Since 2016, Skokie-based Northlight Theatre has teamed up with YWCA Evanston/North Shore to offer arts programs to survivors of domestic violence. This partnership has included tickets to Northlight productions and in-person workshops.
The partnership was humming along as usual this year until the pandemic hit.
According to Christina Lepri, Northlight’s director of education and community engagement, a group of women who reside in Bridges, YWCA’s longer-term housing for domestic violence survivors, were preparing to attend a play together.
“It was March and we were all set to see Lynn Nottage’s ‘Intimate Apparel.’ Then the quarantine went into effect,” she said.
Northlight was also in the midst of conducting workshops at Bridges centered on creative expression through storytelling and writing.
But instead of suspending these programs due to the pandemic, Northlight and YWCA Evanston/North Shore simply adjusted.
Instead of doing in-person workshops, Northlight renamed the workshop “Pen Pal Gals,” and mailed workshop packets to the participants. The packets included writing materials and prompts like “write a letter to your future self.”
The participants were then able to participate in virtual gatherings to share their stories. Those who didn’t join the virtual workshops could mail their written stories back to the facilitator.
“While we’ve worked hard to re-create ways to be together and foster a sense of community, we’ve also given participants a lot of space to choose how they want to be part of this,” said Lepri. “If they don’t want to do the Zoom workshop, they can have a back and forth with the facilitator by mail.”
According to Hillary Douin, director of domestic violence programs at YWCA Evanston/North Shore, women who have participated in these programs have found them beneficial.
“We know that creative expression is therapeutic,” said Douin. “It doesn’t have to be too deep; it can have elements of lightness and fun, which Northlight understands. We’re so grateful for the enthusiasm and commitment that Northlight brings to this partnership.”
And although it isn’t the same as sitting together in a darkened theater, Northlight is hosting a “watch party” in the weeks ahead for its “Live from the West End, Women of Broadway” series. The women at Bridges will watch these performances virtually and then discuss them afterward.
“We’re delivering concessions packages with popcorn and pretzels for the watch party,” said Lepri. “We’re working hard to re-create a sense of community and something special.”
Northlight Theatre is a professional, non-profit theatre company currently located in Skokie at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. It is one of the largest nonprofit theatres in the Chicago area with more than 5,000 subscribers, serving audiences totaling nearly 50,000 each season.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore works to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen local communities. It serves more than 10,000 people annually in northern Cook County. Learn more at www.ywca-ens.org.