Before our recent Word Warriors staged reading, a youth ensemble member asked to give a welcome speech to the audience. It had been a hectic week, with several youth authors released from the facility unexpectedly days before the first performance. Without fail, the remaining youth stepped up to take on extra roles, so we requested our young speech-writer share a testimonial about that experience. On the evening of our cast party, he pulled a folded piece of notebook paper from his pocket and read his prepared remarks. It was a moving moment that we’re pleased to share with our Storycatchers family and audience.

“Life is full of trials and tribulations. We all go through something or are going through something. No one ever told me that life would be easy, and they never told me when all this pain would come.

For the past 4-6 weeks, we all got up and went to Storycatchers and managed to put a smile on our faces. Even though we are incarcerated and are struggling with things in our personal lives, we all fought through it all and overcame a lot of obstacles. Anxiety, pressure, public speaking, and fear of crowds.

The point I’m trynna get at is there are two types of losing: you can lose standin’ up or you lose on the ground. The fact that we are incarcerated and throughout us practicing we lost multiple characters was a loss, but we still made it to our plays and they went extravagant.

So, with that being said, we all lost standing up. All of us in this room right now define relentless. We all came out as winners, and with all this being said, I know we all will be something in life.”

This testimony reflects on the experiences of preparing for and performing a staged reading of What I’ve Seen Before by the Word Warriors at the Illinois Youth Center – Warrenville. The success of the performances is thanks to the flexible, creative, and brave ensemble youth. We’d also like to acknowledge the leadership and talent of our staff – Thomas Murray (Program Manager), Mbali Guliwe (Artistic Manager), Martin Gold (Music Director), and Abby Thompson (Teaching Artist).

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