Steppenwolf Theatre Company has partnered with Multicultural Academy of Scholarship, or MAS, in Little Village High School for eight years. The nature of this partnership has deepened and expanded each year in new ways.
In 2007, we started by bringing in teaching artists to conduct a short-term residency with drama teacher, Edward Cisneros. A few years later, based on the success of the partnership and Cisneros’ desire to push his teaching pedagogy in fresh ways, we moved to an intensive, longer-term residency model, allowing Cisneros to flex new teaching muscles and co-teach alongside a veteran Steppenwolf artist. Nowadays, Cisneros is a mentor for colleagues at his school, serving as a liaison for their own burgeoning relationships with Steppenwolf.
Throughout this partnership, Cisneros and his colleagues have brought nearly 1,200 MAS students to Steppenwolf shows and Steppenwolf has provided hundreds of hours of free arts programming to those students as well as professional development for teachers. MAS students have learned visual arts and theater techniques alongside Steppenwolf teaching artists. They have created social justice projects at their school inspired by plays on Steppenwolf’s stage, including hosting a town hall forum about how young people can use their voices to combat violence and intolerance in their communities (created in conjunction with Steppenwolf’s how long can I cry: voices of youth violence). Maya, a MAS student, joined Steppenwolf’s Young Adult Council program last spring. As a Young Adult Council member, Maya is learning the inner-workings of a professional theater and expanding her knowledge of careers in the arts. Maya first learned of Steppenwolf during a field trip with Cisneros’ class and is now an ambassador for other MAS students to participate in Steppenwolf teen programs.
By creating deep, long-lasting arts partnerships with Chicago Public Schools—and specifically, the amazing classroom teachers within them—arts institutions get the privilege of building relationships of reciprocal trust and respect that allow both the partner institution and the school, teachers and students to push one another in new ways. At Steppenwolf, we are deeply grateful for our work with Cisneros and the incredible community at MAS. We look forward to ways our partnership will continue to expand to fit the needs of MAS teachers and students in the future.