The youth of Firewriters Ensemble of the Illinois Youth Center – Chicago are eager to share their stories and artwork with audiences again. “Life’s Game” will be open to the public for two performances on May 20 and 21. We can’t wait until then to learn more about the process and themes behind this musical, so we linked up with Mr. Shawn Wallace, Storycatchers’ Music Director/Composer to get a peek behind the curtain.

Read below, and don’t forget to reserve your ticket for our upcoming show!

What have the sessions been like with Firewriters these days? I hear there is a new vibe to our process with this ensemble.

Well, man, the writing process has been really cool. I have seen young men walk into the program, super fired up about the writing process; at listening to scenes, reading parts, writing songs, the whole process seems to really light them up in ways that I haven’t seen.

We’ve got a young man in there who’s like a natural stage manager. He wants to take care of all the small details, he remembers everybody’s blocking, wants to take cables down without being told, and sets up the set. We got in late one day for the staged reading, and when we got there, they had already set the stage up.

How would you describe the songs you’ve worked on with the youth?

These songs are very introspective. There’s more of a hip-hop sensibility, and that hits the young people where they are. They’re producing, like saying ‘this part should be sung’ or ‘when it gets to this part…write this down.’ They feel empowered. While producing this, the Firewriters boys were seriously determined to bring their notebooks to every session. And if they forget it, they’re trying to go back to their wing to get their notebook. Because they got ideas, and they want to share their ideas.

Can you give a glimpse of the themes the Firewriters have been working with?

You’ll see a performance about making choices that put you in circumstances you don’t necessarily want to be in. It explores some generational choices. There’s some generational stuff happening in the musical between the mother and the son. And we discuss how we fix generational rifts and bring those relationships back together again.