Past Event

Myth of Separation

Join Goodman Theatre and The Public Square at the IHC for a panel discussion about the politicization of religion and its effect on civic discourse.

Inspired by Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, this discussion will focus on how religion has changed the political landscape of this country, especially in the last thirty years. Panelists include Barbara Ransby, Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago; Rev. Robert V. Thompson, Minister at Lake Street Church in Evanston; Cassie Meyer from Interfaith Youth Core; and Adam Walker of Center for Inquiry Chicago.

Reservations are required. For more information or to make a reservation, contact the Goodman Theatre at 312.443.3800.

Myth of Separation is the first event of Goodman Theatre’s new CONTEXT series, a forum to engage the community in debate, discussion, and deeper exploration of themes within Goodman productions. Unlike post-show discussions that focus primarily on the production, CONTEXT events concentrate on how particular issues raised within the plays resonate in today’s culture.


In this humorous yet unsettling look at the thorny relationship between politics and religion, playwright Sarah Ruhl examines three explosive periods in history—Elizabethan England, pre-World War II Germany and post-Vietnam War America—as three towns stage the Passion play. Startlingly original, epic in scope yet beautifully human in its effect, Passion Play pits religious dogma, personal faith, and the realities of politics against love, beauty, and truth—all with Ruhl’s signature wit, seductive theatricality, and devastating insight.


Barbara Ransby, Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, is a historian, writer and longtime political activist. She received her B.A. from Columbia University in New York and her PhD in history from the University of Michigan, where she was a National Mellon Fellow, and was a national Ford Foundation Postdoctoral fellow in 2000/2001. She authored the award-winning biography of civil rights activist, Ella Baker—Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (2003). In addition to her academic work, Ransby is a freelance contributor to The Nation, The Black Scholar, Sojourners, The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Miami Herald, Newsday and USA Today. She is a guest contributor to Eight Forty-Eight on WBEZ and writes regularly for the Progressive Media Project. She co-chairs the Advisory Committee of The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council.

Reverend Robert V. Thompson became the minister of Lake Street Church in 1980, after having served pastorates in Kansas and Ohio. A native of California, he enrolled in the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (a member of the Graduate Theological Union) in 1970. His ministry is characterized by a strong commitment to the prophetic vision of peace and justice; he is involved with the Third Side project of the Global Negotiation Program at Harvard University. Thompson has written a number of articles on diverse topics for publications including Parents magazine, The Christian Century magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and the Muslim outlet Soundvision. His first book, A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks, will be published this fall.

Cassie Meyer is the Outreach, Education, and Training Coordinator at the Interfaith Youth Core. She completed her Masters at University of Chicago Divinity School where her work focused on social justice movements in American Christianity, and she instituted an online forum on faith and politics. She currently teaches a course, along with Eboo Patel, on interfaith action in the world at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Meyer completed her undergraduate work at Lawrence University, where she majored in Religious Studies with a concentration on Christianity and Islam. She is a member of Community Renewal Society’s Associate Board.

Adam R. Walker is the founder of the Center for Inquiry, the Chicago metropolitan area’s leading organization for the use of reason and free inquiry into all aspects of human interest. Formerly known as the Secular Humanist Society of Chicago, the Center is one of dozens of Centers for Inquiry throughout the world that embrace a scientific, naturalistic, ethical, and non-religious outlook on human life and the world at large. Walker was recently a panelist on the “God in America” debate, a 90-minute live national broadcast sponsored by the Total Living Network (TLN), a Christian cable channel. He was the subject of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin‘s extensive profile on the relationship between secularism and the law. A municipal finance and tax increment financing attorney, Walker is also a violinist and bassist who performs with various jazz and classical groups and is active in community affairs for the University Village/Taylor Street neighborhood, where he and his wife make their home.