WICKER PARK — The news media can't truly convey the pain of Chicago's violence, said the director of a documentary-style play opening Thursday that brings three well-publicized crimes to the stage.
"That's theater's job," said Anthony Moseley, 39, director of Collaboraction's "Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology."
Moseley was standing under a Bucktown viaduct where a brutal beating of two college students occurred almost three years ago when he argued that theater brings "intimacy and a sense of shared space" to "horrific and intimate and traumatic" events in a way that TV and newspapers cannot.
On Thursday, Moseley and a host of 15 collaborators will unveil their theatrical response to the city's violence with his play.
Moseley said the script for the 85-minute docudrama includes elements of hundreds of news articles, Facebook comments and Twitter posts weaved together in an attempt to explain why so many people are dying in Chicago.
"We don't have an answer [to why violence persists]. We're putting data together and interpreting it artistically," Moseley said. "We're trying to be truthful to the moment and not sensationalistic."
The docudrama depicts re-enactments of three well-publicized episodes of Chicago violence: the beating of college students Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich just a few blocks from the theater's headquarters in the Flat Iron Arts Building at the Milwaukee-Damen-North intersection; the 2000 murder of 12-year-old Orlando Patterson, who was shot in the back as he stood in front of a relative's house in Englewood; and the recent murder of aspiring rapper Joseph Coleman, aka Lil Jojo.
Actor Scott Baity Jr. plays Coleman, who was gunned down at 69th Street and South Princeton Avenue in Englewood in September.
At a dress rehearsal Sunday, Baity sat on his bicycle on a darkened stage bathed in blue light as the tweets Coleman wrote moments before his death were shown on a large screen behind him.
Moseley said anyone younger than 18 must have a signed parental consent form to attend the show.
"We're saying it's 'PG-15.' Many people that think their kids have seen way worse in real life. There's no nudity, no sex, but there's graphic language and stage combat. Age 15 or older is what we feel safe recommending," Moseley said.
In addition to the production itself, Moseley has invited community partners to lead discussions after every performance. The Rev. Michael Pfleger, activist pastor of St. Sabina parish on the South Side, and Ricardo "Cobe" Williams, a violence "interrupter," are among the first facilitators to sign on.
"It's clear we're tapping into something that people feel the need to talk about," Moseley said. "We hope the show is a great prep for a great discussion."
"Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology" previews Thursday and runs through March 10. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 and can be bought online or by phone at 312-226-9633. The theater is on the third floor of the Flat Iron Artists Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.