Seventeen months into my time at Storycatchers and I finally attended a live performance at Maya Angelou Alternative High School at Illinois Youth Center – Warrenville. Beyond halls decorated with public health reminders and youth-made Black Lives Matter protest signs was the library, carefully adorned with pipe and drapes to create a formal stage. I felt pre-show jitters even though I wasn’t performing. To put it simply, it was exciting to be present at an event that I’ve heard about, read about, written about, but never seen in-person. The performance involved masks and social distancing per current protocol and remained buzzing with energy, nonetheless.

When someone wants you to know they’re smiling, there isn’t a mask on the market with the ability to obscure a welcoming grin. We were all beaming.

Heartsick’s preview performance captured a pivotal moment of identity-embracing and weaved in the tension many of us have felt as we get to know ourselves better during the pandemic. The passion in these stories helped transform the library into a dining room, a usual hangout spot with a best friend, and a high school basketball court. We all saw ourselves on stage in one or more of the characters, and during the post-show discussion audience members wondered about the ensemble’s experiences working with a script about LGBTQ+ prejudice. They noted that:

Anyone could relate to the story in this musical. We’ve felt like our parents don’t understand us, that they’re too strict or too ‘old school.’ And we’ve all hoped that someone would see our worth.

Between the pride during the discussion and the knowledge that I must return to see each story come to its natural conclusion, I am hooked! Thank you to Thomas, Mbali, Abby, and Martin for the thrill of live performance and, of course, thank you to the Word Warriors ensemble. I’ll bring enough tissues to share with any reader who wants to join me for the full musical this November.

For the first time live since early 2020, the Word Warriors at IYC-Warrenville staged their preview performance, entitled Heartsick. This performance was also a first for individuals who started at Storycatchers during the pandemic, like our Community Engagement Manager. Soon our supporters will be invited back into the facilities for an experience that might feel like the first time all over again.

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