It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Goodman Theatre. In fact, I’m the president of the Scenemakers, Goodman’s young professional board comprised of next-generation leaders in Chicago’s corporate, arts and civic communities who celebrate the theatre’s artistic productions and support its education and community engagement (EACE) programs.
One such program is General Theatre Studies, or GTS, an intensive six-week summer program where diverse high schoolers ages 14 to 19 from all over Chicago collaborate on writing, staging and ultimately performing an original play. They learn all elements of theater production as well as critical thinking, literacy and storytelling skills from local theater professionals who serve as teaching artists. The students work on ensemble-building exercises designed to validate their voices and inspire them to examine their own potential for creativity.
A testament to the program’s success, it’s not uncommon for a student to go on to become a master, like Brandi Lee.
Now age 20 and majoring in acting and fiction writing at Columbia College, Ms. Lee participated in GTS all four years of high school. After graduation, she was offered an internship with Goodman Theatre as a teaching artist for successive GTS students. She credits Goodman’s EACE programs for giving her crucial professional development in the acting business. She says, “Goodman actually gave me the skills to work,” and adds, “They helped me understand what it means to put education, activism and arts together in a business setting.” (Listen to an interview on Vocalo.org’s The Morning AMp with Ms. Lee and me about the importance of students gaining professional experience in programs like GTS.)
Willa Taylor, Goodman’s EACE Director, believes that GTS is vital to the theatre’s commitment to arts education and community. Ms. Taylor hears countless testimonials from students and teachers alike that GTS has been life-changing for many teenagers in the program. That’s likely because young people often struggle on a daily basis with heavy issues like poverty, abuse, gender-identity, low self-esteem and isolation. GTS gives them a safe environment to explore and create, not just art, but positive relationships with other students and with themselves. GTS and other EACE programs, like the Student Subscription Series – a series of special student-only matinee performances of Goodman productions with companion teacher training materials designed to enhance reading, writing, critical thinking and communication skills – are all offered free to students and schools.
In support of GTS, the Scenemakers are hosting the 3rd annual Scene Soiree, our signature fundraising fete, on Saturday, June 21, from 7-11pm at the National Hellenic Museum (333 South Halsted). This year’s Soiree is inspired by Goodman’s “Dream” Season and promises an unparalleled artistic experience with interactive dance performances by The Nexus Project and dreamscape installations in collaboration with the Actor’s Gymnasium and Walkabout Theatre. The event also features music from DJ White Russian, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction and raffle, including exclusive Goodman experiences and more. Last year’s Scene Soiree drew more than 300 partygoers and raised over $45,000 for GTS, tripling the funds raised from the previous year.
To support GTS by purchasing tickets to the Scene Soiree and to see video from last year’s event, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/SceneSoiree.
To learn more about the Scenemakers, in their 11th year of supporting Goodman Theater’s mission of quality, diversity and community through fundraising, audience development and advocacy, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Support/Scenemakers.