Fused Muse Ensemble’s 2015-16 work will culminate in our fall performance series, Edge of Shelter, which strives to engage with people effected by homelessness, listen to their stories, and collaborate to create multidisciplinary works that amplify their voices. In the lead up to Edge of Shelter, we will also be giving a number of smaller performances that will take place at different Chicago locations.
Our collaborative partners include:
Youth Empowerment Performance Project (a theatrical performance troupe comprising LGBTQ youths who have or are currently experiencing homelessness)
Chicago Lights, (a community outreach program which seeks to support and meet the needs of children, youth and adults facing the challenges of poverty in Chicago)
Harmony, Hope, and Healing (an organization and performing choir which provides creative, educational and therapeutic music programs for Chicago's underserved population)
DePaul University students
A number of talented individual artists and university faculty members
We are currently in the middle stages of shaping the creative collaborations as they emerge out of different dialogues with individuals and community groups. In addition to giving music workshops for HHH’s community and volunteering for food service with CCO, we have also been giving various performances in Chicago and the surrounding area. Please visit our Events page for more info on our recent and current activities.
“What are you afraid of?” ~by Jean Hatmaker
A dear friend of mine was recently robbed at gunpoint. Robbed, and, to put it delicately, violated. Although it wasn’t the first time it had happened, and stolen things have been and can be replaced again, this time was particularly bad: it was the first time it had happened to her, as herself in her manifested female body.
She and I met and have been working together, along with another artist, as part of “Edge of Shelter”, a collaboration between Fused Muse Ensemble and Youth Empowerment Performance Project. FME is a Chicago non-profit devoted to raising awareness of socioeconomic issues, and YEPP is a mixed-media performance group comprised of LGBTQ youth who have or are currently experiencing homelessness. In addition to being a wonderful dancer and a warm soul, she is a survivor, unfortunately no stranger to conflict and danger. Already in her brief life she has struggled with homelessness, violence, health concerns, and prejudice in many forms. She uses her experience to offer advice and support to members of the LGBTQ African - American community, while continuing to fight her own battles.
When she talked to me about the attack the next day, she said the worst thing wasn’t the stolen belongings, being without a phone, or being threatened with a gun…it was being touched, groped, fondled, violated in the body that finally looks the way she identifies. She says it was even worse because it was perpetrated by someone of her own race. People talk about hate crimes between races, but she was thinking ‘how can you be doing this to me, we're the same...'
I was still getting over the 'I got mugged' part.
I am a 32 year old white heterosexual woman. I was born in a white heterosexual woman's body. I have never been homeless. I have never been in the presence of someone holding a gun with intention. As an adult I have borrowed money from my parents who raised me in a comfortable neighborhood, invested in an ambitious future for me by buying me a cello and encouraging my musical pursuits. They paid for my college education. I have never had a hard time finding good honest work. People trust me because I look safe to them. When they make assumptions about my life, my preferences, my preferred gender pronoun, they are usually correct. I don’t often have to defend or explain myself to be understood.
I have ALWAYS had a safe place to sleep.
While I have always been grateful for these advantages and try to be demonstrative about it as often as I can, it took hearing this loved one tell me her story to deeply process just how f*@&-ing lucky I am.
The thing is, we can all get sucked into bad cycles - patterns of fortune that throw a wrench in our best laid plans. The difference between making it out or not comes down to the resources we have available to us. Resources aren’t only money, they include physical safety, mental stability, control, health, being around people who understand us. Essentially, what is needed is a ‘net’ to catch us when we take the risk of reaching for something higher. Unfortunately these resources are not evenly or fairly distributed, because we don't get to choose how, where, or to whom we are born. And we can’t anticipate the physical or emotional challenges we may face in our lives.
I don’t know how else to understand why my story is so different from hers.
If the question, "what are you afraid of?" is posed to different people whose nets of support have varying grades of durability, they're likely to have different things to say. Even so, there are common fears among us that make us not so different from each other.
These fears can unite us.
On November 18 and 19, with the Fused Muse Ensemble and the Youth Empowerment Performance Project, my collaborators and I will pose this question through music, word, and dance. We ask that you support us by attending a performance, or donating to our cause to strengthen the net for this challenged community:
A phrase I have learned from this experience is “holding space”. Another way you can offer support is by holding space for someone. If you want to learn what it means to hold space, click here. Your support will help others struggle less, and successfully reach for more.
"My struggles are not in vain; they are a means for me to connect with hundreds of other women to inspire them that life
Read Amanda Asque's inspiring story, which will be featured as a music and video piece at Edge of Shelter
During 2015-16, the ensemble’s performers have been giving workshops at various Chicago homeless-affiliated centers, including CCO, Sr. Jean Hughes High School of St. Leonard’s Ministries, St. Martin De Porres House of Hope, and the Chicago Lights Urban Farm.
We are extremely excited to be collaborating with experienced designer LeAnne Wagner and film director/cinematographer B Rich on a transmedia website. Our intention is for the website to house an interactive map of Chicago which will give information on local shelters and food services (and other provisions) for the homeless, as well as updates on local homeless-related artistic events. It will also house short interviews of those experiencing homelessness. Please check back soon to access this site through the link below.