The Firewriters Ensemble at Illinois Youth Center-Chicago (IYC-Chicago) had an outstanding turnout of 85 audience members for their winter musical Easy Targets on Sunday, February 22, 2015. In addition to the twelve IYC-Chicago residents, the Ensemble also included Apprentice Teaching Actors Kateri Halbleib and Maushea House from the Teens Together Ensemble, as well as IYC Assistant Superintendent of Programs Michael Byrd and IYC-Chicago teacher Barbara Fernandez.
The addition of female peers and adult staff to the Ensemble was a first for Firewriters. “Having the opportunity to work with more experienced peer actors gave the young men confidence to be fearless onstage,” noticed Storycatchers Executive Director, Nancy McCarty. Participants happily commented that it was amazing to see another side of the staff members and to learn that the adults they work with daily have talents they never would have suspected: “Mr. Byrd and Ms Fernandez have got skills,” one participant remarked.
After seeing the production of Easy Targets, several other facility residents were eager to join the Ensemble when it began work on a new musical a few weeks later. The Firewriters are generating a new collection of personal stories that they will present in a staged reading on May 1, 2015.
Thanks to the generosity of The Goodman Theatre, several ensemble members attended a performance of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running on March 19, 2015. It was the first trip to The Goodman Theatre for all of the boys; and for one, it was his first field trip since entering the facility. Ensemble members must earn the privilege of Storycatchers field trips with positive behavior.