Bughouse Square Debates

In a tradition as old as hobos and tramps, the Newberry Library’s Bughouse Square Debates celebrates Chicago’s past as host to “the finest soapbox culture in U.S. history.” The humble and portable soapbox stage offers just the right amount of space, time, and distance from which to practice minor acts of disruption. It takes place in Washington Square Park in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood.

Marcos Herrera protests e-readers at the 2015 Bughouse Square Debates.

The Open Soapbox has featured the dexterous emceeing of actors Jeff Michalski and Will Clinger. Other collaborators have included Kevin L. Burrows (AKA The Mayor of Bucktown), Captain Chicago, Paul Durica, Marcos Herrera, Marianne Joyce, Vivian Malmgren, the late Tony Papaleo, Jolie Reichel, Kat Seno, Kate Thomas, Richard Thomas, and Betsy Zacsec.

The Society of Smallness has overseen the Open Soapbox at the Newberry Library’s Bughouse Square Debates event each year from July 2014 to the present.


Many people have contributed to this project; this is a partial list: Kevin L. Burrows (aka the Mayor of Bucktown), Lissette Bustamante, Will Clinger, Paul Durica, Marcos Herrera, Marianne Joyce, Henry Harris, Bill Kirby (aka Captain Chicago), Patrick McGee, Vivian Malmgren, Jeff Michalski, Tony Papaleo, Kat Seno,  Kate Thomas, Richard Thomas, Matt Stone, and Betsy Zacsek.

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