Steppenwolf Theatre brings Chicago`s youth violence center-stage

Steppenwolf Theatre brings Chicago`s youth violence center-stage

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Youth violence is Chicago's black eye, but our great theatre scene is the pride of the city. Now, there's a move to use the performing arts to address the tragedy.

Painstakingly rebuilt every spring, the tribute wall in Chicago's far South Side Roseland neighborhood takes shape from the pain of murdered young people, one brick and one name at a time.

At Steppenwolf Theatre, miles away on the North Side, actors bring to life the harsh realities for some young people in Chicago.

"How Long Will I Cry?" is the production based on three years of interviews conducted by DePaul University students, featuring the real words of real people affected by youth violence.

The play weaves around a 2009 Halloween night murder, when a couple of gang members were turned away from a party and opened fire, killing DePaul law student Frankie Valencia, and his dreams of changing the world.

Also featured in the play is Pastor Corey Brooks, who camped out on a rooftop in protest after experiencing a gun battle near his South Side church.

Diane Latiker is also portrayed. Latiker started taking in "Kids Off The Block" in Roseland nearly 10 years ago, because she believes curing the root of youth violence is not just a law enforcement problem.

Inside Latikers safe haven for young people, kids can be kids.

"I sing and I hang out with Kelby," actor Ashante Brown says. "Facebook, talking, singing recording..just chilling."

"I love it," Otis Walker says of the nonprofit community. "They got a studio, music, I love music and drawing cuz I'm an artist."

But outside, the tribute to slain youngsters keeps growing, with 376 stones in place and more than 350 stones that they have yet to place still--all of kids under the age of 24 killed since 2005. Some cases like Blair Holt, Derrion Albert and now Hadiya Pendleton are well-known and caused a big public outcry.

"It outrages me that there is no outrage," Latiker says of the violence.

Senior Anadely Nunez says she's lost much to violence. "I live in little village and I've lost, um like, more than ten friends," says Nunez. "I definitely don't wanna get used to the idea that 'oh well, in my community, you lose a friend, move on,' you know?"

"It's not stuff that we experience at all in Wheaton and it's really eye opening," adds Wheaton Warrenville South High School senior Michael Benassi.

"They finally get it, that this is hurting everyone not just the people that's directly affected," says Diane Latiker.

The hope is that their hurt and outrage will inspire action instead of acceptance.

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