Founded in 1996, Scrap Mettle SOUL (Stories Of Urban Life) involves the Uptown/Edgewater neighborhoods of Chicago in an oral history-based performance process that empowers individuals, bonds the community and seeds further community-building activity. The plays are professionally produced and based on experiences of the people of the community and performed by people of the community.
This nonprofit company has several programming and outreach initiatives, including the Spring Performance Project – consisting of original choreography and music and the Fall Outreach Tour – an abridged version of the Spring Show taken on the road to community organizations. Other programs include Park Kids after school drama classes at Margate Park, Park Kids Summer Sessions, Youth Outreach Programs and Story gathering workshops where a diverse group of Uptown/Edgewater residents learn to articulate their experiences and create stories for performance.
Scrap Mettle SOUL’s (SMS) volunteer cast profits from the benefits of professional artistic training – usually someone who resides in the local community. SMS keeps the ticket price to the Spring Show low and offers discount tickets to youth and seniors. Because economically disadvantaged populations are the core audience, those who want to attend the show and do not have the funds to do so are never turned away.
In 1994, Dr. Richard Owen Geer began a community performance project in Chicago’s Uptown/Edgewater, where he lives. SOUL began with 60 teenagers as collaboration for a positive youth alternative and as a means of generating more use and better services at local parks. Adults volunteered to help the project grow.
In 1995, the power of the performances attracted Lakefront SRO, a nonprofit developer of permanent, affordable housing for the formerly homeless. The participants of Lakefront SRO decided to name themselves “Scrap Mettle” to denote the addition of age. In 1996, the teens and SRO participants merged and became Scrap Mettle SOUL. Volunteers not only consist of cast members, but they are also story gatherers, a writing apprentice, a director, a production assistant, a graphic designer and a Web master.