unnamed (12)Eighty Chicagoland teenagers come together for the Goodman’s 8thannual General Theater Studies (GTS), a comprehensive six-week intensive designed to further critical thinking, literacy and storytelling skills in 14-18 year-old students. Led by Director of Education and Community Engagement Willa Taylor, five teaching artists—Bobby BiedrzyckiKevin DouglasKhanisha FosterTony Sancho and Paul Whitehouse—introduce participants to theater using storytelling, ensemble building, object work and writing exercises in two three-and-a-half hour sessions per day, four days per week. In building the final performance showcase, participants conduct ethnographic research with family, friends and members of their communities around the question, “When was a moment you had to fight for love?” The showcase takes place Monday, August 11 and Tuesday, August 12 at 7pm at Goodman Theatre. Tickets are free but reservations are required; call 312.443.3800.

“Each summer, I am reminded of the transformative power of theater in our work with GTS. During this intense collaboration with our teaching artists, young people discover the importance of story–to learn about themselves, about each other and about the world,” said Taylor. “While all the work is grounded in techniques for creating performance, the biggest payoff for us is not the final performance but the ways they are changed by the experience of our time together.  That’s what makes it so special.”

More than 600 students have participated in GTS since its inception in 2007, and approximately 79% of program participants attend public schools, with 51% enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. Brandi Lee, a current Goodman intern who previously participated in GTS, noted, “GTS provided me with an environment to grow, share and learn. The teaching artists’ and staff’s ability to embrace every student and instill curiosity in them truly helped me to become the person I am now.”

Concurrent with GTS, InterGens—13 teens who have previously participated in the Goodman’s education programs plus senior citizen participants of GeNarrations—engage in a weekly storytelling session around the same theme of fighting for love. The group also performs a final piece at the August 11 and 12 showcase.

About the 2014 Teaching Artists

Bobby Biedrzycki is the Curriculum and Instruction Associate in the Department of Education and Community Engagement at Goodman Theatre, a company member of 2nd Story and on faculty in the Department of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, where he was the 2013 recipient of the Excellence-in-Teaching Award. As a writer, performer, educator and transnational human rights activist, his stories, poems, and performances have appeared on pages, stages and public spaces across the U.S. and beyond. His work is rooted in cross-disciplinary and intergenerational collaboration that focuses on creating social change.

Kevin Douglas, now in his eleventh year teaching with the Goodman, is an Ensemble Member at Lookingglass Theatre Company, where he has appeared in Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have EatenLookingglass AliceAround the World in 80 Days, The Great Fire, and Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting. He also teaches in Chicago Public Schools through Chicago Arts Partnership and Education (C.A.P.E.).

Khanisha Foster is the Associate Artistic Director of 2nd Story and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista. Her teaching artist work was honored by the White House last year, and her writing has been published with CellStories and 2nd Story. She has performed with Teatro Vista, Goodman Theatre, Steep Theatre and Collaboraction, among others.

Tony Sancho is an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and a teacher at The Center for Community Arts Partnerships created by Columbia. Tony has performed at Goodman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum Ojai Playwrights Conference, South Coast Repertory, Steppenwolf Theatre and Victory Gardens Theater.

Paul Whitehouse is the company director at Child’s Play Touring Theater where he recently led a Big Read project in which students developed original work around the themes of Fahrenheit 451. He has also performed across the Northeast, at venues including Stepping Stones Children’s Museum and the Bushnell.

The teaching artists are augmented by teaching assistants Gracie Meier and Jessie Roman, each of whom is a former Goodman education program participant.  

Director of Education and Community Engagement Willa J. Taylor began her career in arts education at Arena Stage where, under Founding Director Zelda Fichandler, she established the Allen Lee Hughes Fellows Program—one of the first theater-run apprenticeships designed to increase participation by people of color in professional theater. She then went to Lincoln Center Theater, where she created The Urban Ensemble, a multidisciplinary project that served at-risk youth. This collaboration between Lincoln Center and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the Public Theater was cited by President Clinton’s Council on the Arts and Humanities in its 1996 report, Coming Up Taller. At Lincoln Center, she consulted for New Victory Theatre, where she designed the arts education program for their inaugural season. Taylor also served as cultural director for Gay Games IV, where she oversaw the production of more than 200 cultural events, including the Broadway production of Sir Ian McKellen’s A Knight Out. For 12 years she served as a Russian and Arabic linguist in the US Navy. While overseas, she oversaw productions for the United Service Organization in Greece and managed Armed Forces Radio and Television in Turkey where she created the Profiles in Black history series. Following her graduation from Kendall College’s culinary program in 2001, Taylor opened Taylor-Made Cuisine, a gourmet catering company as well as Home Café, a neighborhood bistro. In 2005, she helped open and served as the catering chef for Chicago’s EatZi’s Easygoing Gourmet, a chain of gourmet bakeries, take out markets and restaurants based out of Dallas, Texas.

The Goodman is grateful for the generous support of its Education and Community Engagement program sponsors. The Goodman Women’s Board is the Major Supporter of Education and Community Engagement. The Efroymson-Hamid Family Foundation and the Efroymson Family Fund are Education and Community Engagement Season Sponsors. Helen V. Brach Foundation and Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P. are Supporters of Education and Community Engagement. Polk Bros. Foundation is the Principal Foundation Supporter of the Student Subscription Series. Target is the Major Corporate Sponsor for the Target Student Matinees. The Crown Family is the Major Supporter of the Student Subscription Series. JPMorgan Chase is the Corporate Sponsor Partner for the Student Subscription Series. Peoples Gas and the Siragusa Foundation are Supporters of the Student Subscription Series. The Goodman Scenemakers Board is the Sponsor Partner for the General Theater Studies Program. The A&A Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield, KPMG LLP, the Colonel Stanley Reed McNeil Foundation, and the Edmond and Alice Opler Foundation are Supporters of the General Theater Studies Program. The Field Foundation is the Supporter of GeNarrations. The Walter E. Heller Foundation is the Supporter of the Cindy Bandle Young Critics and the Student Subscription Series. Dr. Scholl Foundation is the Supporter of the Cindy Bandle Young Critics.

About the Goodman’s Education and Community Engagement

In addition to GTS, Goodman Theatre offers a variety of programming to enable Chicagoland learners of all ages to interact with working theater professionals and deepen the experience of the work on stage. The Student Subscription Series (SSS) engages more than 20 Chicago public high schools each year to creatively supplement students’ reading, writing, critical thinking and communication skills. Special matinee performances of Goodman productions are supplemented with exclusive teacher training workshops, educational guides and post-show discussions. CONTEXT: Discourse & Discussion is a series designed to engage the community in debate, dialogue and deeper exploration of themes within Goodman productions. Unlike a traditional post-show discussion which centers on the production, CONTEXT events focus on particular issues raised within the plays and explore how they resonate in today’s culture. Cindy Bandle Young Critics (CBYC) is a joint venture between Goodman Theatre and the Association for Women Journalists that introduces 11th grade girls to the art of theater criticism and the world of professional writing. Participants see every show in the Goodman’s season, interview theater artists and receive one-on-one mentoring from professional journalists. CBYC is named in honor of Goodman Theatre’s late, longtime press director, Cindy Bandle. The Goodman’s Youth Art Council (GYAC) allows past participants in theater programs to stay involved in the institution. Members of this leadership development program are committed to exposing their peers to theatrical productions and act as ambassadors for the Goodman in their communities and schools. GeNarrations is a writing workshop for senior citizens in which participants develop personal narrative performance pieces based on themes raised by Goodman Theatre productions, which they are then invited to perform in a public forum.