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A new play by native Chicagoan lends a twist to gentrification

Congo Square Theatre Company (Congo Square) proudly presents “Welcome to Matteson!,” a dark comedy by Chicago-born playwright Inda Craig-Galván that examines relevant issues like housing injustice and classism.

In this Rolling World Premiere production, “Welcome to Matteson!” follows two Black couples over the course of a dinner party; one couple has lived in the Chicago suburb of Matteson for years, the other has just moved in after being forcibly relocated from the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Tensions rise as each couple is forced to confront their own biases.

“Welcome to Matteson!” will be performed at Abbott Hall at Northwestern University Chicago Campus, 710 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive from September 6 – October 1, 2023.

The notorious Cabrini-Green public housing projects on Chicago’s Near North Side were long seen by outsiders as a dangerous and violent no-go zone. To residents of the projects, however, Cabrini-Green represented an affordable housing option close to downtown, and a tight knit, multigenerational community that functioned through systems of mutual aid.

When the city decided to tear down nearly all of the Cabrini-Green buildings, residents were forced out of not only their long-term homes, but also away from their systems of support.

Displaced residents landed in numerous communities in the city and its suburbs, including Matteson, but they did not always receive a warm welcome. Neighbors in the receiving communities balked at the arrival of low-income residents, fearing an influx of criminal activity and a decrease in property values.

In “Welcome to Matteson!,” Regina and Corey Baker have just moved to Matteson, after the demolition of their home in Cabrini-Green. Matteson welcoming committee and long-time residents Patricia and Gerald Griffith host the Bakers for dinner—despite having misgivings about their new urban neighbors.

Inda Craig-Galván

This play promises to bring with it themes from Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Clybourne Park.” I was able to find out more about “Welcome to Matteson!” from playwright Inda Craig-Galván.

She said that the research for this play was intimate by nature. “When this happened, I lived in the neighboring suburb of Park Forest, my father’s house was in Harvey, and I had friends who lived in Matteson, so there’s some life experience on that end.

“I found a lot of detailed information on the history of Cabrini-Green from the book ‘High Risers’ by Ben Austen. The Illinois Project and the Columbia Journaism Review were also valuable in sourcing articles written about the CHA’s ‘Plan for Transformation’.”

She mentions that the “coin flip [regarding] affordable housing and placement is a trip, considering there is a sentiment that public housing residents should be relocated into vastly different communities spread over a larger area.

“I just read an interview with a former Cabrini-Green resident who had been relocated by CHA to a mixed-income community. Some of his fancy new neighbors repeatedly targeted and harassed him and his family, threatening to call CHA and making complaints to the police over trivial issues. But hey, there’s a Saks.”

Craig-Galván spoke of her affinity to write about daily Black life: “I love writing about intra-racial issues. I don’t tend to write plays that focus on anyone’s outside gaze on us.

“My work is about us, so I try to explore as many of the versions of us that I’ve encountered or that I’ve been at one time or another. That’s going to include the good, the bad and everything in between.”

She broke down the dynamics of the characters in “Welcome to Matteson!”

“The play is an exploration into four distinct Black characters with different backgrounds who find themselves stuck in a seemingly never-ending dinner party with the very people they’ve judged and misjudged. I’m drawn to complex, layered characters who live and love despite their flaws, and how those flaws as well as their commonalities affect their relationships.”

The Rolling World Premiere program allows a new play to be premiered by multiple companies over an 18-month period, which Craig-Galván says is beneficial.

“It’s a great opportunity to have audiences and other theatres learn about this play on the East Coast, the Midwest and the Southeast, all at once. It brings more attention to the work, and I’m excited for as many people as possible to engage with the play. It’s been a long road to production, so having multiple theatre companies produce it feels incredibly satisfying.”

For information about “Welcome to Matteson!” and associated panels and activities, visit

Inda Craig-Galván also has another play “A Hit Dog Will Holler,” coming to The Den Theatre starting August 29.

When racism and oppression manifest in a scary, physical form, a social media influencer and a boots-on-the-ground activist form a complex bond of friendship to help each other survive.

What happens when there’s no more outside space for the growing monster that is American racism?

Featuring actors Alexandria Moorman (Gina); Lo Williams (Dru); Charlique C. Rolle (US-Gina) and Ariya Hawkins (US-Dru).

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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