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Songs And Writings By The Homeless, Turned Into Theater

An unusual theatre event recently debuted in the Boston area: “Stories Without Roofs,” a collection of writings by homeless people performed by professional actors, singers and dancers. These essays-turned-performance art are basically autobiographies of a handful of people who live on Boston’s streets. Some are joyful, some tragic, some describe how pleasantly ordinary the lives of the homeless can be.

“Stories Without Roofs” is the creation of Michelle Whitaker, a nurse at Boston Health Care for the Homeless who also teaches writing classes at a homeless shelter. The stories her students were putting on paper were so powerful, she felt, that she wanted them performed on stage: a lullaby to an infant daughter; a rap song describing one man’s tumble into drug addiction; an ode to the joys of coffee.

Before the debut performance at Green Street Studios in Cambridge in November, a preview of the show aired on WBUR’s All Things Considered. Whitaker now hopes to produce additional performances, and she wants to make the script from the debut show available as an educational tool to school groups, homeless shelters and substance abuse programs.


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