The Community Created Performances program enables community groups from around Chicago to write, create and perform original music theater works that tell the untold stories of their communities using a core element of opera: story-telling through song. Use this blog to watch as new theater works unfold and our finalists and artists undergo this artistic journey.
Community Created Performances are original music theater works created and performed by community groups using the core elements of opera: storytelling through song.
Chicagoans, regardless of background or experience, were invited to submit unique, untold stories from and of their communities. Applications are reviewed by an independent, community-based panel and up to 10 applicant groups are selected to be featured in individual video profiles on the Chicago Voices website. The public then views the videos and votes for the stories found to be most compelling.
The top three groups with the most votes create and develop their original work, driven by the participants and supported by Lyric Opera professional artists and staff. Working closely with these professionals, the groups each create and develop original scripts, songs, and production elements for the performances, and take part in the culminating final performance of these works.
All performances will be free and open to the public. Sign up for our mailing list or visit our website frequently to hear about the different performances.
Voting for the 2017 winners is closed. Follow their journey as they develop their stories for the stage at chicagovoices.org/ccp.
May 17, 2017
Jess McLeod, Artistic Supervisor and Director
The Chicago Voices Community Created Performances program provides audiences and artists alike with an extraordinary opportunity: to hear stories of the city firsthand from individuals and communities we might not otherwise encounter. In a mere 15 weeks, Blu Rhythm Collective, Kuumba Lynx and YOLO Boomers will share their stories in individual and group sessions facilitated by our animateur team; collaborate with myself (their director), scriptwriter Derek McPhatter and composer Mike Przygoda on how to best theatricalize them in short opera form; and undergo a professional rehearsal process in preparation for a fully-designed production at the Harris Theater.
It’s the best and wildest of rides.
Director Jess McLeod works with members of 2016 Community Created Performances group, The Kirin-Gornick Band, to add staging to their original work, "KUMOVI".
Last year, I directed one piece (KUMOVI, featuring and about the amazing Kirin-Gornick Band) and this year, I’m directing all three and leading the creative and design teams from the start. What I’m most looking forward to is really getting to know these three new groups – what initially brought them together, how they act as sources of support for each other, everything the city means to them – and then dreaming up truthful and fabulous ways to bring their stories to life onstage and through song. Story dignifies us, even – maybe especially – when it challenges us, and I can’t wait to facilitate our groups’ journeys from talking informally about their lives in a fluorescent-lit room to proudly and confidently proclaiming who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going on one of the biggest stages in Chicago surrounded by the work of terrific and thoughtful artists.
May 03, 2017
I was backstage after the final curtain call for the Chicago Voices Community Created Performances at Harris Theater in September 2016. My friends from Harmony, Hope & Healing (HHH) and I had just shared a hug. They were exhilarated. I was teary. After working with the group as Animateur for 16 weeks, helping them create their own show from start to finish, it scarcely seemed possible that we would no longer be seeing each other every week. Still, I felt in my heart that we would be together again. It was just “goodbye for now.”
Animateur Cheri Coons listens to the personal stories of the members of HHH.
This afternoon I returned from Harmony, Hope & Healing’s 2017 Gala celebration, where they thanked Lyric Opera and Chicago Voices staff for the group’s extraordinary experience with Chicago Voices last year. All of the original members of our HHH ensemble sang and danced to music from the show they created during the program last year, “A Circle of Hope.” Today, as I hugged my old friends from HHH, I knew that what I had whispered backstage in September was true. The special bond we shared last year has not ended. It never has to end.
When we create together, we change each other. When we make music and theatre together, we become part of one another in unique ways. This year, I’m returning to work on Chicago Voices Community Created Performances as Animateur with Kuumba Lynx, a vibrant urban youth development program and performing ensemble.
I’m looking forward to the ways we will expand and change one another, and I’m feeling grateful that I have last year’s experience with HHH to inspire me. Last year’s experience left some great mile markers for us to follow along the journey, but there is the exciting promise of exploring new territory this year.
The mission of the Community Created Performances is to share “untold Chicago stories.” Knowing Kuumba Lynx just a little bit now, I’m aware that there’s a trove of stories just waiting to be shared in their unique performance style. I’m equally aware that the creative process is unpredictable, and we will all be surprised, delighted, and cracked open in powerful ways during our time together this summer. I’m excited, I’m energized, but mostly I’m grateful for the opportunity to create with yet another gifted group of Chicagoans.
Another adventure begins, and this one, too, never has to end.
April 19, 2017
Lyric Unlimited is excited to announce the three finalist groups for the 2017 Chicago Voices Community Created Performances! Read more about each group below as they prepare for the program launch on May 30. Blu Rhythm Collective
Blu Rhythm Collective
"I am most excited to ignite the necessary conversations that most people have been too polite to have surrounding our city's violent climate and culture. The Blu Rhythm Collective is prepared to ask the hard questions and provide evidence of viable solutions that have seen our members/citizens through this city's turmoil toward overall success, but not without significant consequences." – Tanji Harper, Founder/Artistic Director of The Blu Rhythm Collective
Blu Rhythm Collective is a group of Chicago urban artists pushing the boundaries of original live theater using a mix of artforms to focus on some of the city’s hardest-hitting topics. Its members are a direct reflection of Chicago and its various neighborhoods. Blu Rhythm looks to illuminate one of Chicago’s biggest issues by providing insight into the lives of young Chicagoans from these marginalized communities and their struggle to overcome the challenges of violence in order to succeed.
“I’m hoping Kuumba Lynx will achieve collaborative art to tell stories, dreams, aspirations and ideas on the future. I’m most excited about putting important topics into a perspective that will bring light to topics not widely known like, for example, Breesha Meadows. Hopefully, this will make people think on the future and what that looks likeespecially for people of color.” – Assatta Shakur, member of Kuumba Lynx
Kuumba Lynx is a youth development art making organization that utilizes urban arts to cultivate strong communities built on a foundation of love. Members come from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The group strives to use Hip Hop as a means to mentor, motivate, and inspire artists to produce, share, and publish meaningful works of art. The group members see the making of an original music theater work as an opportunity to shift the perceptions of Chicago youth and their communities by telling their own stories rather than have them told by someone else.
“YOLO Boomers is excited to be able to share our life experiences and creativity with a wide audience through music and musical theater. An older person's unique perspective can be used to inspire and teach others, bring a tear to the eye or a laugh to the heart. We're looking forward to doing all of them.” - Cardi Fleck, member of YOLO Boomers
YOLO Boomers is a group of Northcenter Chicago seniors actively engaged in different forms of creative expression including writing and improvisational acting. The group hopes to use the collective, personal stories of its members spanning decades to bust negative stereotypes associated with age. This group intends to demonstrate what it truly means to be an active senior in Chicago.
March 10, 2017
Written By: Melissa Fox, fig media inc.
This is our second year filming the Community Created Performances program with Chicago Voices and Lyric Unlimited. At fig media inc. we tell stories for a living. We know the transformative power of turning the camera on and listening. We believe in the power of art and storytelling to shape communities, champion change, and bring people together. We witnessed this firsthand while filming the Chicago Voices Community Created Performances program with Lyric Unlimited. We couldn’t be more delighted to take that mission on for a second year.
Our team interviewed all eight semi-finalists in February to help them craft their online video profiles. These profiles will be used for the public to vote. Our job is to give each group the best chance they have at describing who they are, what they care about and, if selected, what an audience might see, hear, or feel. Fig media inc. director Melissa Fox, in collaboration with the Lyric Unlimited and Chicago Voices team, spent time discussing each group and how we might best tell their stories. Our team transformed the Florian Bistro at the Civic Opera House into an interview set. Melissa then got to work coaching each interviewee through the process of telling their stories on camera. With patience and guidance she made sure each group felt authentic on film while hitting specific points for each application. It sounds easier than it is. It takes patience, listening, and lots of teamwork between the Lyric team and the fig team to capture each group.
Two things struck us as a commonality among all the groups this year. The first being that our current climate has affected everyone in our city. The groups applying this year are extremely diverse and passionate, and care deeply about making their communities stronger while educating others about their unique perspectives in the city. Stories of resilience, perseverance, and hope in the face of challenges are a theme across the board. The second is that each group had examples of how our current events are shaping their resolve to share their stories more openly.
As filmmakers, this gets us excited! We could see anyone of these groups creating show stopping content that is sure to move you. They came to play and they brought their courage, vulnerability, and passion to their video profiles.
As with the beginning of any project, the anticipation of seeing what will happen is building. We would love to see all the people we interviewed have a chance to tell their stories on the stage. We laughed, cried, were whipped up into passionate anger, and were moved by everyone we heard from. Our experience last year taught us that when a group goes through this process something amazing happens to them and their communities.
As Chicagoans ourselves, we know how important it is to tell the “untold,” stories of our city. Doing so will build connections and forge understanding between parts of our city that rarely interact, but are connected to one another so deeply. This unity is what makes the tapestry of our streets so beautiful. Rarely do groups like these have the opportunity to take the stage in such a famous public forum. For most of the applicants, this opportunity would be life-changing.
So we invite you to listen to each story presented and vote for your favorite.
We might be biased, but we think all of Chicago should know about this project so please share it with your friends.
Voting begins online at ChicagoVoices.com/Vote on Monday, March 13, 2017.
Thank you to the staff at Chicago Voices and Lyric Unlimited for having our team back a second year. We can’t wait to tell the story of the amazing journey three of these finalists will go on!
2017 Team Fig: Executive Producers: Michele Gustin, James Gustin, Director: Melissa Fox, Production Assist and Editor: Nicholas Sanchez.
See more fig media inc. projects here: www.figmediainc.com
December 16, 2016
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, we support exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.