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Don't Miss Piven's "Hopelessly Devoted"

Dear Evanston,

I had a powerful day on Sunday going to two Evanston events back-to-back and wanted to share them with you because they both address aspects of racism--from different angles.

The first is the play at Piven Theatre Workshop, Hopelessly Devoted.

It's an outstanding play about a woman, Chess, who is incarcerated for the murder of her abusive husband, the pain of separation from her daughter, the loss of her cell mate, Serena, when she is given parole, and her feeling of total isolation. When prison authorities suggest she work with Silver, a music producer, Chess begins to find her voice (the actress has an amazing voice), her strength, and her ability to face her past.

The play invites conversation about issues surrounding our unjust justice system, lack of social and mental health services for vulnerable people, which leads to increased incarceration rates, the number of women in prison for defending themselves against abusive partners, mass incarceration, and much more. It's really beautifully done. It's suitable for older teens too.

Yesterday I hosted a talkback after the play about my visit last year to Cook County Jail with Piven, to see the incredible improv workshop they run for women who are in jail waiting for trial (yes, the majority of these women are Black or women of color) and many of them are incarcerated for four to six years--and haven't even been tried or found guilty of a crime).

The play was supposed to end yesterday, but it's been extended till May 18. If you want to see it, you can get half-price tix if you use the code DE15 when you book online or over the phone.

Thursdays: 7:30pm Fridays: 7:30pm Saturdays: 7:30pm Sundays: 2:30pm

Box Office: 847-866-8049 or


I went right from the play to the Family Focus Evanston annual fundraiser, which raises money for Family Focus Evanston's programs for families in Evanston, mostly in the 5th ward. Family Focus was founded in Evanston and has been providing programming for almost 40 years.

There were a number of speakers, including Eric Smoot Hemphill who owns Redefined Fitness.

Eric talked about how Family Focus helped save his life. How his mom was a crack and heroin addict, his dad was absent, and between both his parents he had 13 siblings. He was one of five boys--two are dead, two are incarcerated, but he is thriving thanks in large part, he said, to the fact that he was the only one of his siblings to have been involved and supported by Family Focus Evanston.

So, if any of you are able to contribute to the work of Family Focus Evanston, they can use all the support they can get. They offer the very front-end programming that helps keeps families strong and kids out of trouble.

As you probably know, they're also fighting to keep their historically important building in the community--but that's a post for a different day.

You can send donations to:

Family Focus Evanston, 2010 Dewey, Evanston IL 60201, Attention: Colette Allen.

Make sure to make your check out to FAMILY FOCUS EVANSTON.

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