CHICAGO (CBS) — Rehearsals are underway on the Lyric Opera House stage for the production “Empower.”
The actors in the musical are high school students from Chicago’s South side.
“Empower” is a musical with a very specific goal: to break down negative stereotypes associated with the South side.
“It’s like breaking stereotypes about what people think of the South side of Chicago versus what it actually is and what actually comes out of it,” said cast member, Holly Graham. “I love it.”
18-year-old Holly Graham, from the city’s South Shore neighborhood, is one of 31 students in the cast whose input helped write the story and shape its music. She says it’s about their lives.
“It’s authentic and I think that’s what these young people bring is an authenticity that lacks in a lot of performing arts,” stated Damien Sneed, the show’s composer.
Dunbar High School sophomore, Joseph Dorsey, plays Marcus, the show’s lead.
“If they didn’t actually have south side teens giving them information about it to write the show, then it would just be bogus,” stated Dorsey. “Marcus is trying to tell people the south side is not what you see on TV.”
“So many times we allow people to tell us how to tell our story,” said Graham. “But one thing about these young people is it comes straight off the chest. It’s just right there.”
This is the first time a community group has ever performed an original work on the famous Lyric Opera stage.
“Empower” will only have one performance, set to take place Thursday, May 31.
“Empower” is a joint project between the Lyric Opera and The Chicago Urban League.