SYNOPSIS: When Mrs. Nettie Morris (Wandachristine) goes to the storefront campaign office of congressional hopeful Jeffrey Talbott (Ian Paul Custer) determined to save her grandson from Chicago’s violent streets and incarceration with an ingenious plan – a very personal life and death struggle takes a surprising turn.



Join us for a powerful, live reading via Zoom. Following the 35-minute reading, stay in our virtual space for a group discussion and share actions you can take. For more information, please read our Backstage Guide in your browser or download pdf.

You may reserve tickets here or call (773) 654-3103 until Friday, Aug 7 at 12pm noon Central. Suggested donation is $10 or pay-what-you-can. You will be sent the Zoom link in a “Plan Your Visit” email on the evening of Aug 6. We have limited space – reservations required. “The Room” is almost full. Send an email to Director of Patron Services Suzy Robertson at with any questions.

Additional Resources

ABC7’s Stop the Violence – ABC7 Chicago created an in-depth collection of resources that address violence and gun violence.

Assata’s Daughters – a grassroots intergenerational collective of radical Black women located in the city of Chicago.

Black Lives Matter – global network builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.

Block Club Chicago / Healing Corner – an article by Alexandria Chaidez, “Chicagoans DO Protest Gun Violence and Organize for Safer Neighborhoods All the Time. Here’s How -“

Campaign Zero – the comprehensive platform of research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in America.

Creative Team’s Biographies

GLORIA BOND CLUNIE (playwright) is an award-winning playwright, director, and educator. She is a founding member of the Playwriting Ensemble at Chicago’s regional Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater where her plays North Star, Living Green, and Shoes premiered and the founding Artistic Director of Evanston’s Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Other works by this Northwestern University graduate (B.A. Theater, MFA-Directing) include Sweet Water Taste, Smoke, Blu, Quark, Buck Naked, Bankruptcy, #Lovestories inspired by Black Lives Matter, My Wonderful Birthday Suit, and the adaptation of The Last Stop on Market Street. Theaters presenting her work include The Goodman, Triad Stage, Chicago Children’s Theater, Children’s Theater of Charlotte, and Orlando Shakespeare. This Dramatist Guild Fellow has numerous awards including a Chicago Jeff, Theodore Ward African-American Playwriting Prizes, NEA and Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, the American Alliance for Theater’s Education Distinguished Play Award, YWCA YWomen Leadership Award, a Dramatist Guild Fellowship, and the Evanston Mayor’s Award for the Arts.

CHUCK SMITH (director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. At Blues, he directed Leroi Jones’ Dutchman and Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West. He is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof; and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Objects in the Mirror; Having Our Say; Ain’t Misbehavin; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind; and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold… and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine, and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

WANDACHRISTINE* (Mrs. Nettie Morris) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She has starred on many stages throughout the country in notable productions as the touring company of Fences, The Vagina Monologues, Gee’s Bend, and Thyestes. For her work in Old Settler, she received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Supporting Actress and a Best Actress nomination for the noted Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award. For her work in American Blues Theater’s production of Beauty’s Daughter, she won the Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award for her solo performance. She’s toured regionally in Danai Gurira’s (“Black Panther” & “Walking Dead”) production of Familiar as well as the San Diego’s Old Globe production. Other recent productions include A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage and Incendiary at Goodman Theater. In film she’s worked alongside Whoopie Goldberg in “Clara’s Heart” and starred in the hit comedy as Mrs. Jones in “Me and Mrs. Jones” with Kym Fields. She’s appeared in the television series “Chicago PD”, numerous commercials, and voiced the animated characters in “The PJ’s”, “The Justice League”, and “Scarface” the video game. She’s written a fiction novel, “I Love You More…Than Shoes!” about four actresses over 50 years old still trying to make it in Hollywood; she working on a Zoom production of the popular novel. As a playwright, she’s written for American Blues Theater’s Ripped Festival for 3 years. Her newest play, Yes, My Name is…Lucy! was commissioned by Ensemble member Chuck Smith. It will receive a reading in American Blues Theater’s The Room – reading series. To all her friends, she’s known as…”The Woman Who Can Do It All!”

IAN PAUL CUSTER* (Jeffrey Talbott) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He’s previously appeared in Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award – Best Ensemble, Best Musical), Little Shop of Horrors, The Columnist, and 8 years with It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Chicago credits: 33 Variations (Jeff Award – Best Production), To Master the Art (TimeLine Theater/Broadway Playhouse); Bad Jews (Theatre Wit); Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre, Next Up); High Holidays (Goodman Theatre); Princess and the Pea (Marriott Theatre); Watson’s Go to Birmingham (Chicago Children’s Theatre). Regional credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep) and Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, UK). Television credits: “APB” and “Empire” (FOX); “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD (NBC). Ian is a graduate of The Theater School at DePaul University and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

CARA PARRISH* (stage manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater where is also the Human Resources Coordinator. Chicago credits: Gem of the Ocean, Electra, Hard Problem, Photograph 51, Five Guys Named Moe, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, & Lady From the Sea (Court Theatre); WITCH, Port Authority, Yellow Moon, The Letters, The Caretaker, Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, & The Blond, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead (Writers Theatre); Too Heavy for Your Pocket & The Vibrator Play (TimeLine Theatre Company); James and the Giant Peach (Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook); Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Romeo and Juliet & Emma (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Beauty’s Daughter & Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues Theater). Cara is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association.

We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions (Actors’ Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, American Guild of Variety Artists, SAG-AFTRA) through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on this program.

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