The Ghosts of Cabrini-Green

A Dramaturgical Essay by Associate Director, Dramaturg, and Artistic Associate Wendy Mateo

This is a story where history meets myth. It’s a story about living—living with ghosts of decisions past, and the ensuing systems which haunt our present. Jane Byrne’s stay at Cabrini-Green inhabits a unique intersection in Chicago’s story. The Machine, The Outfit, Law Enforcement, Segregation, Gangs, and the Chicago Housing Authority all meet here in a “Six Corners” of Chicago history, culminating in the events of one fateful 1981 Easter celebration. Cabrini-Green is a small piece of land, riddled with a big, burdensome past, and haunted by the actions of all who have stood on or for those “Six Corners.”

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Community Partners

For Her Honor Jane Byrne, Lookingglass is in partnership with five Chicago organizations with a long history of serving communities impacted by the issues raised in the play. Lookingglass is grateful to these organizations for sharing their depth of expertise and breadth of vision for Chicago. Please take a look at each of the organizations below to see how you can be a partner!

ART ON SEDGWICK is dedicated to fostering creativity and connecting our community through the power of art. Through innovative arts classes and collaborative events, we teach creative reflection and expression, engage our diverse neighborhood, and help individuals and our community to connect with the best part of themselves.

THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM’s mission—to share Chicago’s stories, serving as a hub of scholarship and learning, inspiration, and civic engagement—is the foundation of the Museum’s programs and events, exhibitions, educational initiatives, publications, and collecting activities that touch the lives of all Chicagoans and help them make meaningful and personal connections to history.

THE CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE, established in 1916, works for economic, educational and social progress for African Americans and promotes strong sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. Check us out at

FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES engages students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.

The NATIONAL PUBLIC HOUSING MUSEUM is the first cultural institution in the United States dedicated to telling the story of the American experience in public housing. The Museum draws on the power of place and memory to preserve, promote, and propel the right of all people to a place where they can live and prosper–a place to call home.

When you grow up in a city that’s hyper segregated, run amuck with corruption, and political stunts and discord, you have to work hard to love it. I love the city of Chicago. I love the history. I’m fascinated by ethnic clans. I’m curious about patronage, councils, aldermen, and committeemen. Who gets elected and how? Who gets to lead us, and will they actually listen to us? Though I was very little, I can remember when it was announced that Mayor Jane Byrne was moving into Cabrini-Green. Can she stop the violence? Well, no one person can. Here we are decades later, asking the same questions. I hope our audiences walk away with a bit of the past, so they may know how to shape our future.”

– Writer, Director, and Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks
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