On December 21, the Changing Voices ensemble gave a live performance of the show “Lonely Prom,” the first to take place at the program’s Washington Park anchor site. Attended by an audience comprised of friends and family members, as well as Storycatchers board members and staff, the show was a testament to this cohort’s dedication, creative vision, and courage.
Written by a previous cohort of Changing Voices youth, “Lonely Prom” tells the story of Marcus (played by Changing Voices ensemble member J’lonni), who successfully asks out Nakia (played by Tejah, also the show’s co-director) to senior prom. Marcus’ plans are jeopardized by an incident at a friend’s house involving an accidentally-discharged gun, which results in Nakia being detained by police and angrily canceling their date. Despite setbacks, the play ends on an optimistic note at prom, with all performers showing off their moves in a dance line.
In a post-show Q&A, the ensemble members discussed the lessons they learned from the process of bringing the show to the stage. Changing Voices member Ricky attested to the role of patience in the process, and fellow member TJ stressed the importance of getting along while rehearsing and performing theatre: “Since people have different personalities, and mixed emotions and things, it takes you out of your comfort zone and also helps you interact with people with different personalities and attitudes.” Ensemble member Jeff stressed the importance of collaboration and group dynamics. “It takes a group effort. It takes the whole group to sit down and put in the effort, for it to actually be how you want it to be. Everybody’s energy has got to be there, for sure.” Speaking specifically about her role in co-directing the show, Tejah said: “It taught me a lot about patience and leadership, and it made me learn how to give grace to everybody. Everybody needs grace.”
Asked by Director of Arts Education Programs Mbali Guliwe to share one thing they learned about themselves during the process of putting on the play, ensemble member Amere answered “I learned I could do something that I never thought I could do.” The show’s co-director Brianna chimed in: “I learned I can deal with others and attitudes and personalities, without….” Brianna smiled and smacked her hands together in pantomime, as the room joined her in laughter. “I couldn’t even say it!,” she exclaimed, to more laughter. J’lonni, who played Marcus, told the room “I knew I already had confidence. But doing this in front of people you don’t know? I see now that I had way more confidence than I thought. And I feel like that’ll help all of us in life.”
The ensemble members were also asked if they had any prior theatrical experience prior to their participation in the Changing Voices program. Responses ranged from roles on the Steppenwolf stage to reality television. Meanwhile, ensemble member Jeff mused: “I feel like everyday life is kind of improv. Situations that we go through … I feel like we go through this every day. So it comes pretty natural to us.”