The behaviors that lead to incarceration are a result of unresolved trauma.
For 34 years, Storycatchers Theatre has been empowering court-involved youth to craft and perform musical theatre from their own personal stories of growing up in Illinois’ underserved neighborhoods. Using an award-winning and transformational writing methodology, these youth develop the skills needed to successfully re-enter society and move beyond their histories to become peer mentors, civic influencers and agents of change in our community.
Efforts include three residential programs inside juvenile justice facilities and Changing Voices, a post-release temporary employment program of 17-24 year olds who write, rehearse, produce and tour their original musicals to civic leaders, Illinois judges, at-risk youth and other influential audiences to create space for crucial conversations.
Who We Serve
Serving young people who deserve to be heard. To feel safe. To have their dignity back.
‘Court-involved youth‘ is anyone between 13-24 years old who has been at any stage of court involvement:
- Placed in a diversion program.
- Put on probation.
- Detained while awaiting trial.
- Recently released from detention or incarceration.
For youth who have faced incredible trauma–whether from violence, abandonment, poverty, racism or personal loss–locking them up and writing them off is not the solution.
How We Do It
Using art to confront trauma, reclaim the past and build resilient young adults.
Storycatchers’ methodology takes advantage of the intimate, collaborative process of creating musical theatre to help confront and heal the effects of severe trauma that can result in a constant state of “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. By providing a safe space for emotional exploration and personal expression, our youth learn to empathize with others, solve problems together, build trust, strengthens their internal locus of control and empower new ways of seeing the self and the recovery path ahead.
- Participants learn how to express and write their own true stories.
- Teaching artists and an on-staff Licensed Clincal Social Worker (LCSW) help them explore the stories.
- Stories are then turned into scenes that can be expressed onstage.
- Participants collaborate to create a theme and arrange each story into a single, cohesive musical script with the help of a music composer.
- Participants perform their original musicals for the community together as an ensemble.
- In post-show conversations with audience members, everyone shares their experiences, perspectives and takeaways.
Learn more about how Storycatchers is making a difference, from arrest to re-entry: