Storycatchers began in 1984.

We’re still adapting. Innovating. Growing. And catching stories like this one…

Timeline of Company Highlights

1984: Meade Palidofsky, playwright/director, and Claudia Howard Queen, composer, incorporate Music Theatre Workshop (MTW) with Elbrey Harrel as the company’s first Executive Director.

1985: MTW gets its first Equity touring contract to parks, housing projects and foster homes.

1986: MTW secures a yearly $100,000 contract with the Board of Education to do week-long residencies in 20 schools of one-act musicals inspired by youth stories as part of the Chicago Public Schools Drug Free Schools initiative; this launches a 20-year run of the musical, Captain Clean.

1990: MTW begins a new era with the Temporary LockDown program. Palidofsky’s interviews with youth at the facility lay the foundation for the evolution of a new program model, not only using youth stories as inspiration for original scripts but engaging the youth in the full process, from storytelling to performance.

1995: MTW establishes gender-specific programming with Fabulous Females for the girls at the Detention Center, allowing them to create stories centered on their own experiences rather than in support of the boys’ stories. Ira Glass of THIS AMERICAN LIFE profiles a Fabulous Females performance as one the “greatest moments” he has ever seen on stage.

1997: a residency at the Field Museum leads to Teens Together, a program engaging high school youth in the creation of musicals inspired by historical exhibits with modern relevance.

2001: when the Field Museum ends the Teens Together residency, MTW establishes new partnerships with Columbia College Chicago and the Chicago Park District to maintain and grow the program. Teens Together evolves over the course of 18 years into a year-round program engaging youth on Saturdays in the playwriting process and offering a seven-week rehearsal and performance program for teens to tour area parks and summer schools.

2002: the ACLU sues the Detention Center for overcrowded, unsafe conditions, resulting in erratic access to youth for MTW. In response, the company accepts an invitation to establish a new Fabulous Females program at the Illinois Youth Center-Warrenville, the state’s only secure facility for girls.

2002: MTW establishes the Divas, Dolls, & Drama Queens program for girls enrolled at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School. The program runs for three years.

2005: Heather Ross of PB & J Productions films the Girls on the Wall documentary over a six-month period in 2005, following the Fabulous Females creation of the one-act musical Making It through the stories of three of the girls. The film was released in 2010 and awarded a Midwest Emmy.

2009: MTW celebrates its 25th Anniversary and formally changes its name to Storycatchers Theatre.

2009: the Chicago Community Trust awards Palidofsky an Experienced Leadership Fellowship that supports her collaboration with licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Bradley Stolbach, who recognizes the trauma-informed aspects of the MTW methodology and works with Palidofsky to incorporate an intentional trauma lens into the curriculum. From this point onward, all MTW teacher training involves trauma-informed techniques.

2010: Storycatchers establishes and maintains year-round residential programs in three separate secure facilities: Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and Illinois Youth Centers in Warrenville and Chicago.

2012: Palidofsky and Stolbach publish a paper called “Dramatic Healing: The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed Musical Theatre Program for Incarcerated Girls” in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma; they later present that paper at the international Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

2013: Storycatchers is honored by the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; First Lady Michelle Obama presents the award to Palidofsky and a youth representing the company’s participants.

2014: in recognition of the compelling and critical need for post-release support, Storycatchers launches Changing Voices, a performing arts jobs program for young people returning home to Chicago following incarceration or detention.

2016: Storycatchers refines its mission to focus exclusively on youth in the justice system, discontinuing the Teens Together program in order to dedicate all of its resources to this marginalized population.

2016: Storycatchers receives a transformative investment as one of the first recipients of a GO Innovate Award from Chicago Beyond, an initiative dedicated to supporting innovate, early-stage ideas to reengage youth in work and school. This facilitates the stabilization of Changing Voices into a year-round resource for young people navigating reentry.

2017: Storycatchers is one of the first recipients of an award from the Art for Justice Fund, a national initiative dedicated to using the arts for prison reform.