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Artists and Expression in Times of Anger and Distress

379Dear Friends,

Recently, a member of the general public wrote to express concern about statements one of our artists made on a personal Facebook page. We promised to respond with a formal statement, and here it is:

Free Street Theater was established in 1969, answering the call for the creation of a space that is inclusive, safe, and dared to tell the stories of people of color and other marginalized and disenfranchised people. It was one of the first integrated theater companies in the city of Chicago during a time when young people of color were over-policed and under-protected, very much like the climate that we find ourselves in today.

Our company is as diverse as our city. We are multicultural and multigenerational. We are immigrants and descendants of a colonial past that has created repercussions and traumas for generations of our people. We are gay, straight, and pansexual. We are gender non-conforming and gender-fluid. We are cis and transgender. We are each other’s allies, and together we reel from the losses of lives across the country to senseless violence – most recently experienced in Orlando.

Through our work, we attempt to spark discussions and ideas as we tackle complex subjects. Our works have been critical of the systems, institutions (and even leaders) that our young people find to be culprits of the problems that plague our society. Our call to action is for our audience members to become change agents in their own homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. To begin conversations, take action – whether by the pen, or by protest. But Free Street Theater Company never condones acts of violence of any kind towards any group or individual.

We are blessed to work with passionate artists. They have poured their passions into the projects and young people that we serve and have created poignant pieces of art that are challenging and liberating. We understand that how they process societal traumas may offend some of our followers, but it is important to understand that while they are a part of the Free Street Family, they are also independent people. Whether they choose to write a play about it, or a Facebook status – their thoughts are their own, and we will never police that.

We are grateful for our fans, our extended family, and we welcome discourse that leads to greater understanding.

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