The Goodman opens new doors for Chicagoland students through its educational programming—and ensures these teenagers stay engaged with the theater through the Goodman Youth Arts Council (GYAC). A group of young artists who use their theater training to connect people with the stories on stage, GYAC participants believe theater can educate and empower by building bridges between diverse peoples. Now in its eighth year, the program was created by Walter Director of Education and Engagement Willa J. Taylor as a way to cultivate leadership skills through a continued relationship with the Goodman. To become members, youth must first participate in one of the Goodman’s education programs (including the Cindy Bandle Young Critics, PlayBuild | Youth Intensive, Musical Theater Intensive or School Matinee Series) and earn an adult mentor’s nomination. Returning council members oversee the interview and selection process.

GYAC meets bi-weekly during the school year, and hosts a variety of events, leads workshops at citywide conferences, and works with other youth theater groups across the nation—including students of playwright Noah Haidle (Smokefall) from Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and the Tru Colors youth group from The Theater Offensive in Boston. GYAC has twice hosted dinner for the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table events. This year, they invited members of Goodman Theatre’s Education and Engagement programs to discuss their differing experiences with age and aging, and how to unite to strengthen their communities.

In addition, GYAC hosts a large annual event at the theater in which their peers and friends are invited to interact with the works on the Goodman’s stages, engaging in dialogue about the topics just witnessed. Past events include The Little Foxes (2015) and Carlyle (2016)—a political comedy that sparked a poignant conversation during an election year. This year, the Council aimed for a greater impact for change by opening up the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement to young artists in the Chicagoland area. On April 26, more than 40 young artists, performers and filmmakers gathered in the Alice Center to share their art with friends and family. Donations were accepted for Vida/SIDA, a health initiative by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center that provides HIV prevention services for LGBTQ and Latinx people and other minority groups. The Goodman Youth Arts Council helps create spaces for aspiring artists and arts-engaged young people to use their voice and find their place in Chicago’s creative world. The Goodman proudly supports these arts leaders of tomorrow.