The inside of an opera house
Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

Although I’ve faced numerous challenges over the last five years of being homeless, I’ve continued to be a vendor at Street Sense. The organization’s encouragement through the arts has taken root in me and helped me to maintain a positive attitude despite my current circumstances. As a result, a new journey to write a homeless opera has emerged.

I remember the first time I told someone about my idea. They looked at me in a strange way and just laughed. I thought to myself, “Have I finally lost my mind?” Then I realized, no, this could be possible.

I contacted both Roy Barber, a composer, and Leslie Jacobson, a professor at the George Washington University. They direct the performance and music of Staging Hope, the Street Sense adult theater group. Both immediately agreed to take part in creating a homeless opera, produced by me, a woman who has lived on the street more times than she’d like.

As an original participant of Staging Hope, I have learned a lot about myself over the last few challenging years. The most important lesson I can take from all the mountains I’ve had to climb while being a homeless vendor for Street Sense is to never give up and keep on climbing.

It is a privilege to work with a talented co-producer and music director to tell an unfamiliar story of the ins and outs of living on the streets in Washington, D.C. This will be done through the eyes of the main character, Blank Stare, who had a sheltered life and now must face unfamiliar and difficult circumstances.

I knew someday I would create symphonies but I never dreamed that I would create an opera. I’ve already composed 17 arias. Most of them are traditional while several are avant-garde and mix sound effects that reflect the environment and the supernatural. I’ve also started on the script.

Some of my colleagues from Staging Hope have consented to participate in this opera, as have some vendors who have never before engaged with the group. The working title is “Came Out the Wiser,” because you can only get the lessons I have learned by living on the streets.

There are many things that can transform you when you face homelessness, but the most important transformation I’ve undergone is developing positive coping skills when faced with extreme challenges. I look forward to seeing both Street Sense supporters and new faces at the opera when it debuts. I will publish more updates as we progress. Thanks to everyone for your past and current support!