Stories and Songs of Chicago is a tour de force community theater program developed my Lyric Unlimited Chicago. Groups in Chicago compete to partake in a 15-week intensive program where they write and perform an original music work at the Harris Theater. Fig was contracted to document the process from beginning to end for the third year in a row. We follow all three finalists through every emotion from application through to final performance and create a film that celebrates the work. This year our groups blew us away with their stories and willingness to share on the stage. The lyric staff and artists take these groups from average citizens and develop them into show-stopping artists on stage. This year Kuumba Lynx, YOLO Boomers and Blue Rhythms were elected by the public to participate in the program. Our team enjoyed filming the concluding year of the program and are excited about the results.
Our first challenge was deciding how the budget would be distributed to cover a 15-week program. We spent the first year "defining the program,” this year our client, Alejandra Valerino Boyer, wanted to focus on the emotional journey that our participants went through. Because these groups are learning to become a highly calibrated theatre troupe in a short amount of time, we had to stay flexible for filming dates. Many of the participants have never been interviewed on camera before. Fig Director Melissa Fox spent a lot of time integrating herself into the culture that Lyric built so we became part of the larger team. This helped our groups feel like the videos were a celebration rather than a “to do,” on an already large list of “to do’s,” within the program.
The first stop on the journey for our groups is with a video interview. Our director is tasked with giving all the groups the best profile they can get within a short time frame. She spends time reviewing each application and creating a line of questioning that shows each group off in the best way while adhering to standards for equality across the board.
VIDEO PROFILES FOR PUBLIC VOTING
Next, we developed a plan for documenting the emotional rollercoaster. Our creative focused on faces. We loved the idea of requisite variety with people's faces.
We filmed a large portion of the participants in slow-motion asking them to show us how they feel. This provided beautiful portraits that showed off the diverse voices and stories as well as the emotional rollercoaster each person was on.
CREATIVE // MOOD BOARDS
^Creative and mood boards for our project. See it in action below.
FACES & EMOTIONS TEASER
We spent a week documenting each of the groups, filming rehearsals, conducting interviews and gathering our slow-motion content for the teaser. Integrating into a well-oiled machine is always a challenge. These talent leading the groups to create their own music work has their work cut out for them. With an intense schedule and the challenges of teaching an average citizen to sing, inserting our agenda into theirs is met with a bit of resistance. We were given short bursts of time to grab people and conduct interviews. Pulling people out of an intense rehearsal and asking them to focus on an interview and relax is not an easy task. The Lyric team did a wonderful job introducing us to the artists and the groups, helping our team feel like a part of the larger team. This allowed us to gain trust with our subjects on a deeper level.
Next, filming the final performance is always a challenge. Between the union rules within the Harris Theater and staying respectful of a large stage crew that has a big job to do, the fig crew had their work cut out for them. New this year, Melissa Fox spent time backstage during the performance to capture the faces and energy of the participants as they came off the stage. This helped us visually see the transformation of each person. It took weeks to get clearance to film backstage. Our crew had a backup plan on standby in case our request was denied. Ultimately, it all worked out seamlessly.
How our services were used.
Our client booked a full year of video coverage with a creative package.
- Two production dates for video profiles.
- Three production dates to tell the story of each group.
- One production date to document the final performance.
- One production date to capture the final interviews.
All the above content was cut into multiple deliverables.
- Eight online profile videos for the public to vote on.
- One Behind the Scenes style film to promote the rehearsal process.
- One digital snack teaser to promote the final performance.
- One archive of the show in its entirety.
- One final wrap up film that includes footage from the entire year.
- One B-roll Reel of rehearsals for ABC7 News story.
Our client used our films in multiple ways.
- On all social media platforms.
- In blogs talking about the program.
- Archive performances were sent to the groups and artists as keepsakes.
- They were used in board meetings to present the program to funders.
- They were used in an exhibition about the program at the Lyric Opera.
- Our footage aired in a story about the program on ABC7 News.
Producer: James Gustin, Michele Gustin
Writer, Director, Editor: Melissa Fox
2nd Camera: Codi Palm
Lyric Unlimited Chicago
Community Created Performances
Lyric Unlimited and Chicago Voices Staff
Cayenne Harris - Director of Lyric Unlimited
Alejandra Boyer - Director of Community Programs
Madeleine Borg - Production Manager
Kaitlin Very - Chicago Voices Coordinator
Songwriter - Mike Przygoda
Director - Jess McLeod
Scriptwriter - Derek Lee McPhatter
Animateur - Jacob Watson
Animateur - Cheryl Coons
Animateur - Sophie Wingland