In September, the Changing Voices ensemble traveled to Governors State University to watch the Red Summer musical. It was a special opportunity not only because it offered a unique exploration into Chicago’s history, but also because the performance was composed by Changing Voices’ very own Music Director – Shawn Wallace.  

The youth spent the week before the show learning about the national and Chicago-specific race riots of 1919. After the show, staff spoke to the cohort about the experience. The following quotes and reflections represent all they took in that week – from the ugly details of our past that we must confront to the joy that comes from witnessing live, representative theater.  



A story youth could relate to: 

Growing up, I experienced my fair share of racism during childhood, as a teenager, even in my adult years, so I really wasn’t surprised to see this history. Nothing was surprising, just shocking. 

  • What surprised me about the show is how “Red Summer” started. It was a race-related issue. DL is the character I can relate most to because he lost someone he cared about and wanted to retaliate; what I would have done. 
  • Ida B. Wells is who I relate to the most because we have a similar message and goal of making change in the community. 

A history lesson that resonates: 

  • I was never really told about this history, the things that lead up to it, or why there was so much animosity towards African Americans. I didn’t know that those things – the prejudices that lead up to the “Red Summer” – were happening all over. 
  • I enjoyed the purpose of the show, it showed us actual historical moments that showed how dangerous and bad it was during the “Red Summer.”  

I enjoyed the music, the acting, and the history. I was most surprised by the police killing DL and the boy drowning after being stoned. I can relate most to the black woman that lost her baby. It was a good show! 

A performance that surprised and entertained: 

  • What I enjoyed most about the show was the way the actors were able to use their bodies to bring a scene alive when they didn’t have all the props, like the lake. 

I enjoyed all the details leading up to the point of the race war. I enjoyed the overall experience; the performers, the writing, the actors.  

  • What surprised me the most was the teamwork of all the actors. I loved the communication; it seemed like everyone was on point and no one forgot their parts. 

A lasting impact:  

  • I was most surprised at how much I enjoyed the performance. It was dope! 
  • I’d like to try to tell a story about the neighborhood I grew up in. I’d like to make a play for people who aren’t from there to understand how we grow up and that we have hopes and dreams too. We just face different circumstances around us that we’ve had to navigate through, but we’re still here and we deserve a fair shot. 



An extra thank you to Storycatchers youth for their opinions (especially Zio who took the time to give additional thoughts), Whitney Minarik and the Governors State University Center for Performing Arts for engaging in post-show dialogue, and Dean Zingsheim for introducing the youth to other campus opportunities.