Photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Rep

We are a society in despair yet so full of promise. Communities separated by a common thought: survival. On Tuesday April 5, an intimate crowd of about 115 was treated to true, personal stories and poetry inspired by themes explored in The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s World Premiere Production of American Song. Megan McGee took the helm preparing and reassuring the crowd throughout the evening as storytellers tackled issues pertaining to parenting, anti-violence and racism.

Some stories referenced painful events – like the ill-timed death of a friend after an argument and encounters with police – and multiple times throughout the evening, the crowd paused for moments of silence. Some stories contained beautiful analogies, such as one teen’s analogy about the similarities between elephants in captivity and human struggles. A few adults shared stories, including Dasha Kelly, who reflected that being a mom means sending your child into the world and hoping for their safe return, and Will Harbell, who recalled a medical scare.

We also enjoyed some spoken word pieces, which were mixed in with the stories. These included Chantae’s piece which stated how she’s ‘gonna bloom’ despite societal constraints; Kyjuan’s poem about death, which required him to stop midway to compose himself; and Torcell’s piece about manhood in today’s society.

This was a very powerful evening. Violence, parenting, and racism are issues that continue to affect our youth and we look forward to doing more work to welcome the voices of teens to our stages. A very big thank you to the storytellers and poets for sharing their words! Many thanks to Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Education Department and Teen Council and all the partner organizations that made this event possible.