The Show Goes On.

Our campaign to adapt programs for youth when they need it most.

We are one of the few organizations providing enrichment programs to incarcerated youth in Illinois facilities. At a time where these young people are more isolated than ever and filled with anxiety about things out of their control, our staff is working hard to challenge assumptions and think innovatively about creating remote program content.

New Music

Our Firewriters Ensemble’s original musical is online!

  • Enjoy this teaser, sung for rehearsal purposes by our teaching artists.
  • View the Album Release on Facebook Live.
  • Visit our Soundcloud page for more albums and tracks inspired by stories of young people in the justice system.

A new anthem

Inspired by youth stories and created by our staff, our new anthem entitled YOU CAN’T KILL OUR SONG honors those lives who have been taken, amplifies voices of protest, and reminds people in power that we will not be silenced. #wewillpersist

Learn more about why this song matters to us.

Introducing Dear Me (A Love Letter to Myself)

Our beautiful new effort to raise the voices of the youth we serve.

Based on actual letters written by the youth as practice for talking about themselves in a positive way.

Program Adaptations and Innovations.

Building empathy and perspective through complex character development.

By seeing others play themselves in their own story, youth gain a unique perspective on others close to them – often mothers, fathers and other family members – and better understand what they felt and why. Playing roles in someone else’s story allows a young person to discover new positive choices that may not have been recognized in the moment. 

Our teaching artists work with the young people to help them process the motivations of characters when making real-life decisions, connect emotions to behavior, and help them see how different choices lead to different outcomes.

In the document shown, youth are beginning to learn the script and understand the numerous relationships within it. 

Beginning with the “Outside / Inside.” 

All programs start with a “circle” where youth describe what they look like on the outside and how they feel on the inside. It’s important for three reasons:

  • The staff reads the temperature of the room and alters activities or discussion if needed.
  • The youth are challenged to express a variety of feelings in a meaningful way.
  • We create habits to never assume someone’s values, feelings or beliefs are represented by how they look.

Let’s get moving!

After the Outside/Inside circle, physical warm-ups are used to clear minds, shake off the troubles of the day, and find the energy needed for the session. The scene here was recorded and sent to Cook County Detention Center facility staff to show to the program’s youth.

“[Ms. Kayla’s Story Worksheets] are fun. I really appreciate the activities because they really get my brain going.”

Youth ensemble member, Word Warriors

Acting Exercises

Our teaching artists are working hard creating weekly videos to help Changing Voices youth prepare for rigorous rehearsals and community touring when in-person programming restarts. Tone exercises like this one prepare youth to think imaginatively about character and provide the basic learning blocks for understanding someone’s motivation – a key learning for both successful acting and strengthening emotional intelligence in the real world.

Brandon teaches acting with Tone. 

“What are you doing?” 

Medina teaches acting with Tone.

“Are you for real right now?”

Meet the Band App.

We use the Band app to engage the Changing Voices ensemble with writing exercises, post videos from teaching artists, provide case management resources, and maintain a strong sense of community.