My law office is four doors north of Curious Theatre Branch (Hi, Beau!), and my experience of the neighborhood is very different from what your article ["Gooned, Gooned, Gone," by Deanna Isaacs, September 10] presents about Rogers Park. For the record, I'm an upper-middle-class white guy with a graduate degree and a kid. Malcolm X loved to lampoon "white liberals" who were in favor of societal change, just so long as their comfort level was never tweaked, and golly did your article remind me of that. We're not exactly in the Road Warrior-level anarchy Beau O'Reilly reportedly describes. My three-year-old son visits regularly with the elderly disabled woman (whose space is next door to Curious) on the sidewalk cafe (three doors north of Curious) where the "riot" occurred. Ever had a bar fight in Lincoln Park? If Curious serves an "adventurous audience," who could be more adventurous than the people who live in this neighborhood that's supposed to be such a shooting gallery?
Crime, schmime. Nobody else is leaving. My work regularly puts me in touch with people in Rogers Park community organizations: the CAPS office, the alderman's office, RPCC, RPBG, DevCorp North, the Glenwood Avenue Arts District, and rogerspark.com, as well as my neighbors living near Glenwood and running the businesses up and down it. I'm also on the same block as the Curious Theatre space every day. The net impression I have is that I don't see them out in the community trying to connect or get help. I don't see their posters in doorways or on windows, they aren't in the e-mail community announcements I get, I don't see them on local Web sites. The Reader article has some serious gaps--what's the story, if any, about how Curious talked to anyone about the "problems," and what help did or didn't come of that? Between silence from community groups, coupled with a lack of comment by Beau in the Reader article, the inference I make is that they must not be in contact. Otherwise, wouldn't Beau mention what solutions Curious tried?
At bare minimum, Curious could hire one of the locals to stand on the corner and shoo the kids away. When the cafe had the same problem with the same kids, I went to a few CAPS meetings for the cafe, got some guidance, the cafe made some changes, and it's fixed. A more constructive option for Curious would be to do something directly with the kids, which incidentally is the sort of thing one gets grants for. Lifeline Theatre has a kids' program--how about a collaboration? Curious writes, Lifeline performs other people's work, just two blocks away. Hmm. When I've watched people coming and going for shows at the Curious Theatre, I see an all-white group, which I would guess is an unintended, subconscious function of an approach that works better in Lincoln Park than up here. I'm probably not the only person who has noticed the visual monotony on the corner, and it doesn't help neighborhood relations. I like every member of Curious I've met on an individual level, but I'm disappointed in the swift and cowardly retreat. I can't understand why Curious is so concerned about dragging people up from Lincoln Park when there are about 100,000 people in a two-mile radius of where they chose to put their theater.
There are a lot of people up here working hard, and succeeding, at making Rogers Park a pleasant and livable place, not only for the rich and white, but for others too. These are my neighbors, and we're a potential audience for Curious. I don't live in Lincoln Park precisely because I want to do the challenging work of being around people who aren't like me. Yes, it's not easy, and yeah, I think it makes me a more tolerant, better-informed person. I just don't have time or patience to listen to white college graduates whine about the injustice in a dangerous world, especially when they haven't done the work to try. What's the world coming to when the commercial litigation attorney has to point out to the small theater troupe that they're being insensitive to the needs and feelings of the social milieu they've chosen? Rogers Parkers of various colors work hard, take hard knocks, and get back up when they get knocked down.
Thomas J. Westgard