Each year, Steppenwolf’s Cross-Town Ensemble brings together teens from Chicago and the suburbs to create and perform original plays. Grace Singerman, a 16-year-old writer from Northside College Prep High School, shares her experiences as a member of the 2005 Ensemble. When I heard about a program in which I would write a play and it would be performed live, I admit that my very first thought was not excitement. It was terror. My peers reassured me: "Come on, Grace, you’ve been writing for practically as long as you’ve been strong enough to hold a pen." True. Still, my fears were not abated – I had never before written a play or even shown my serious work to anyone. Nevertheless, I swallowed my worry, and I auditioned. I was accepted, and entered the Cross-Town Ensemble this February as a writer. After one month of painstakingly writing and re-writing our drafts, they were to be read aloud. I admit that I was nervous again. My knees trembled, I bit my lip; I spent the entire reading furiously writing notes about what to change. When it was over, I was thoroughly positive that no one had liked it. But when people looked me in the eye and genuinely told me that they thought it was good, I felt bittersweet relief. Since then, my play has been read and rehearsed countless times, and the butterflies that used to take control of my stomach no longer exist. We have learned skills and techniques that will make us better writers in general, whether writing for the theater or not. We have invested so much time into this program that I have forgotten what I used to do on Tuesdays and Saturdays before we began. In all honesty, I can’t even remember what it was like to have never written a play or to not yet know the friends that I’ve made through Cross-Town. Although I plan to incorporate writing into my career, I have yet to decide what that career will be – after all, I’m still only a sophomore in high school. However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my experiences in Cross-Town will never be forgotten. Interested in the 2006 Cross-Town Ensemble? Call (312) 654-5639, or email email@example.com.