Some pretty amazing theatre work is happening outside Chicago at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville. There, dynamo Meade Palidofsky spearheads a program that serves young incarcerated women. It's an outlet, a vehicle, a chance to experience their creative selves and break out of their bonds through writing and performing songs, poems, stories and scenes inspired by their personal experiences.
In a program called "Fabulous Females," Storycatchers participants meet twice a week joined by teaching artists, volunteers, and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) form collaborative groups with the girls. Yes, you read that correctly: THE CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA! So, imagine you are an incarcerated girl and a professional artist gives you their time– well, it helps — and in spite of all the losses and pain behind bars, the horrendous whirlwind that encompasses them daily, these young women find a supportive structure to create composite characters, outline and create a musical play.
And guess who performs along side them in their showcases? Yep, the Chicago Symphony. On the website above there is actually a photo of Yo Yo Ma helping the performers.
Storycatchers's newest musical, "Finding Asia," was recently featured in The Chicago Tribune. It is the story of a girl who is released into her grandmother's care, and after an argument, runs away with her pet rooster to find a new boyfriend whom she met on Facebook. She discovers that he is not who he pretends to be. . For starters, he's 35. She finally comes to grips with the fact that she must choose between a "high-risk, drug-fueled partying and life within the strict but safe confines of her grandmother's home. Asia chooses her family."
Pianist Myron Silberstein from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the training ensemble of the CSO composed and arranged the score for himself and three other musicians. They perform live as the cast acts in front of them.
This play reminds me a bit of one I directed at Framingham Women's Prison called Simply Maria by Josefina Lopez. It tells the story of Maria, a young, precocious Latina who comes from Mexico with her family to the U.S. She aspires to be an actor, and her dream is to go to college — something her parents never had.. She too has to give up something on her journey to find herself, in this case, it is what her parents and the church want for her — a typical American dream. Maria finally realizes that college will help her be free, economically independent of men and lead to the life that she wants, a family and a career.
There is a picture of the cast of Simply Maria and a picture of Meade's Storycatchers is this amazing video of Performing New Lives.