The truth, in three acts: The relationship between journalism and theater

May 14, 2012

Miles Doornbos

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Theater, even at it's most confrontational, can be seen as a form of escapism. A retreat into other's lives, other's minds, other's problems. A two-hour vacation that, regardless of how dark or traumatic, we can leave behind, comforted by the knowledge that the characters were fictional, their very existence determined by the machinations of the playwrite.

There are some pieces of theater, however, where the lines get blurred.

John Conroy spent years at the Chicago Reader exposing atrocities committed by the Chicago Police Department. He's now collected and adapted those stories into a new dramatic work, My Kind of Town, which runs until July 27th at the TimeLine theater.

My Kind of Town isn't the first theatrical piece to mix journalism with drama. Numorous directors and writers, from Moises Kaufman to Anna Deavere Smith, have used the stage to tell true stories, often using recorded interviews verbatim as script. But, in the light of Mike Daisy's recent controversy, the question becomes 'where does journalism end and theater begin?' What are the ethics of docudrama on stage?

Monday on Afternoon Shift, we talk with John Conroy about My Kind of Town, then expanding the conversation of the theater/journalism symbiosis with our own Dueling Critics Kelly Kleiman and Jonathan Abarbanel.