For 50 years, Free Street Theater has used theatre to defy Chicago’s racial and economic segregation. Since 2012, each year, Free Street employs 15-20 teens who collectively identify and investigate an issue directly affecting Chicagoans.Through interviews, research and conservatory-style theatrical training, participants create a show about that issue, which serves as a tactic in an overall activist strategy. In previous years, youth have investigated water injustice, voting rights, over-policing, the school to prison pipeline, and mental health. This year, our youth look at trash, environmental racism, pollution and cancel culture in a piece entitled “Wasted.” Youth will present preliminary content to the public in December of 2019. The final version will premiere in May 2020.
In addition to the creation of a theatrical performance, Free Street staff ensure that students receive:
Training in acting, writing, critical thinking, direct action, research, and interviewing skills in order to become informed theater makers and activists.
Academic and post-secondary supports, including tutoring, college and career counseling, and networking and mentorship opportunities with professionals in the field.
Community-based partnerships: This year, the youth ensemble will partner with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). LVJEO staff will educate youth about the environmental justice issues Little Village residents face. They will also connect Free Street to Little Village community members, so that their stories can be included their stories in the play, providing real-world, real-time context, and helping them understand how the play can directly serve the efforts of LVEJO. Through this partnership, Free Street will provide people power to LVEJO throughout the year for actions and efforts, leveraging the play as a tool to aid in their mission.
Funded by Chicago, IL (December 2019)