Broken Text


Devised in collaboration with a host of Chicago-based partners, Broken Text creates a platform to explore the diverse experiences of Chicagoans, including those who have been incarcerated in the Chicago prison system. Based on stories gathered through educational residencies, this collaboration examines the past, present, and future of individuals in these communities. Through theatrical interpretations devised by Raven Theatre and musical interpretations devised by Fifth House and DJ and Producer, Searchl1te, these previously untold stories find a voice.

Past Performances

Salon Preview: Broken Text at Dixon Stein
Sunday, December 14, 2014, 3:00pm
Dixon Stein, 410 S. Michigan Avenue #801
$20 General Admission

Broken Text at Orr Academy
Monday, December 15, 2014, 1:30pm
Orr Academy, 730 N. Pulaski Road
Free Admission
*Please note that this is a change in performance time from the previously listed evening performance.

Broken Text at Raven Theatre
Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 7:00pm
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street
Free Admission

Broken Text at Raven Theatre
Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 7:00pm
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street
Free Admission

In partnership with St. Leonard’s Ministries and Great Books Foundation, Fifth House and Raven Theatre worked with residents at St. Leonard’s to conduct story circles reflecting on emotions and memories evoked by musical selections by living composers Marc Mellits (University of Illinois-Chicago), Edgar Meyer, and John Adams. This dialogue led to interviews and writing exercises lead by 5HE and Raven, creating an opportunity for introspection and reflection as participants crafted letters to their past selves.

These letters, in conjunction with original poems, songs and personal interviews, became the basis for a new theatrical work written by Raven Theatre’s Director of Education, Mechelle Moe. The script sheds light on a range of themes as discussed with men at St. Leonard’s and explore poverty, social class, family, friends, religion, gangs, drugs, and violence, paired with recent headlines in the Chicago press engaging these issues.

I am the thing that your mother warned you about. Every day she tells you to be careful because of me. No matter how hard you try at some point you will cross me. I’ve been marched in and partied on. I’ve been stepped through and spit on, and still nothing happens until you cross me.

  • The Streets (Written by a participant at St. Leonard’s Ministries)

The script was then offered to students at Orr Academy who worked with Mechelle Moe and Fifth House Ensemble musicians in a residency that combined the curriculum of their English class with the newly developed script. Fifth House’s bassoonist, Eric Heidbreder, served as the lead musician on the residency and noted the students’ growth in creativity and enthusiasm during each visit, explaining, “when we went in initially, a lot of the kids were really shy and didn’t want to share.” However, as Orr Academy teacher Margeaux Temeltas observed, having the music for the students resulted in a “calming and inspiring effect.” Throughout the remainder of the residency Heidbreder noticed that, “when we asked [the students] to share their stories, they opened up.” The script and residency activities created a unique opportunity for the Orr Academy students to learn about the lives of others, but also facilitated a newfound confidence in their reading, public speaking, and performance abilities in order to tell their own stories.

Select Orr Academy students will perform a staged reading of excerpts from the script at Dixon Stein on December 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm alongside live performances by Fifth House and Searchl1te. Featured repertoire includes works by John Adams’s John’s Book of Alleged Dances, David Anderson’s Capriccio No. 2 for solo bass, Edgar Meyer’s Duo for Cello and Bass, and Chicago-based composer Marc Mellits’s String Quartet No. 2. The students will then present a full performance of the script with Fifth House Ensemble and Searchl1te for their family and community at Orr Academy on December 15, 2014 at 6:00pm, in addition to an in-school concert occurring during the day.

Following the performances with students from Orr Academy this December, 5HE and Raven Theatre will adapt the script for their In-Flight programs at Senn High School and Sullivan High School this spring. The final performance by these students will use the same music and stories to explore these themes as they apply in the Rogers Park neighborhood, and will provide an opportunity for Orr, Senn, and Sullivan students to come together for a discussion about the script and its creation.

By engaging youth and community members in an artistic co-creation process, Fifth House’s civic practice work incites dialogue and fosters communication around the issues that define them. As an extension of 5HE and Raven’s educational residencies in high schools across Chicago and the work of Free Write Jail Arts, this collaboration was conceived as an opportunity for youth and adults affected by the Chicago prison system to share personal narratives, even if their circumstances make it impossible to meet face-to-face. Students in the educational residency programs at Orr, Senn, and Sullivan perform a theatrical work based on the experiences of youth their own age who are currently incarcerated, as well as adults that are transitioning out of the Chicago prison system into community. Through these stories, students are able to reflect on their own life choices and be involved in a conversational exchange, while exploring music and theatre as expressive mediums to tell these tales.