IT TAKES COURAGE
TO TELL YOUR STORY
HOW I GOT OVER follows 15 formerly homeless and/or incarcerated women as they craft an original play, based on their harrowing true-life stories, to be performed one-night-only at The Kennedy Center. As observers of their creative process, we bear witness to their transformations from victim to artist, and to the performing arts’ capacity to heal trauma, create connection, and start a conversation.
With the nation’s capital as a fitting backdrop, HOW I GOT OVER was filmed in and around N Street Village – a Washington, D.C. temporary housing facility for low income and homeless women – during the program’s 12-week collaboration with Theatre Lab’s program “Life Stories.” In 2012, challenged by Kennedy Center Executive Director Michael Kaiser to “dream big,” Theatre Lab co-founder Deb Gottesman set out to create a groundbreaking theatrical experience. This time, the women of N street would not only create a piece, but perform it. None of these women had ever acted before, yet they would take the Kennedy Center stage, one of the most prestigious arts spaces in the world, acting out their pasts so they might more freely live out their futures.
The play that emerged from the weaving of the women’s accounts, titled “My Soul Look Back in Wonder,” was nothing short of incendiary. Told alone, these stories shock and sadden; told together, patterns emerge and thematic connections between collective experiences are drawn. With these zoomed in pictures of the ladies’ pasts, we see that homelessness is a paradigm of many faces. In perhaps the most poignant line of “My Soul Look Back in Wonder,” the women tell us, “Although we’re homeless, we’re not hopeless. And even though I’m not famous, you will remember who I am.” Temporarily liberated from the stereotypes associated with homelessness, the women of N Street are given the opportunity to speak for themselves, and be heard as individuals. They find hope, and we know who they are.
In the end of HOW I GOT OVER, the women take the stage; as they quite literally step out of the darkness and into the spotlight, we bear witness to the tremendous power of the validated human spirit to transform. This fearless, triumphant exploration of the curative powers of arts education calls us to reconsider the root causes of homelessness, the shameful truths of poverty in America, and what great social feats might be accomplished with increased funding to arts education.