The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Tangled research issue yields playwright

Nicole Anderson Cobb has studied gun violence for much of her life — from its impact on her community to how it changes the lives of college students she has taught. Research on the topic led to Tangled, a play that has helped the member of Bethany Lutheran Church, Chicago, raise awareness of this issue.

Cobb didn’t plan on being a playwright when she was working toward a doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. But her passion about fighting gun violence led her from an intellectual path to an artistic one.

While teaching at Occidental College, Los Angeles, Cobb talked about gun violence and gang issues with students. “I moved back to Florida and had students [at Jacksonville University] talking to me about the same issues there on the East Coast,” she said. “At the same time I’m from Chicago and hearing from my mother about people getting shot in Chicago. I felt this issue of gun violence was stalking me on some level, so when I moved back to Chicago to teach at Roosevelt University I decided I wanted to do something different. I took a playwriting course at Chicago Dramatists.”

Using research on gun violence, Cobb fictionalized a story titled Tangled. She submitted it to competitions, and New York’s Castillo Theatre selected it as one of four winners of its 2010 Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest. The Castillo website says the contest “is intended to encourage the writing of scripts for the stage that engage the political/social/cultural questions affecting the world today and/or historical events and issues that impact on our heritage.”

Cobb then founded Samaritan Road Productions, an outlet for plays, courses and workshops dealing with, among other issues, conflict resolution and community transformation.

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Embracing diversity