accomplish this?

Posted By on 03.24.17 at 12:15 PM

Illinois state senator Kwame Raoul and police superintendent Eddie T. Johnson proposed a bill aiming to keep repeat gun offenders accountable for their crimes. - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times Media
  • Illinois state senator Kwame Raoul and police superintendent Eddie T. Johnson proposed a bill aiming to keep repeat gun offenders accountable for their crimes.


To tackle Chicago's gun violence problem, Illinois state senator Kwame Raoul and other sponsors of the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act focused their bill on one of the root causes: repeat gun offenders.

After consultations with judges, legislators on both sides of the aisle, and ex-offenders, among others, Raoul and company crafted a bill that would create a more stringent sentencing guideline for repeat offenders. Instead of judges considering sentences within the typical three- to 14-year range, they'd be encouraged to give sentences ranging from seven to 14 years, depending on the offense.

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Jason Van Dyke indicted on 16 new charges—one for each bullet that hit Laquan McDonald, and other Chicago news

Posted By on 03.24.17 at 06:00 AM

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke attends a hearing in his first-degree murder trial Thursday. - NANCY STONE/CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIA AP, POOL
  • Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool
  • Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke attends a hearing in his first-degree murder trial Thursday.

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, March 24, 2017.

  • Jason Van Dyke indicted on 16 new charges, one for each bullet that hit Laquan McDonald

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke has been indicted on 16 new charges of aggravated battery in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was charged with one count for each of the 16 shots he fired at McDonald in October 2014. He has already been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct in McDonald's death. [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Chicago lost more people in 2016 than any other metropolitan area in the U.S.

Approximately 19,570 people moved out of the Chicago metropolitan area in 2016, which was the greatest population loss of any metropolitan area in the U.S., according to the Tribune. Chicago was also the only one of the ten largest metropolitan areas to lose residents. It's the second year in a row that the area has lost more residents than it gained: 11,324 people left in 2015. Cook County also lost more residents than any county in the U.S. in 2016, and experts believe it's a regional issue: most of the cities losing residents are located in the midwest or the northeast, including Saint Louis and Pittsburgh. "There's this big regional thing going on," local demographer Rob Paral told the Tribune. "It's not about what's wrong with Chicago—if anything, it's what's wrong with the Midwest or the Northeast." [Tribune] [WBEZ]

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Remembering underground comics artists Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson

Posted By on 03.23.17 at 05:23 PM

Skip Williamson, left, and Jay Lynch in 1973 - SUN-TIMES ARCHIVE
  • Sun-Times Archive
  • Skip Williamson, left, and Jay Lynch in 1973
Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson, "two seminal figures of the underground comics movement," as the Sun-Times described them in its obit Monday, died recently, 11 days apart. Each was 72.

"Their work was genuinely subversive," Art Spiegelman, whose graphic novel Maus won a special Pulitzer citation in 1992, told the paper. "It opened up and personalized a new art form."

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Lots of questions about police accountability, few satisfying answers from IPRA director

Posted By on 03.23.17 at 04:11 PM

Jamie Kalven and Sharon Fairley in conversation Wednesday night - MAYA DUKMASOVA
  • Maya Dukmasova
  • Jamie Kalven and Sharon Fairley in conversation Wednesday night

The vibe at Hyde Park's Experimental Station Wednesday night was much more intimate than the typical police accountability "discussions" with city officials that have become so common since the release of the Laquan McDonald video in November 2015. Some 100 people, seated and standing, packed the event hosted by the Invisible Institute, which featured a conversation between journalist and institute founder Jamie Kalven and the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, Sharon Fairley. Fairley is now tasked with leading the metamorphosis of IPRA into a new agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA.

The two sat on a small riser just a few feet from the skeptical, expectant faces of the audience crowding around them.

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