John Conroy, Chicago police torture take centerstage

May 14, 2012

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Otha Jeffries, played by Charles Gardner is interrogated by police detective Dan Breen, played by David Parkes in the world premiere of MY KIND OF TOWN by John Conroy.

For years, many of us wouldn’t have known much of anything about systemic abuse and torture of police suspects in Chicago’s Area Two headquarters were it not for the tireless work of John Conroy.

In 1990, the Chicago Reader investigative journalist began chronicling how police commander Jon Burge and his officers beat, shocked, suffocated and electrocuted confessions out of dozens upon dozens of suspects dating back to the early 1980's.

It was a story Conroy couldn’t let go – but a story many Chicagoans couldn’t bear to hear.

Now more 20 years later, Jon Burge is in prison, some wrongfully convicted men are out, and the scandal and the conspiracy are finally centerstage.

After covering the torture scandal for the Reader and the Burge trial for WBEZ.org, Conroy has turned his attention from journalism to the theater.

His new play, My Kind of Town, is getting its world premiere with Chicago's acclaimed Timeline Theater Company. The story and the main characters are fictionalized, but all are based on true events and characters taken from the long 30 year history of the Area Two torture scandals and the conspiracy to cover it up.

In doing so, Conroy raises provocative questions about the nature of evil, the complicity of the bystander, and the power of theater to evoke and stir emotions in ways that journalism sometimes can't.