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Local Groups Receive Ticket Proceeds to Fight Poverty

Audience members decided how to allocate real money and ‘end poverty in 90 minutes’

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July 8, 2013 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The coffers of nine Evanston and Chicago organizations are four figures richer as the result of the donations they received during the May 15 to 25 run of “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know).” A theatrical work in which audiences decided how to allocate $1,000 dollars from each night’s ticket sales, the performance raised a total of $10,000 to help eliminate poverty in the community.

Presented by the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University, “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes,” was an unusual theatre piece directed by Northwestern faculty member and Sojourn Theatre founder Michael Rohd at Northwestern University’s Ethel M. Barber Theater.

Conceived by Rohd in collaboration with Northwestern student cast and team members, “How to End Poverty” was more than just a play. It was a lecture, public conversation, physical theatre piece and interactive workshop that challenged a different audience during each and every show with the question: how do you attack the problem of poverty in America?

“It was a great experience for all of us – the cast, crew, design and production team,” said Rohd, assistant professor of theatre at the School of Communication. “We learned a ton, connected with audience members of the greater Chicago and Evanston area, and we raised a good chunk of money for local organizations doing meaningful work in poverty prevention and reduction.”

According to Rohd, much of the feedback from recent audiences has been delight in the form and experience of the show, and appreciation for being invited into a space where they could safely engage with strangers in a conversation about complicated public matters. Rohd plans to continue working around Chicago with partners he and TIC have developed through the project.

While touching on serious issues, the performance also was entertaining, and included moments of fiction, spectacle and physical theatre.

In the course of each 90-minute performance, the audience listened, explored and ultimately chose how to spend $1,000. An experiment in dialogue, collective decision-making and shared responsibility, most of all it was proof of art’s ability to make the world a better place.

Audience members broke up into small groups and were asked to choose their preferred approach to solving poverty -- either by system change, making opportunities, education, daily needs or individual stories. Then each group leader pinned its share of the $1,000 in cash to one of five categorized clotheslines. It was only after the clothesline displaying the most money was determined that the name of the night’s winning organization was revealed to the audience.

The following organizations were the recipients of the “How to End Poverty” audiences’ preferred approaches to ending poverty. Emmaus Ministries received $2,000, as it had been categorized under two different approaches to ending poverty and was the recipient organization at a performance where the audience selected “making opportunities” and again at a performance where the audience selected “daily needs”:

• James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, 1123 Emerson, Evanston (poverty approach: system change). The Moran Center provides integrated legal and social work services to low-income Evanston youth and their families to improve their quality of life at home, at school and within the community. For more information, visit www.morgan-center.org.

• Inspiration Corporation, 4554 N. Broadway, Chicago (poverty approach: making opportunities). Inspiration Corporation helps the homeless with programs that enable them to reach their fullest potential for self-sufficiency by providing social services, employment training and placement and housing. For more, visit www.inspirationcorp.org.

• Emmaus Ministries, 921 W. Wilson Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: making opportunities and daily needs). This Christian ministry reaches out to men in prostitution on the streets of Chicago by providing clothing and the use of showers and laundry appliances. The men can also participate in Christian Bible studies and group meetings and take advantage of pastoral counseling and referrals to many other services and resources. For more, visit www.streets.org.

• The People’s Music School, 931 W. Eastwood Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: making opportunities). This free music school offers music education to about 1,000 students, most of whom are children from low-income families. The People’s Music School Youth Orchestras, known as the YOURS (Youth Orchestras United Rita Simo) Project, is an intensive orchestral initiative based on the Venezuelan methodology commonly known as “El Sistema.” For more, visit hwww.peoplesmusicschool.org.

• 826CHI, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: education). 826CHI is a non-profit writing and tutoring center that supports students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and helps teachers inspire their students to write. For more, visit www.826chi.org or email info@826chi.org.

• Christopher House, 2507 N. Greenview Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: education). Christopher House helps at-risk children from birth to age 18 thrive by taking a comprehensive approach to education and creating lifelong learners. The organization provides supportive services to the entire family that helps build stability and self-sufficiency. More than 98 percent of the families it serves are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. For more, visit www.christopherhouse.org  or email info@christopherhouse.org.

• Family Matters, 7731 No. Marshfield Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: making opportunities). Located in the city’s North of Howard neighborhood, the organization offers children and families individualized personal development experiences that provide opportunities to find their place in the world and to be a force for positive change. Programs range in scope from tutoring and after-school activities for children and teens to broader initiatives such as fitness and health, post-secondary readiness and environmental stewardship. For more, visit www.familymatterschicago.org.

• Urban Prep Charter Academy, 6201 S. Stewart and 1326 W. 14th Place, Chicago (poverty approach: education). The mission of Urban Prep academies, a nonprofit organization that operates a network of all-boys public schools, is to provide a comprehensive, high-quality college preparatory education to young men that results in its graduates succeeding in college. Most of the students come from economically disadvantaged households. All Urban Prep seniors in the class of 2013 have gained admission to college. For more, visit www.urbanprep.org.

• The ARK, Seymour H. Pesky Building, 6450 N. California Ave., Chicago (poverty approach: daily needs). The ARK provides free social and medical services to help distressed members of Chicago’s Jewish community return to self-sufficiency. For more, visit www.arkchicago.org.

Sponsored in part by a grant from The Alumnae of Northwestern University, the production was partially supported by a grant from Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts Committee and co-sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. It also is supported by an Innovations grant from the Northwestern University School of Communication.

Topics: Neighborhood