1. Play (noun) A dramatic work for the stage.
2. Play (verb) To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Julie Ritchey is a director-creator who specializes in immersive, participatory theatre for young people and their families.
Julie is on a mission to create a world where young people are valued, supported, and included exactly as they are - not as future adults. She partners with arts organizations, schools, and caregivers to create spaces that demolish the hierarchy between young people and grown ups through story and play. Her practice is rooted in a framework of anti-adultist collaboration that values young people as dramaturgs, advisors, creators, and experts rather than merely as audience members or consumers.
Drawing on a rich background as a director-creator, arts administrator, and care worker, Julie’s work breaks the boundaries of conventional family theatre. Children are the most rigorous, creative audience in the world, and Julie's work seeks to meet, extend, and inspire that creativity. She is the founder of Filament Theatre in Chicago, IL, where she served as Artistic Director for fifteen years.
Her work has been seen at and supported by the Kennedy Center, the O’Neill Theatre Center, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Writers Theatre, Third Coast Percussion, Opera Australia, Adventure Stage Chicago, Boise Contemporary Theatre, the Queensland Poetry Festival, Trike Theatre, and more. Her original piece Forts: Build Your Own Adventure has delighted thousands of audience members through over 400 sold out performances. The resources she developed with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra have served over 35,000 teachers and students around the world.
As an educator and consultant, she has worked with schools, caregivers, and arts organizations as they develop their own pathways to connect with and empower young people. She has presented workshops and lectures on her groundbreaking programs for youth leadership and access at the TYA/USA national festival and conference, IPAY CultureCrew Festival, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Theatre (Un)Conference, TEDx, and at colleges and universities across the United States.
Julie’s work is rooted in the belief that:
All young people have the right to express themselves freely, and to see themselves and their stories reflected in arts and culture.
Play is a human right.
A truly equitable world necessitates the liberation of children.
Let’s Work Together
(Will Travel to Play!)