Grantee Project: Trail Tales

Artist Team: Filament Theatre
Neighborhood: Southeast Side – Eggers Grove
Art Type: Youth Theater
Grant Amount: $7,560

Filament Theatre

A multi-sensory, bilingual theater piece will be produced for the Chicago region’s littlest audiences celebrating the natural world. Performances in Eggers Grove on the Southeast Side center children 18 months to three years and their caregivers.

The creation process pairs professional adult artists with youth collaborators, ensuring that young people are co-creators of the work – not just passive consumers. 

Trail Tales will welcome toddlers and their grown-ups to explore Eggers Grove’s rich ecosystem of oak trees and migratory birds through story, song, and play. The piece will:

  • Emotionally connect Chicago’s youngest citizens and their families to the natural world;
  • Empower parents and caregivers to explore the forest preserves with their children;
  • Encourage free play in nature as a part of family life; and
  • Invite toddlers and their families to enjoy over an hour of participatory play, joy and celebration, outside in the forest preserves.

​​But why toddlers? By creating “Trail Tales” specifically for toddlers, it is our hope that we can help empower families of young children who might feel intimidated by nature play, or who have been historically excluded from participating outdoor activities, to make time spent outdoors as a family a routine part of their lives. Through the structure of theatre, with leadership by a performing artist and facilitator, Filament Theatre will be providing a safe environment for families to try something new.

“Trail Tales aims to foster a positive emotional relationship between children and nature,” said Julie Ritchey of Filament Theatre. “This experience will provide a foundation for positive ongoing relationships with nature and a sense of belonging and stewardship that we hope will last a lifetime.”

For fifteen years, Filament Theatre has created participatory, youth-driven theater experiences that encourage youth agency, autonomy, and activism. Their creation process pairs professional adult artists with youth collaborators, ensuring that young people are co-creators of the work – not just passive consumers. 

Julie Ritchey (Director/Dramaturg) is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Filament Theatre. She specializes in community-based site-specific work, including The Van Gogh Cafe (staged in Fannie’s Bakery and Cafe with an accompanying a five course meal), Forts: Build Your Own Adventure (an audience-driven performance installation), The Secret Yes (a promenade play in Portage Park), David Greig’s The Monster in the Hall, Nicola McCartney’s Lifeboat (named one of the Chicago Tribune’s Top Ten Best of the Fringe 2014), and many more. In addition to her work at Filament, Julie has directed plays for young people at Adventure Stage, Boise Contemporary Theater and the Summer Theatre of New Canaan. Julie holds a Bachelor of Science in Performance Studies from Northwestern University.

Eleanor Kahn (Designer) is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist, with a focus on scenic and installation design. Her work is centered around the idea that the where, when, and how we receive information is as important as what that information is; context is everything. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Iowa State University with a second major in performing arts. She has designed over 100 shows and worked on countless others. She continues to expand her work and has branched out into experience design and installation work (including public art featured in Millennium Park) to further her passion in the design of immersive + narrative driven spaces.

Katie Norregaard (Writer/Composer) is a children’s songwriter, filmmaker, and teaching artist based in Chicago. She runs a creative studio under “Miss Katie Sings”, where she produces videos for children online with an emphasis on social-emotional learning, empathy, and justice. Katie also leads virtual music exploration classes through libraries, schools, and her own studio. She recently studied at the American Montessori Society for their educator-based ABAR (Anti-Bias Anti-Racist) certificate program. Her work through “Miss Katie Sings” has been seen by tens of thousands of children across the world.

Taria Abram (Writer) is a writer, storyteller, teaching artist and performer in Chicago. She was the associate education director of Emerald City Theatre where she oversaw participatory youth experiences for hundreds of students ages 12 and under. She has worked with Free Street Theatre, creating theatre for and with community groups.Caroline Watson (Writer) is a Chicago-based theatre artist, spoken word poet, and teaching artist. She was born and raised in Texas and is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. Caroline has toured nationally performing at such venues as The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and The Arden. When she isn’t acting, Caroline is the producer and host of Grandma’s House, a monthly poetry show and open mic.