Play Recalls Story Of ‘Our Lady Of The Underpass’

CHICAGO (CBS) — It was a phenomenon under Chicago’s Fullerton Avenue underpass, now a water stain that many believed was the image of the Virgin Mary has become the subject of a play at Elgin Community College.

WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports, eight years ago, a woman driving home from work along Fullerton Avenue spotted what she thought looked like the image of the Virgin Mary along the wall of the concrete underpass beneath the Kennedy Expressway.

When news spread about the image, thousands of people visited the site to pray. Believers, many of them of Puerto Rican heritage, decorated the site with candles and flowers.

The shrine was protected by sawhorses, and even police. Weeks after the image was first spotted, someone scrawled the words “Big Lie” over part of the image in shoe polish, prompting maintenance workers to cover the entire image in brown paint.

Workers at a nearby car wash later used a de-greaser to wash off the paint and shoe polish, uncovering part of the image.

Although the image has mostly faded, some people still leave candles or flowers at a makeshift shrine at the underpass.

Now, the story is being told on the small stage. Director Azar Kazemi said the story is about community and faith.

“It’s a really beautiful thing for a bunch of strangers to be able to come together in a public place that you wouldn’t normally think was very beautiful, and they turned it into a beautiful thing, and they were able to find comfort there,” she said.

She said the play, written by playwright Tanya Saracho, is also about ordinary things that become extraordinary.

“Not until I read this play did I then drive by again, and then I turned, and that’s when I saw the flowers, and I never noticed them before,” she said. “And that kind of made me think, you know, how many other things are around the city, or around the world, that we just walk by them, and we don’t even notice them?”

Her play, “Our Lady of the Underpass,” – which was also the nickname for the image along Fullerton – was inspired by real-life interviews, and runs through this weekend at Elgin Community College’s Second Space Theatre.

More from Lisa Fielding
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