Molly Surowitz in front of home on Chicago Ave, in Oak Park. | Sara Janz

Molly Surowitz’s life has been such an adventure that she just had to write about it. Her journey as a precocious child raised by two tie-dyed in the wool hippies in a communal home in Detroit to her role as a culturally Jewish mother raising two biracial sons in Oak Park is explored in her autobiographical solo show, “Bubbles & Boxes.” The autobiographical show will be presented at the Madison Street Theater, 1010 Madison St., the weekends of June 16-18 and June 23-25.

“I didn’t set out to write this play. I thought that I would write something quirky and funny about what it’s like to date using all these new dating apps. But this show is entirely different. I felt like I was channeled into writing this emotional show about my experience with white privilege and the realization that I didn’t know much about what it is like to be different than myself,” Surowitz said.

Surowitz was raised in a neighborhood in Detroit that, through blockbusting and redlining, gradually became predominantly Black.

“We were the strange white folks who never left the neighborhood,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to grow up in a place where I was a minority.”

Her father, Marvin, was a political and global peace activist who had trained to be a rabbi. An outspoken proponent of gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana, he served as an official taster for the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. He also was one of the founders of the Detroit Erotic Poetry Fest and the creator of the PARTIE (People’s Alliance to Reform, Transform and Improve Everything) Party. When he died in April 2021, he was intentionally buried on 4/20 in an eco-friendly ceremony in a Jewish cemetery in Detroit.

According to Surowitz, her mother, Eden Winter, is equally alternative. A true Renaissance figure and Earth woman, Winter was a tai chi instructor, midwife and folk musician who cleaned houses to pay the bills. Raised Catholic, she once considered becoming a nun but is now a Unitarian Universalist.

“My parents were radical for their time. Our house was like an ashram for beautiful lost souls — some stayed for a night, some never left. There was body painting, dancing, swimming in the nude in the pool in the backyard, artists’ retreats, kids’ camps and community gatherings,” Surowitz said.

Surowitz insists that she was a square compared to her free-thinking parents and she rebelled by being hyper-organized, super responsible and an overachiever. A self-proclaimed “hippie whisperer,” she managed the household and told all the Woodstock survivors what to do.

“I could have had as much sex and done as many drugs as I wanted to as a young person but instead I was a straight-A student, vice president of my class, president of the Drama Club, and starred in every play,” Surowitz said.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, where she majored in drama and anthropology, Surowitz toured Europe with the American Drama Group’s presentation of Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart.” As Lenny McGrath, a pivotal character, she performed in eight shows a week for one year and loved it.

Surowitz moved to Chicago in 1991 because of its reputation as a great theater town. She performed with several theater groups, studied with noted acting coach Steven Ivcich, and wrote a feminist play while waitressing to pay the bills. She eventually got a job as a project manager with Landmark, a worldwide organization offering transformational personal development programs based on Werner Erhard’s est (Erhard Seminars Training).

Surowitz transitioned to real estate after having two sons in the late 1990s and took a break from writing and acting to focus on raising them. She and her husband decided to move to Oak Park in 2003 because of its proximity to the city, good public schools, abundant parks and diverse environment.

Her current play depicts some intense moments in her family’s life in Oak Park — not all of which were positive. She describes an incident in which one of her sons was stopped by three police cars in the middle of the afternoon while coming home from an appointment with the dermatologist.

“I really, really, really love Oak Park — I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But it’s not everything that I thought it was. It’s hard to be critical about a place that you love so much but I felt that Oak Park would be a good place to show it because we’re open to improvement,” she said.

Surowitz, who is the managing broker for Baird & Warner’s local real estate office, was writing her play before “America to Me,” Steve James’ 2018 documentary about Oak Park and River Forest High School, came out. The TV series rang true with her and with her sons.

“My boys dealt with a lot of misconceptions at OPRF. They were two of the few Blacks in AP and honors classes and felt that they had to prove they belonged there,” she said.

Because she is white and her ex-husband is from Africa, Surowitz is convinced that she and her children really live in two different worlds. She reveals that she had to have “the talk” (about navigating the world as Black males) with her boys when they were very young, before they could really understand what she was saying.

“You have to prepare them that the world is going to see them differently. They’re just being their own free spirits and you have to think how you shield them from the world because you don’t want them to be killed. As a white woman, I didn’t always know what to do or say, but I was just trying to make my way through it as best I could.”

Surowitz’s life has been a long, strange trip but she shares it with poignancy and good humor.

She will be performing her play with two other actors/writers — RC Riley and Sarah Ruthless, both of whom depict their experiences with sexuality and spirituality. For more information, visit

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