More Than a Stage Play, “What to Send Up When It Goes Down” Promotes Healing

Congo Square Theatre Company, GRAY, and Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation will jointly present the Chicago premiere of What to Send Up When It Goes Down, the critically acclaimed play by award-winning playwright Aleshea B. Harris. The performance will be presented at GRAY Chicago (2044 West Carroll Ave) from March 31 through April 16 and Rebuild Foundation’s Stony Island Arts Bank from April 21 through May 1, 2022.

Described as a play-pageant-ritual-homegoing celebration, What to Send Up When It Goes Down responds to the gratuitous loss of Black lives and interrupts discourses that enable the ubiquity of racialized violence in our society.

What to Send Up When It Goes Down is a participatory, shapeshifting experience intent on creating space for collective catharsis, cleansing, and healing. The performance unfolds as a series of vignettes that employ a variety of forms including parody, song, movement, and facilitated dialogue. Breaking the fourth wall, cast members enact the script differently in each performance as members of the audience are invited not only to behold the piece as spectators but to become part of the current that holds the story together.

This intimate, interactive 90-minute work will be co-directed by Congo Square Artistic Director Ericka Ratcliff and Ensemble member Daniel Bryant and feature Ensemble members Ronald L. Conner and Anthony Irons along with Jos N Banks, McKenzie Chinn, Victor Missoni, Alexandria Moorman, and Penelope Walker.  Other creative team members include Sarah Grace Goldman (Dramaturg), Estrellita Edwell (Production/Tour Manager & Technical Director), Sydney Lynne Thomas (Set & Props Designer),  Alexis Chaney (Costume/Wig/Makeup Designer), and Levert “Levi” Wilkins (Lighting Designer).

“For over 20 years, Congo Square Theatre has committed to telling stories that unapologetically share the complexities of the Black experience. We strongly believe that Aleshea Harris’s profound play, What to Send Up When It Goes Down, is the perfect piece to simultaneously address the physical and spiritual deaths of Black people as a result of racialized violence, while also providing a space to heal together in community,” said Congo Square Executive Director and movement coordinator for What to Send Up When It Goes Down Charlique C. Rolle.

“Rather than merely recapitulating the condition of living in the wake of gratuitous death, What to Send Up When It Goes Down provides opportunities for corporeal catharsis and accords deep respect for rage,” said GRAY Principal Paul Gray. “Its participatory nature makes unheard truths about inclusion and exclusion palpable. It is a shared experience, full of nuance. Aleshea Harris’s portrayal of a community moving through the wake of death — both jarring and deeply moving — is a work of art in the best sense.”

“As artists, harnessing our creative sensibilities as an impetus for protest and healing is one of the highest and best uses of our artistic intelligence. The role that Black artists and Black cultural institutions in Chicago play in shining a light on injustice is paramount to dismantling systems that perpetuate racialized violence against Black bodies. We are humbled and honored to partner with Congo Square Theatre Company and GRAY to bring Aleshea B. Harris’s poignant production to the Arts Bank and South Side community,” added Rebuild Foundation Founder Theaster Gates.


What to Send Up When It Goes Down intends to create a space for as many Black-identifying audience members as possible and was created for a Black audience, but all are welcome.

In the spirit of “radical generosity,” equity, and making its work accessible to the community, Congo Square Theatre is happily providing BIPOC community organizations, social justice organizations, and youth-serving organizations up to 25 FREE tickets (as available) to witness and be nourished by What to Send Up When It Goes Down. “Our hope is that their presence at one of our performances will be a healing experience to grieve, feel seen and valued, and celebrate the resilience of blackness in community,” said Charlique C. Rolle, Congo Square Theatre executive director.  Reach out to to inquire about community group tickets.

From March 31 – May 1, What to Send Up When It Goes Down will be performed as follows:  Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 PM; Saturdays at 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM; and Sundays at 2:30 PM. To maintain the integrity of the production and intimacy of the venue, only 50 guests will be accommodated at each performance.  Tickets are priced at $35.00 ($50.00 with a post-show reception on select dates).  An equal number of tickets for each performance will be donated to members of community groups and schools. Tickets are now sale by visiting

Please note that all ticket holders must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a photo ID to enter the venues.  

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