Storycatchers Theatre is a youth development arts organization that guides young people to transform their traumatic experiences into powerful musical theatre, developing the courage and vision to become leaders and mentors. By creating support for youth within the criminal justice system, Storycatchers prepares them to change their lives and emerge successfully from court involvement.
In 2016, Storycatchers became one of the first-ever winners of a Chicago Beyond GO Innovate Award, which includes a two-year investment to grow the company’s post-release jobs program, Changing Voices, and partnership with University of Chicago Urban Labs to study the program’s long-term impact on rates of re-arrest and recidivism, as well as labor market outcomes.
Storycatchers was recognized by the White House in 2013 with a National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Founder and Artistic Director Meade Palidofsky traveled to Washington DC to accept the award from First Lady Michelle Obama. The National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards are an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The President’s Committee partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to administer the program. Only 12 nonprofits are recognized each year with this award for after-school and out-of-school programs.
Target area and populations:
Staffed by professional teaching artists, Storycatchers Theatre conducts ongoing multi-week programs with groups of youth who live in under-resourced urban neighborhoods or in juvenile justice facilities. Storycatchers adapts the program model to the setting and to participants’ specific needs. The model includes coaching young people through a cycle of story-writing assignments; leadership development exercises; reflections, readings, and critiques; planning sessions and rehearsals. These activities culminate in performances of a musical play built on a unified theme and a story line developed from participants’ writing. In this group process, participants learn writing and performance skills, achieve personal development goals, improve peer and family relationships, and acquire practical knowledge that can promote success in school, at home, and in their communities.
Where Storycatchers works and who the organization serves:
- Storycatchers partners with schools, parks, and centers for incarcerated youth in the metro Chicago area.
- Storycatchers participants are adolescents and young adults aged 13-24 who have become involved in the criminal justice system.