Live Bait Improv at Juvie | Letters | Chicago Reader

Live Bait Improv at Juvie 

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This letter is in reference to the article regarding the improv classes at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center [February 16]. In that article it was stated by Carolyn Minor that they "took over" the Live Bait Theater improv class at the facility. That is incorrect. Live Bait Theater is currently conducting classes there. Our programs are running concurrently.

Our most recent session of improv classes began on February 21 and is planned to run through April 11. Our last block of classes began October 6 and ended December 8 of 2006. I find it hard to believe that all the people interviewed for this article were unaware of this fact.

We started our improv classes at the facility in 2005 at the invitation of then superintendent Jerry Robinson because he had heard of our Police-Teen Link Program. John Ragir designed the program there based on his experience with Police-Teen Link and other community-arts programming we have conducted over the years. He wrote a grant and obtained funding. He then hired Carolyn and Heather Kinney, as well as several other improv artists as teachers.

Regarding their statement that Live Bait Theater prevented them from making the class "challenging," that is untrue. John Ragir had weekly meetings with them, and he not only listened to their suggestions; he integrated some of their ideas into a few of the classes. In fact in our most recent series of classes there, Ragir and guest instructor poet Garnett Kilberg-Cohen blended poetry and improv and helped the residents create a chapbook of their poetry. Hardly standard improv instruction.

When Anna Greanias-Wright informed us that Minor and Kinney were going to be teaching a second class together on Sundays, we were happy that the classes were being expanded. The Cook County Juvenile Detention Center is in great need of arts programming for the residents who reside there, the more the better.

Live Bait Theater's Bait, Hook and Link Community Programming has been in existence for 15 years. Over that time we have created innovative programming in partnership with many social agencies, public institutions, and schools. We worked with teen mothers who were wards of the state for eight years at the Madonna Saint Joseph/Maryville Center. Through our Police-Teen Link program we have worked with hundreds of at-risk teens over its ten-year history. When Heather and Carolyn came to work with us they had limited teaching experience.

I am of the belief that people should be recognized for their efforts, not ignored or demeaned. I felt that this article did both to my organization. It was not an accurate or fair account of our participation, and I wish Tori Marlan had contacted us to comment.

Sharon Evans

Artistic director

Live Bait Theater

Tori Marlan replies:

I'm sorry Evans thinks the article demeaned Live Bait. That certainly was not my intention. It's true, as she says, that the theater and the teachers I wrote about are running concurrent programs at the detention center, though they serve different populations.

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