Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Release: Open Heart Arts Continues Exploration of Homelessness with Mixtape

Hamilton company, Open Heart Arts Theatre, is thrilled to announce the release of Am I Helping?, a storytelling mixtape focusing on homelessness in Hamilton. The piece will be available to stream starting Friday, November 19th. 

In the Spring of 2021, Open Heart Arts Theatre brought together a collective of ten local theatre artists who conducted interviews with service providers who work with people with lived experience of homelessness and addiction. Using their stories and sentiments as inspiration, these artists collaborated to create Am I Helping?, a 13-minute long exploration of the needs of the city’s homeless population and those who work with them. 

Am I Helping? is just one activation in Open Heart Arts Theatre’s larger project called Conversations Around the Table, a year long investigation into the experience of homelessness in Hamilton.  Through research and exploration, a collective of theatre artists and community participants are collaborating to create a site-specific performance event to be staged in 2022. 

Conversations Around the Table was first presented as a short production by the same name in the 2020 Frost Bites Festival. The production was based on the story of Tree of Stars’ Jessica Compton and examined the role that privilege and (mis)fortune can play in homelessness. The project continued in the 2020 What The Fest? with I Really Wish You Knew Me; a live theatre piece that could was performed on lawns and driveways that explored the concept of home.  

More recently, the company’s other activations in the Conversations Around the Table project have included Empowerment Dance–a weekly drop-in dance class taught by Jammy Lo after a period of mentorship with professional dancer and choreographer, Josh Taylor–as well as Open Heart’s Creative Arts Workshop Series, consisting of twice-weekly workshops where participants with lived experience of homelessness work with professional artists to develop performance skills and create new work.

“Never, before in my experience have I enjoyed working at something as I do with the project (which deals with awareness of the often passed by struggles of homelessness),” says workshop participant, Noel. “I’m excited to see how everything of the project, whatever direction it takes, will turn out. The mental wellness activities headed by some of the other members is equally comforting. It’s kind of bittersweet to know at some point, the project will be completed and done.”

Am I Helping? was created by Karen Ancheta, Danielle Boissoneau, Paula Grove, Rose Hopkins, Melissa Murray-Mutch, Carlyn Rhamey, Kit Simmons, and Amber Wood. Special thanks goes to Samm Floren, Edouard Jacinto, Rebecca Morris-Miller, Marcia McIlveen and the other service providers who wish to remain anonymous for providing their time to be interviewed.

Listen to Am I Helping? now at openheartartstheatre.com/am-i-helping

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