Letters to your Past and Future Selves at
Orr Academy High School

The Question

How can music relate to the elements of storytelling?
How can we tie music to personal memories?
What advice would you give yourself in the past if you had the chance?
What advice could your future self give you?

The Objectives

  1. Students will be able to draw connections between elements of storytelling and music.
  2. Students will create poetry using music as a prompt
  3. Students will write letters to their past selves
  4. Students will write letters from the perspective of their future selves to their present selves.

The Process

This residency was a part of a collaboration with Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Director, Ryan Keesling (AKA Searchl1te), and Raven Theatre. The final project took stories from men at St. Leonard’s Ministries – an organization that provides services for men released from prison in need of resources to rebuild their lives – and combined them with stories collected from the students at Orr High School, creating a full-length play, called Broken Text. This show was performed by Orr students in their school auditorium and publicly.

Fifth House, Searchl1te, and Raven Theatre worked with the students over a 4-month period to write and rehearse material for the final performance. The play explores first-hand experiences with the criminal justice system and follows the stories and writings of men as they transition from prison into the outside world.

The Impact

The students from Orr related with the stories that were told through the play and felt that they were experiencing a powerful message and passing it along to their peers. Some of the students had already experienced the criminal justice system or felt outside pressures similar to the stories of the men from St. Leonard’s Ministries. From conversations with students, they began to really get invested and pull together as a group once rehearsals started and they were able to get the big picture of what we were working on.

Below is an example activity where Fifth House Ensemble members connect personal memories with pre-existing music. Once a mood or memory is established, we change the music in some way and see if any new memories are evoked.


The Final Project

The final project was a full-length, spoken-word performance of the script that the Orr students had worked on with Mechelle Moe of Raven Theatre to create. Students, aside Fifth House musicians, performed for fellow classmates, teachers, and staff, presenting a script that focused directly on issues surrounding social inequality, violence, and the prison system.