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updated: 5/1/2013 4:53 PM

'Our Lady of Underpass' play to close May 5

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Submitted by ECC

Elgin Community College Theatre wraps up its spring production, "Our Lady of the Underpass," a play based on a real-life event in Chicago. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4; and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in the ECC Arts Center's SecondSpace Theatre located in Building H on the Spartan Drive campus, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin.

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Written by Tanya Saracho, "Our Lady of the Underpass" draws from a 2005 incident when a woman driving home from work spotted an image of the Virgin Mary on a discolored wall of the Fullerton Avenue underpass at the Kennedy Expressway. Inspired by real-life interviews, Saracho renders the voices of those who were drawn to that wall, exploring issues of faith and desire in present-day Chicago.

The play begins at the fifth anniversary of the sighting and is told in a series of monologues. The audience will meet an assortment of visitors to makeshift shrine including Tony, a self-appointed guardian of the shrine who travels to the underpass daily from his home in Elgin; Ofelia, a woman from Mexico who cares for her nephew with cerebral palsy; Matt, a cynical jogger who runs past the underpass regularly; Magdalena, a Polish-American nurse who brings her mother to worship at the shrine; Terri, a young woman who arrives at the shrine to seek solace from relationship issues with her fiancÚ; and Mrs. Shriver a married woman who desperately wants to be a mother.

The play will be directed by Azar Kazemi, visiting director and theater adjunct faculty. She is the founding artistic director of The Blind Owl, a collective of dedicated performers, artists, and activists. Kazemi is familiar with Saracho's work, previously directing a staged reading of her play "Enfrascada" while at DePaul and had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the playwright.

Kazemi enjoyed the opportunity to work with the actors in the ECC production and to watch them evolve. She took the cast to the shrine, which still exists today, to help connect them further with the play.

"I hope audiences take away a sense of community from the play," Kazemi says. "To remember that no matter who we are, what we believe, or where we are from -- we all need someone to talk to and to listen to our story."

Cast members include: Alisa Goldberg (Algonquin), JosÚ Lopez (Elgin), Sonya Madrigal (Elgin), Sarah Merlo (Newcastle, Australia), Julien Moore (Elgin), Stephen Roos (Algonquin), Paula Smiech (Streamwood), Vera Sutfin (Carpentersville), and Eric Wagner (St. Charles).

The play contains adult language and content. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9 for students and seniors. Tickets are available online at tickets.elgin.edu or at the ECC box office located in the Arts Center. Box office hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To purchase tickets by phone, call (847) 622-0300. All major credit cards are accepted.

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