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Our Community

When the White House comes to me for the solution to world peace I’ll say, ‘Here it is: one creative workshop at a time—creating and building together—because the energy to build is greater and more courageous than to destroy.

Joyce Piven

Piven Theatre Workshop (PTW) is fiercely committed to our theatre community partnerships. Since our birth in 1971, PTW has collaborated with organizations across the greater Chicago area. We understand that theatre needs to deepen, broaden, and diversify audiences by connecting them to communities and inviting individuals to participate in the creation of art. We know  the arts can initiate critical thinking around society’s most pressing problems. Historically, the theatre community has been at the forefront in welcoming people and performances that evidence diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, and class with an eager view towards open dialogue and exploration. The arts educate, inform and transform communities.

In 2016, we launched an initiative that inspired us to choose yearly themes and partners with social justice lenses. Our “Quality of Mercy” project collaborated with five community organizations: in a series of performances, conversations, and free arts programming.

These theatre community partnerships built audience and facilitated community-wide artwork.

Piven Theatre Community Involvement

These initial partnerships, along with our experiences with Tim Robbin’s Actors Gang in Los Angeles, led us to launch workshops working with women in the Cook County Jail. These were so wildly successful that we had a waiting list of over 80 woman after our first workshops ended.

In 2016/2017, our theme was “Women’s Voices.” Our season partners included: StoryStudio Chicago, the Evanston YWCA’s Bridges Program, Bookends and Beginnings, Filmmaker Colleen Chappelle, female cast members from Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med, and Girl Meets Voice. Our partner organizations worked with us to create and schedule community discussions, talk-backs after our shows, live readings, and book signings all related to the theme of Women’s Voices.

The Women’s Voices partnerships led to a pilot workshop with a program through the Evanston YWCA for survivors of domestic violence.

Our 2017/2018 season theme is “Home.” PTW collaborated with Fleetwood-Jourdain and Dear Evanston to produce the world premiere of A Home on the Lake, a show that explores housing inequity in Evanston.  Our partners have included:

This season has resulted in the highest ticket sales of any one show in PTW’s production history.

Alongside our commitment to community partnerships within our production wing, PTW strives to bring our community together through historical and current partnerships with:

Our unique approach is trauma-informed and incorporates best practices in social emotional learning. PTW instructors recognize the trauma in our participants’ lives, allowing them to feel safe and to fully embrace the risk-taking that true creative expression demands. Trauma-informed practices incorporate an emphasis on safety, supportive leadership, self-regulation, and strengths. The arts allow participants to put words and movements to sadness, anger, and joy in ways they normally would feel confined or restricted from doing. Throughout our program, we encourage expression and emphasize our participants’ strengths.

Each workshop engages participants through a curriculum honed and perfected over 46 years of instruction. We utilize texts that are relevant to our season’s themes, to the ages or developmental stages of our participants, and to their particular cultural and life experiences. Our activities ignite imagination, create a sense of camaraderie within the group, and as Joyce Piven insisted, “can create and build, resulting in peace.”

“I have been acquainted with the Piven Theatre Workshop for many years and admire their fine work.  I continue to be impressed with the high quality of their productions.  I commend them for their encouragement of acting by people of diverse backgrounds and of all ages.  I am also impressed with their emphasis on performing for many different audiences at reasonable rates, and in some cases for no charge, thus enabling lower-income persons to enjoy this enriching experience of quality theatre.”


Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

“I doubt that 20 years ago the Pivens knew the tremendous impact that they would have on Evanston and the esteem in which the Evanston community holds them today. We in Evanston are very proud that the Pivens placed their stakes in Evanston.  They will continue to bring great ingenuity to all facets of theatre.”

The Honorable Lorraine H. Morton

Mayor of Evanston