In March 2015, Storycatchers began recruiting youth released from its Illinois Youth Center programs along with members of last year’s pilot program for its new Changing Voices ensemble. Plans are to remount last year’s musical STRUGGLING IN THESE STREETS while writing a new musical for the 2015-16 school year. Storycatchers’ long-time vision of working closely with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Aftercare program is now a reality. From its south side pilot location, the Changing Voices Ensemble (CVE) has relocated to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Aftercare Services Center at 100 N Western Avenue.
“Storycatchers is excited to be working in partnership with the IDJJ Aftercare Specialists and other Aftercare community partners,” Artistic Director Meade Palidofsky said. “We are all in the same building; we can consult with one another and collaborate to help all of our youth. It became clear during the pilot program last summer that the more we can coordinate resources and services for these young people, the more we can increase their odds of successful reentry.”
Similar to Storycatchers’ programs on the inside, Changing Voices uses the process of creating an original musical based on personal stories as a tool for self-reflection, creative problem solving and planning for success. In this post release program for youth ages 16-24, the Ensemble also learns critical job and life skills, focusing on navigating the challenges of reentry to their homes and communities. CVE participants commit to a 20-hour paid work week as writers, performers, peer mentors and community advocates.
Struggling in These Streets will tour high schools, juvenile justice facilities and community venues beginning in late April. As participants prepare for the spring tour, they attend local professional theater productions. Recently, the Ensemble enjoyed The Addams Family-the Musical at Mercury Theatre Chicago. “Our youth loved the show,” remarked CVE Program Manager Eric Walker. “They were surprised by how much they liked it and impressed by the skills of the actors. It was a great example for them.”
Changing Voices is partially supported by a Violence Prevention grant from the Cook County Justice Advisory Council.