The Changing Voices Ensemble wrapped up a successful summer of programming, which included touring Chicago with their original musical, STUCK. Over the past three and a half months, CV has performed a total of 46 shows for 1,058 Chicagoans at various sites, including UCAN Academy, Heartland Alliance, the Juvenile Probation Department, Summer Advantage Learn & Earn, the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, the 20th District Police Department, and many more!

The ensemble takes a bow after their terrific show at the Thompson Center

The ensemble takes a bow after their terrific show at the Thompson Center

While performing and leading their audiences in discussion, the Ensemble has also participated in artistic exchanges with groups like Kuumba Lynx and the Yoga Africa Project. These exchanges introduced the Ensemble to other organizations who create social change and empower individuals through artistic expression.

During the last week of August, the Ensemble took a break from touring to focus on their artistic craft and reflect on their personal growth before continuing to bring STUCK to Chicagoland schools and other community centers in the fall. Throughout that week, the Ensemble attended workshops lead by Storycatchers staff members and other professional Chicago artists. Each day of the week included a jam-packed schedule of workshops.

Beverlyn guides the ensemble through a sun salutation, starting with "down dog"

Beverlyn guides the ensemble through a sun salutation, starting with “down dog”

The Ensemble began each morning with Yoga workshops, led by Beverlyn Baer, who has trained with the Prison Yoga Project and teaches Yoga for Recovery at the Cook County Jail Women’s Division. The Ensemble practiced breathing, focus, balance, and flexibility. Many of the Changing Voices Ensemble members had never practiced Yoga before, and were surprised to learn how they can derive energy from breath and strength from stillness.

Storycatchers’ Artistic Director Meade Palidofsky then gathered the group to consider critical topics such as structural racism and generational poverty, using articles from current editions of the Tribune and New York Times as a springboard for vigorous discussion.  These group discussions centered on how to create meaningful change both individually and as a group. Each member identified a personal goal and articulated the perceived obstacles to making this dream a reality. Ms. Palidofsky explained that these conversations constituted a precursor to writing the individual stories that will make up the next Changing Voices musical, saying that “it is important to address individual stories within a big context.”

At midday, Case Manager Tracey Baker led cooking workshops, focusing on how to make healthy meals easily and affordably. Together, the Ensemble cooked tacos, nachos, baked chicken, and salad.

Yum! Baked Chicken, rice, and salad for lunch

Yum! Baked Chicken, rice, and salad for lunch

After lunch, Music Director Shawn Wallace and Teaching Artist Edmund O’Brien took some time to incorporate new members into STUCK so that the full Ensemble will be ready to resume touring in September.

Each day ended with a dance workshop lead by MarChello Lee from A-Z Entertainment. The Ensemble learned about King Charles, famous for his footwork; how to execute a “jazz square;” and choreography for two songs. On Thursday, the Ensemble performed their choreographic dances for the Storycatchers staff.

On the last Thursday in August, the Ensemble welcomed special guest Professor Tinta Forte from the Brazilian Cultural Center of Chicago, who introduced the history and basics of the Afro-Brazilian art of Capoeira. First, Tinta Forte explained the history behind this martial art, which was initially practiced by Angolan slaves in Brazil during the 18th century. Then he guided the Ensemble through the Capoeira fundamentals and taught them how to incorporate those steps into a game following the music that typically accompanies Capoeira.

The Changing Voices Ensemble and everyone at Storycatchers Theatre are so grateful for all of our partnerships with a wide variety of Chicago organizations. Check out our gallery of photos from the week and summer!

In September, the Ensemble will continue rehearsing STUCK, incorporating the new skills and perspectives as they resume their tour.

Do you want to bring the Changing Voices Ensemble to your school or community? Contact Tour Manager Eliana Sigel-Epstein at to pick a date! Now touring through March 2017.

Photos of the Changing Voices Ensemble, Summer 2016