CHICAGO (October 2, 2019) – This year marks a grim centennial in Chicago, the 100th anniversary of the race riot of 1919. In recognition of this violent summer in the city’s history, WBEZ Chicago and Make-Believe Association have created a new radio drama, City on Fire: Chicago Race Riot 1919, debuting this week on air on WBEZ and as a podcast.
City on Fire is a 30-minute radio play that draws from historical documents, as well as newspaper and other contemporary accounts, to recreate the events surrounding the 1919 race riot -- a week of attacks that began with the drowning death of a black teenager, Eugene Williams, after his raft drifted toward the designated white area of a South Side beach, and ended with 38 people dead and hundreds more injured across the city.
The City on Fire script was written by Natalie Moore, WBEZ reporter and author, and Jeremy McCarter, founder and executive producer of Make-Believe Association, a Chicago-based organization that produces audio dramas with a social mission.
“The summer of 1919 saw some of the worst violence in Chicago’s history, with racial tensions exploding into violence so brutal it would become known as the Red Summer,” said Moore. “City on Fire drops listeners right into the heart of a 100-year old story, and we hope listeners will learn from it and reflect on how that summer has shaped the city we live in today.”
WBEZ will air City on Fire on October 2 on All Things Considered and on October 3 on WBEZ’s The Morning Shift. On October 4, Make-Believe will release City on Fire as a podcast that will also include a special audience conversation about the impact and contemporary parallels explored in the play.
“Make-Believe Association believes in the special power of stories to help us understand our world,” said McCarter. “We’re thrilled to join forces with Natalie and WBEZ to revisit 1919 through the lens of drama, and see what it can tell us about American life today.”
City on Fire is enriched by original sound and music by composer Mikhail Fiksel. It also features 18 Chicago actors playing more than 30 roles. Actors in City on Fire include:
- Ayanna Bria Bakari
- Brenda Barrie
- Terry Bell
- Eduardo Curley-Carrillo
- Charles Andrew Gardner
- Lawrence Grimm
- Francis Guinan
- Sam Hubbard
- C. Anthony Jackson
- Timothy Edward Kane
- Ryan Kitley
- Tevion Lanier
- Al'Jaleel McGhee
- Marcus D. Moore
- A.C. Smith
- Andre Teamer
- Anji White
- Jacqueline Williams (playing journalist, activist and educator Ida B. Wells)
To learn more about Make-Believe Association and City on Fire, follow along on Twitter and Instagram @MakeBelieveFM.
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Obama and Making Oprah; 16 Shots: a podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Sound Opinions. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.
Download the WBEZ app, available in the App Store and Google Play. Learn more about WBEZ Chicago and its award-winning programming and on-demand digital content at wbez.org or on Facebook or Twitter.
About Make-Believe Association
Make-Believe Association produces audio dramas with a strong sense of social mission, inviting audiences into conversations about the stories being told. Led by Founder and Executive Producer Jeremy McCarter, the company has been hailed as a "thrilling storytelling force" (Indiewire) that "reaches across Chicago's cultural divides" (The New York Times). The Make-Believe Podcast is available on the all the leading podcast platforms, and at makebelieve.fm.
Betsy Berger, WBEZ Chicago
312.893.8572 or 847-308-1762 (cell)