State’s Attorney’s Project
In the summer of 1999, Child’s Play worked with the Englewood community to set up a writing and theatre arts residency, working with at risk children in ways that allowed them to think creatively and consider positive solutions to the concerns and difficulties they experienced in every day life. Building on the success of this project, Child's Play then developed a unique initiative with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, joining the office in its efforts to curb juvenile violence. For the “Project for Violence Prevention”, Child's Play led classroom workshops at schools in several targeted Cook County communities, encouraging students to read and write about they issues they often confronted: violence, gangs, drugs and guns. The program focused on helping to prevent violence by giving children alternative approaches to resolving conflict in their lives, and by helping them better understand themselves and tap into the many creative gifts they possessed. The program ran for five years using theatre as a platform for encouraging change.
In 1999, Child’s Play Touring Theatre collaborated with the Disney Foundation to bring a three year long in-school arts-in-residence program titled “We Are The Stories” to the Byrd Academy. Located in the Cabrini-Green housing projects, the Byrd Academy was the only school in the Midwest to receive a grant from the Disney Foundation’s “Learning Partnership” program. Designated as a Communications/Technology Academy at the time, Byrd Academy was equipped with a state-of-the-art television studio, but due to significant budget cuts and loss of staff to operate this facility, the studio had been left largely untapped. Child’s Play, through their residency, came and worked with the students and the teachers, as well as the parents in the community, and helped integrate narrative story, drama and technology into their studies and all areas of the curriculum, using the studio as intended. This residency was originally scheduled to last three years, but because of the success of the program, it continued for five.
The Writes of Passage – Project Millennium
In participation with Project Millennium (2000), a collaborative arts and education project organized by the Field Museum, Child’s Play developed a series of workshops and performances based on the theme of the millennium – specifically, a celebration of life that looked to the past, the present and the future through stories concentrating on the passage of childhood to adulthood and the common experience that unites people across time and culture. Stories, poems and songs were collected from elementary and junior high students and developed into a new performances showcasing the voices of these adolescents and emerging adolescents called “Changing Voices”. Workshops had students look at their family to explore the unique history of their own lives, and to gain a cross-generational understanding of people’s heritage as we crossed over from the old, into the new, millennium. The “Writes of Passage” project encouraged young people to try out new voices, test their boundaries and examine who they want to become.