Welcome to the Urban Culture course at Avila University created by Susan Lawlor and Dotty Hamilton.  We travel with our students to great cities to explore art museums, engage with the architecture, study the local film and music venues, and experience the ethnic enclaves as a way to learn about the culture of urban spaces and the interaction of art and environment.  It's a fun, intense learning environment.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pullman Porter Blues at Goodman Theatre

Chicago theatre is always wonderful.  These performers were fantastic on Saturday night.  The play was a perfect choice as well - since it hit upon a unique historical moment in Chicago history and lives of African-Americans who worked for George Pullman as railroad porters. It gave us a small peak inside that story of work, dignity and struggle.


  1. Pullman Porter Blues affected me more than I had expected. Learning about the porters in class gave me a glimpse of what life for them was like. However, this play really put it into perspective for me. Cruelty, ignorance, and abuse were something that porters dealt with as a part of their job on a reoccurring basis. The play dealt with many of these, such as racism, abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), and hatred. They were never trusted, and worked ungodly hours with little chance for breaks and horrendous pay. This play not only showed the negatives of being a porter, but it showed how those who served as porters wanted their offspring to do more with their lives, to stay away from the porter life, which, to me, seemed like a different type of slavery. This play challenged me because it taught me about a huge piece of history that I had no idea about previously. I am not sure that much of today's youth has any idea what porters were and why their story is so important. Plays like this bring to light an important historical event, and it challenges the audience to make today's life better, to break down the firm walls that may still stand between races in some areas. There is still more work to be done in regards to racism and treating certain groups unfairly, and this play in my opinion greatly honored all those who in their life have had to endure racism and the evils that come with it. I loved this play and I'll recommend it to anyone who wants something to see in Chicago! Thank you for this experience!

    Bailey Martin

  2. Pullman Porter Blues was an excellent show, it showed me more of the injustices minorities like African Americans as well as women faced at that time. This was an excellent depiction of the challenges some African Americans faced post slavery. As discussed in the play, the Porters and maids were indebted to the Pullman train system. There were different rules and regulations that they had to abide by, for example, the men had to make sure that never offended the white women. Also the treatment towards women was something that caught my attention because Lutie was treated as if she was a scoundrel and also as a sexual object when the conductor found out that she was a woman, Lutie also expressed how her father told her to use her body to get what she wants out of life. Also the story about how Sister Juba was raped by the white men showed how African American women have been treated unfairly in the past as well. on another note, I feel that the singing and the dancing only enhanced the story lines. The voices of the actors and actresses were amazing, it was a show that I would strongly recommend for those who visit Chicago.

    Ja'Lisa Powell

  3. Of course, as a theatre major I already was looking forward to see Pullman Porter Blues. It was a show I have never seen before, and I was excited to see it. I don't necessarily like people belittling musicals because they are just as difficult as straight plays, but I do tend to favor more plays than musicals (it really varies from show to show). What I particularly liked about this show is the power and the soul behind it. There were several strong, meaningful choices and subtext behind not only each bit of dialogue, but also each lyric of every song. The actors had a good sense of what the social structure and social rules of this period were; and they were aware of the place that each character had in that setting. I think it is important for plays like this to exist so that we as an audience can see the injustices that were committed in our history and so that we may learn from these injustices. It had moments where it was extremely entertaining to watch, but there were several moments where it was emotional and touching and made you think about what happened to these people. I also appreciated the strength and courage each woman had and gained throughout the show. Everything flowed really well and the power of the show was remarkable to watch and to experience. And, as a double concentration in acting and tech, the way the set was utilized was effective and flowed nicely with the telling of the story as well.

  4. The Pullman Porter Blues show was one of my favorite experiences in Chicago. Being a theatre major I obviously love theatre, and also being a music major it is another one of my passions. I loves the blend of the two in this show, and the truth and soul that was put into the performance. Whether singing or just acting, the characters came to life in a meaningful and powerful way that I could really appreciate as an actor and as a regular theatre-goer. I had never seen such a soulful musical, and thought it was a really beneficial experience. The subject matter was so important, because as much as we like to think racism is no longer relevant, it still is. Though people are no longer being whipped in most parts of the country, the discrimination and dehumanization of African Americans and other races is a problem that as a country, we need to better face head on and defeat. Though a serious subject matter, the show was filled with very comical moments and great singing and acting. I also really enjoyed the set, and thought it was creative and interesting. It would be easy to let a single location like that get boring, but they did it wonderfully!

    -Erika Intfen