Incarcerated offenders perform ‘storycatchers’ at COD


Vandy Manyeh (News Editor)

Criminal Justice Professor Stacie Haen-Darden , IYC-Warrenville Superintendent Judith Davis, Storycatcher Theater Founder Meade Palidofsky along with artist who helped students with the performance

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

There are no words to describe the performance of “More than a number” by 13 young offenders from the Illinois Youth Center-Warrenville.

One of the verses in the performance says: “I’m 17 with so many goals. First, leave Warrenville and get off parole. No more being in this cycle, no more gangbanging. I want to be with my daughter, maintaining.”

This verse is an actual story of a juvenile who made a mistake and is also willing to learn from them. The performance at the college was the result of the juvenile offenders at IYC-Warrenville responding to a writing prompt with a personal story.  Artists then created mini-musical of them and combined all the submission into a staged production.

The chorus of “More than a number” says: “I’m more than just a number. I’m a person, too. I got dreams and goals just like you. While I’m making my way, could you give me a hand? You could give me a chance by finding out who I am.”

College of DuPage (COD) criminal justice students and the entire college community listened to stories through songs that detailed the hard-hitting truths that landed the juveniles behind bars. The performance occurred May 1.

Organized by Storycatcher Theater, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, a staged performance of “More than a number” sets out to help young people transform their traumatic experiences into powerful musical theater, inspiring them to develop the courage and vision to become leaders and mentors.

“When I get out, I want to go to a community college; I want to accomplish my goals,” said a female Storycatcher performer. Use of the names and/or photos of the performers was prohibited.

Another female performer said: “I’ll be out in 27 days. My goal is to join Storycatcher Theater and do something. The last time, I was just smoking and drinking.”

“I’ve been locked up 16 times in my life. I just want to get out, and get a job on a cruise ship and travel the world,” said a male Storycatcher performer.

This creative youth development project is all about saving lives, according to Meade Palidofsky, director and founder of Storycatcher.

“Our goal is to help change the world, and to help young people make a personal change,” said Palidofsky.

Storycatcher Theater and their performers were on campus at the invitation of Stacie Haen-Darden, who teaches Criminal Justice 2240 as an instructor at COD. Students in this class study the overall treatment of juveniles as offenders and victims in addition to theoretical perspectives and prevention programs.

“This type of interactive educational blending not only supports the confined IYC students participating, but it is also an impetus of opportunities, understanding, and familiarizing of juvenile justice and restorative programs across disciplines, for the college, and within the community,” Darden said.

Storycatcher Theater will showcase another collection of stories and songs, “Acting hard with a lot of heart,” on May 19 at the Sheila Kalish Memorial Theater at IYC-Warrenville.