Willie “Prince Roc” Round (he/him) is a playwright, songwriter and hip hop artist, actor, videographer. Theatre was key to bringing him out of homelessness and saved his life, without metaphor or hyperbole. He is dedicated to sharing this life saving art form with others; using art and theatre as a means of expression and authentically illustrating life on Chicago’s often artistically exploited West Side.
Born May 20, 1991, Willie Round III grew up in North Lawndale (known as the “Holy City”) on the West Side of Chicago, a region with high rates of violence and low household incomes. Willie had strong art influence and mentorship throughout his youth, which allowed him to buck the statistics and gain the trajectory his life has taken.
Music was Round’s first artistic influence and form of stress relief and expression. He was raised by a single mother, with an incarcerated father, in a 3-bedroom apartment filled with 12 people. It was loud, crowded, and full of music. Music was in his family, at home, and in church. Round’s uncles were the hip hop group Do or Die. As a hip hop artist, Round has performed across the country and was the opening act for Grammy Award-winning artist Lil Wayne as well as Gucci Man, thanks to Ren of Go Boyz ENT. He has also opened up for Grammy Nominated Artist Ralph Colbert. Hailing from the Lawndale, much of his writing, poetry and lyrics reflect the sign of the times within his community.
Round was the first person on either side of his family to attend college and graduate. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications – Broadcast Media from Central State University. Access to strong, consistent and effective mentorship made this possible.
Willie Round was first introduced to theatre by his now long-time collaborator, G. Riley Mills. At the time, Round was homeless. His play Broke Down Drone was produced in Collaboraction’s 2019 Peacebook Festival and it ran at in New York City Off-Broadway at the Chain Theater’s One-Act Festival is July 2021, in which Willie also performed in. Round wrote, created and produced a short documentary for Collaboraction’s Peacebook Festival titled This is North Lawndale.
After meeting playwright J. Nicole Brooks at Peacebook in 2019, Round made his theatre acting debut in 2020 in Lookingglass Theatre Company’s hit play Her Honor Jane Byrne written and directed by J. Nicole Brooks. He will remount the role in Fall 2021.
The impact of art partnered with mentorship has been transformative in Willie’s life. Round does extensive outreach in the North Lawndale neighborhood, where he grew up, and is a mental health professional and behavioral aid. He works to help people find positive and effective coping strategies for depression, addiction, anxiety, PSTD, among others, and works to help people remove stress and give them a creative and social outlet. He has mentored inner-city youth as part of the College Mentoring Experience as well as part of his own youth movement called MUD LIFE (Motivating the Urban to be Determined).
Bio as of 2022