Ensemble enhances lives of visually impaired teens

September 2, 2010 10:05:48 AM PDT
A unique summer experience changed the lives of several Chicago teenage girls, ages 11 to 18, who are blind and visually impaired.

Lise Wilson created a program 10 years ago called Invisible Life Ensemble.

"I created it because there aren't many productions that feature person with disability, especially blind people," said Wilson.

As a performance artist, Wilson, who is blind, conducted six one-day workshops at different theaters and cultural centers around the city as part of the Blind Service Association's Performing Arts Day. "We did a workshop session a couple of weeks ago, and I had the young ladies here tell something about themselves, and not one of them when they talked about themselves said 'I'm a blind girl.' They all spoke from an internal place," Wilson said.

Percussion instruments, many hand-made from different countries, are used as a tool for expression.

"I have them playing whatever beat comes to mind," said Wilson. "After awhile, all the beats sort of kind of coincide; there's a rhythm, there's a flow to it, and ... how we move around in life, we each have our own different movement.

"The whole idea of them, how they get to articulate a sense of rhythm, a sense of pattern, a sense of connectedness one to another through sounds."

Samantha Smolka is 15 years old.

"With performance day and everything like that, it kind of is helping me with my shyness with people and audiences," Smolka said.

Thirteen-year-old Sara Luna has learned how to be more creative.

"It's fun, just to portray different people and step out of yourself and be an entire different person, and I think that's a very unique experience," said Luna.

"We're here to help people pay more attention to what it is that they hear and what it is that they feel," said Wilson, "because people can see they kind of ignore the sounds and the smells and even the things that they feel about life. And we're special like that. We help people do that."

To learn more about Lise Wilson's Invisible Life Ensemble and the Blind Service Association, go to www.blindserviceassociation.org.


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