Getting Caught

A few weeks ago, I asked Melissa, our executive director and flute player, to write me a blog post about the inception of Caught.  The process of creating this series has been extremely fascinating for me, and I have a feeling you will agree!  Melissa did a great job of putting into words the creative insanity that has been the last few months of planning!


It’s almost here! We’re just under a month away from the launch of this year’s series, CaughtOver the next couple of weeks, our artists will be rehearsing some fantastic repertoire, working with 5th graders at Lowell Elementary, and partnering with our fantastic team of collaborators to bring this baby to life.

So where did the idea come from in the first place?

Over the last few seasons, we’ve been exploring storytelling in its many forms as a way of bringing together repertoire new, old, classical, and not. We’ve worked with actors, graphic novelists, photographers, video artists, and social media to tell tales we found compelling fused to some truly great music.

One of our favorite aspects of last season’s In Transit performances was the Hope Cadenza, in which our audiences tweeted or texted in their hopes for our characters or their own experiences with issues we explored in these shows. We projected these messages during the final piece on each show, and it was amazing to see how many people participated and the sense of community that was created.

Separate from the work we do on the concert stage, 5HE has spent the last few years developing a series of curriculum-integrated educational performances and residencies in the Chicago Public Schools and at schools throughout the Midwest. These programs lay a music curriculum on top of a core subject, resulting in residencies that explore parallels between music and poetry, ecology, physics, body systems, and more.

During the brainstorming process for this year’s series, we thought a lot about how to bring together some of our favorite aspects of our work with 5HE: compelling multi-media narrative performances, curricular work in the public schools, performances in neighborhood venues throughout the city, and the opportunity to serve as a catalyst for a community to tell their own stories through music.

The last point ended up being central to the idea of Caught. With this series, we’ve partnered with playwright Stan Richardson to create a dramatic framework instead of a fully-formed script. These prompts are both defined and loose enough to capture the imagination and inspire community members young and old to tell stories based on their own experiences. We gather these stories (like lightning bugs in a jar!) through social media, a series of story circle workshops at park district venues, and through residency work in public schools adjacent to the parks where we perform.

We then take these treasures back to Stan, who has brought them together into scenes to be performed and realized by theater artist and puppeteer Emmy Bean and director Joe Mazza for Caught: The Woods with our artists live on stage.

For our second show, Caught: The Wide Open, we have an anthology-like collection of stories about mankind’s struggle with limits: a 13-second free-fall, temptations in the desert, and the politically subversive creation of art. This show contains two world premieres written for 5HE by composers Caleb Burhans and John Zorn. They’re both in our hands now, and trust us, this performance at the MCA with guest artists itsnotyouitsme, Martha Cluver, and art by illustrator Adam Fotos is a can’t-miss.

Finally, we close the series with Caught: The Web. Who among us can’t relate to this tale of getting caught up in the shopping and social wonderland that is the Internet, particularly when we’re supposed to be getting *real* work done. And no, I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, and MyHabit open right now… Once again, we’ll gather stories on this theme from throughout the city as we take a wild romp through music for woodwind quintet.

This series captures 5HE’s mission perfectly. We’re making chamber music with a diverse team of artists, schools, communities, and venues throughout the year to produce these shows, and we can’t wait to share them with you.

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