A new play, based on fictional events set in a Chicago suburb, explores the tension around building Mosques in the United States. Mosque Alert started out as a reaction to the debate surrounding the mosque planned, but never built, near the World Trade Center, New York City. The play revolves around three families in Naperville, IL, just outside of Chicago, as a mosque is planned to be built on a beloved historic site in their neighborhood. Written by Jamil Khoury, Mosque Alert was originally conceived as an online civic engagement project. In that spirit, the play was developed through community based workshops, with over 2,500 Muslims and non-Muslims participated over the last five years. As such, the characters of the play represent a broad demographic and set of ideologies around the topic. “I should thank Donald Trump,” playwright Jamil Khoury said in a press release. “If Mosque Alert was relevant when I first started, that relevance has since exploded. Today the play exists within a cultural zeitgeist animated by fears of immigrants, fears of Muslims, demographic anxiety attacks, and calls to erect walls and impose bans—a more optimistic read is that of one big messy America struggling to work it out for the better.” Director and Chicago native Edward Torres recently directed Macbeth for the Public Theater. He reflected on the themes of the play in a press release, saying “Mosque Alert gives voice to multiple American perspectives and exposes the fears at the heart of intolerance.” Silk Road Rising, the playhouse producing the play describes the production as “the intersections of zoning and Islamophobia with humor.” Park51, the mosque and community center planned for Lower Manhattan, and inspiration for the play, was controversially dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque" due to its relation to the World Trade Center Site. The original name of the project, designed by Michel Abboud in 2010, was "Cordoba House.” The reference was meant to evoke the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the 8th Century Córdoba, Spain. After much debate, the project was eventually suspended and new plans were made for the site. Currently the owner is planning to build a Luxury condominium tower at the location. Mosque Alert will show from March 24th – May 1st, Thursdays through Sundays at the Historic Chicago Temple Building in downtown Chicago.
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Enormous architecture-shaped pillows will fill a vacant field for Chicago's third annual Ragdale Ring
A suburban field on Chicago's North Shore will host a fantastical summer pavilion fashioned after a toy box, with outsized pillows in the shape of architectural elements, according to designs selected as the winner of the third annual Ragdale Ring competition. Young Chicago designers Design With Company (Dw/Co) took their cues from the original Ragdale Ring garden theatre designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912. The Ragdale Foundation was founded in 1897 on the grounds of Arts and Crafts architect Shaw’s summer home in Lake Forest, Illinois, 30 miles north of Chicago. Architects Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer dubbed their contemporary interpretation of the outdoor theater Shaw Town. Dw/Co plucked architectural details from some of Shaw's early 20th century buildings in the Chicago area—such as the rooftops of Market Square in Lake Forest and the Quadrangle Club at the University of Chicago—and created “audience-friendly pillows” in their form, to be stored in a giant wooden toy box when not in use. “The moveable pillows sprinkled across the landscape are intended to be used by the audience in a multitude of ways from seating to play,” reads Ragdale's announcement. “Visitors are encouraged to rediscover Shaw’s buildings without even knowing it.” Last year's winner, New York–based Bittertang Farm, sculpted an earthen grotto from packs of hay. (See a gallery of photos from that installation here.) Like Bittertang's ring, Shaw Town is also made from biodegradable materials. Shaw Town, whose construction will be funded by a $15,000 production grant, debuts June 13 at 1230 North Green Bay Road, Lake Forest, Illinois. More information can be found on Ragdale's website, ragdale.org.