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30 Years of Child’s Play

Child’s Play Touring Theatre, a unique institution celebrating and cultivating the creativity and imaginations of schoolchildren, celebrated its 30th anniversary on June 10 with a gala event in Chicago.

The group was the first theater company to realize the value of children’s own writing and to exclusively perform stories and poems written by young authors. Through their programs, they’ve served more than four million children, educators and adults. Additionally, they’ve performed the original works of more than 15,000 young authors.

The seeds were sown back in 1978, when June Panagakos Podagrosi (pictured at right) and her late husband Victor organized a show in which he dramatized the works of his students at Parkland College. “After, we had requests from people to come to their schools, but we weren’t set up to do that,” Podagrosi recalled. They began forming the company in 1979, and by 1980, they were an official not-for-profit entity.

Child’s Play hosts writing workshops at local schools. “Our Master Class gets the kids excited about their writing abilities. Think of it as a Second City for kids,” Podagrosi described. Following the workshops, selected works – written by a single student or an entire class – are staged and performed by the students.

There is also a touring program called Writing our World. “Kids from around the globe write about their grandparents coming from other countries. We’ve had stories come from China, India, Africa, UK, Australia. I’d love to have some from Greece.  We introduce some language teaching in these shows as well,” the founder said.

The group, which has a workshop and prop room in Chicago’s West Bucktown neighborhood, works with children and schools throughout Chicagoland, and in other states, including Texas, where they’ll be this summer for a two-week camp.

The celebration, for children of all ages, was emceed by fellow Greek American Jane Monzures (pictured at left), host of “Living Healthy Chicago.”

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