Michelle Obama honors Chicago Storycatchers Theatre actors

November 22, 2013 (CHICAGO)

They are part of Storycatchers Theatre, a youth development organization that encourages young people to make thoughtful life choices through writing, producing and performing.

"In Chicago, my hometown, Storycatchers is helping underserved youth in the criminal justice system," said Michelle Obama, First Lady.

The 30-year-old organization was among several to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

"It's really thrilling actually. It's amazing. It's amazing," said Meade Palidofsky, founder, Storycatchers Theatre.

The theatre's founder travelled to Washington D.C. with one actor from Storycatchers community program, but many of the theatre's participants couldn't attend, as they are incarcerated. One of the programs is in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Facility in Warrenville. We met some of Storycatchers actors and playwrights at a recent rare performance outside of the youth prison.

"I've made some choices and the choices that I've made have led me to here, but being here has taught me a lot and has helped me and the play has helped me to see a bigger view," said Christina, actor, Storycatchers Theatre.

They help develop a show based on some of their own experiences. This show is called "What it Means to Fly," and is about freedom from incarceration and freedom from internal demons.

"Freedom so you don't have to come back to that facility again. So, it will stick with me because I know I can do better," said Tamara, actor, Storycatchers Theatre.

The Storycatchers founder says the payoff isn't necessarily the performance but the process-- seeing the young people trust others, commit to something and find hope for their futures.

"In a play, there is an ending that hasn't happened yet. So, the kids can create a future for themselves," said Palidofsky.

"Now that the president and his wife are learning about this. It's like an eye opener. People actually in the world actually really care," said Crystal, actor, Storycatchers Theatre.

With national attention and a check for $10,000 from this award, Storycatchers hopes to expand with a program for young people transitioning back into the real world, and even offer jobs performing their plays as warnings to other kids.

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