The mission of Filament Theatre is to create a more equitable society by celebrating and amplifying the perspectives and experiences of young people through the performing arts.
Young people deserve to express their true selves and live their authentic lives free from discrimination and violence, with access to any and all the personalized resources they need to fully develop and thrive without limitations.
Young people deserve the right to share their thoughts and opinions freely, in whatever medium allows them to best convey those ideas without causing harm to themselves or others, and those thoughts should be heard and valued by their communities.
Young people experience all the same struggles, successes, fears, and dreams as adults do and, in turn, should be given opportunities to explore those same complex ideas and emotions.
Young people deserve the right to rest, relax, play, and enjoy access to cultural and creative outlets where they can see themselves and other communities and cultures represented.
Adults should act with the best interest of young people in mind and use their adult privilege to advocate on the behalf of young people in their communities and in the world.
These values are predicated on the belief that adultism as a form of oppression exists and must be eradicated from our society. Adultism is defined as an assumption that adults are better than young people, and are entitled to act upon young people in many ways without their agreement. Since young people exist at every single intersection of race, ability, gender identity and expression, religion, class, sex, those prejudices are complicated, compounded and exacerbated. Eradicating adultism in society is an essential, foundational part of eradicating all oppression. Adultism teaches us that it is normal and acceptable to control the behavior of others, or to be controlled. Adultism teaches us that “power over” is a necessary human dynamic.
What if our society treated young people as thoughtful, emotional, whole people? What if we valued them exactly as they are, not as who we hope they will grow to be? It would make our communities stronger, richer, and more creative and, crucially, more equitable. Theatre for young audiences is a powerful tool for making this change. It is vital that young people see themselves reflected on stage, and equally vital for former children (ie. adults) to see young people as valued members of a community. In a society that ignores and undervalues its youngest citizens, putting young people’s stories, perspectives, and experiences onstage is a radical act.
Filament Theatre creates imaginary worlds in which young people have agency and autonomy to explore and express the ideas they are passionate about – whether that’s new information, a challenging social situation, or a form of artistic expression. We need stories to help us encounter new worlds, meet new people, and practice how we might behave in that new situation. Without that kind of imagination, we will be unable to navigate the challenges that face our future.
At Filament, the word PLAY is both a noun and a verb. Our audiences join in our play at every step, from family dramaturgy workshops, to participatory pre- and post-show activities, to the performances themselves. Our past work includes a play where the audience rides bicycles, a play with two actors playing 26 characters, a totally audience-driven interactive installation, a play in a restaurant with a five-course meal accompanying the story, a play in a sandbox, a play that toured the rooms of an old mansion, a choose-your-own-adventure play, a play with a symphony orchestra, a whole bunch of which were commissions by Chicago playwrights. All of our work is accessible to multigenerational and neurodiverse audiences.
Our production process welcomes young people into the room as essential collaborators, working alongside adult professionals to craft and explore the world of each play, elevating young people as experts and positioning adults as allies. Centering youth voices and perspectives is key to every step of our creative process; not only does it give young people a crucial platform in a society that undervalues their input, but it makes the art more relevant, truthful, and creative. As we grow, Filament is testing and exploring ways to expand youth leadership within all aspects of the organization.
Now in its fourteenth year, Filament Theatre is an anchor cultural organization for the Six Corners business district in Chicago’s Portage Park. We serve approximately 8500 patrons annually through our theatre programming, camps, school residencies, and classes. As the only theatre of its kind in Chicago, Filament is a vital home for innovative artists and young people finding and using their power through the performing arts.
Filament Theatre is a Non-Profit organization recognized as 501(c)(3).
What people are saying about Filament
“Filament Theatre’s Forts! builds adventures, agency, and awareness – Kids and families are in charge at this Portage Park Theater”
– Chicago Reader Feature Article by Marissa Oberlander (Published 1/22/2020)
“One of the most magical evenings I have ever spent in the theatre.”
-Rives Collins, Chair of the Department of Theatre, Northwestern University
“Artistic Director and creator Julie Ritchey is either totally in tune with her inner child or has children whose faces she’s seen light up when opening gifts and holding the empty boxes with joy at the prospect of what they can do. Filament feels like the only child-oriented theatre in Chicago that—instead of pouring out ungodly amounts of energy to entertain young audiences to try and keep their attention—has a calm, meditative and wonder-like approach that brings the child’s spirit into the heart of their productions.”
-PerformInk, review of Forts: Build Your Own Adventure
“Super fun and original, and I would recommend this to a nearby solar system.”
-Gio, age 10
“That was the best night of my life.”
-Mabel, age 8
“The experience is entirely immersive as children (and adults, if you dare) are invited to play along and make thunder, or set up a path in red yarn, or best yet, sit around the big sand box and run their hands through the granules and sculpt as the tale unfolds before them…It’s quite possible that Filament is capable of introducing our young into the theatre in a way that makes them feel celebrated and renders their participation desired and necessary.”
-PerformInk, review of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
“You’ll absolutely love the magnificent plays at Filament Theatre.”
-Chicago Parent Magazine
“We were lucky enough to attend the Sensory Friendly performance of “The Snow Queen” at Filament Theatre. I am always a little apprehensive when we attend an event like this…. So many [theatre companies] think that all they have to do is dim the lights and sound and the show is accessible. But Filament was so kind and welcoming and was consciously making themselves open to being present and encouraging to the kids. From the moment we walked into the space we felt comfortable. The staff and actors were happy to be with us, not nervous or uncomfortable… Everyone in the house was having a great time in their own way. It was a perfect theatrical experience for the whole family.”
-Laurie Viets, Audience Member and Autism Advocate.