Former Northwestern lecturer writes short play based on vandalism at Alice Millar Chapel


Source: Johnny Knight

Roberto Jonson (left) talks to Carmen Roman as they play mother and son in the short play "Swastika" by former School of Communication lecturer and playwright, Elaine Romero. The play is based on the vandalism incident at Alice Millar Chapel.

Fathma Rahman, Assistant Campus Editor

Former School of Communication lecturer and playwright Elaine Romero wrote a short play based on the vandalism incident at Alice Millar Chapel. The show was performed Tuesday night at a Chicago theater.

The seven-minute play, titled “Swastika,” is a jailhouse scene between a mother and her son — who was imprisoned for an act of vandalism — in which she confronts him for his actions. The performance was part of the American Blues Theater’s “Ripped: The Living Newspaper Festival.”

“Plays always raise certain questions,” Romero said. “What if you were raised with certain values, but then you did something that is so ugly and hideous and your parent, who raised you not to be that way, came to jail and saw you?”

Then-Weinberg freshmen Anthony Morales and Matthew Kafker were charged with felony vandalism in connection with graffiti found in Alice Millar Chapel in March. As of last month, the two students are no longer enrolled at Northwestern.

Romero said she was not retelling the event in her play, but instead “trying to get underneath the psychology of what it takes for somebody to do that.” Although her play doesn’t specify that it is derived from the incident at NU, she said it is made clear by the details in the scene.

Roberto Jonson plays the role of the troubled son who draws a swastika inside a chapel and goes to prison for it.

“I didn’t know before doing this piece that this actually happened,” Jonson said. “(Romero) dissected the true events behind the story at one rehearsal and explained it to us. It was very shocking.”

More than anything, Jonson said he hopes people walk away feeling more aware about the news element of the play and acknowledge how these kinds of decisions can impact families.

Carmen Roman, who plays the parent, said she hopes the audience finds a way to empathize with both the mother and son. Roman said she also thought about what role Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump played in the Alice Millar incident. In addition to a swastika and male genitalia, the two former students also painted the word “Trump” inside the chapel.

“I was interested in this incident and how this energy and ideas around Donald Trump have unleashed a lot of negative things such as racism, anti-semitism and homophobia,” Roman said.

Romero said that she found herself devoting a lot of time to writing the play because it reflected something important to her personally.

“Short plays can really pack a punch,” Romero said. “They quickly deliver what you want to say and I think that because they’re so distilled, they’re a very powerful form of theater if you choose to talk about something you care about.”

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