“Invisible People” Inspired by Tulsa’s Center of Hope
By Sallie Godwin, PR Director, Tulsa Area Command
Singing pirates, sword-fighting puppets, belly-dancing cowgirls – when Thomas Gibbs moved in the Center of Hope last year, no one had a clue his stay there was the beginning of an unusual adventure for The Salvation Army’s Tulsa Area Command. Yet that’s what happened this summer when the Tulsa Command became involved with “Invisible People,” a dance, theater and music production about homelessness created by Thomas’s mother Shadia Dahlal.
Like most people, Shadia had not thought about homelessness until it hit someone in her family. Thomas had lost his job and needed a place to stay. “He has Asperger’s and some other issues, and I was just so grateful that there was a place he could go and stay. I was very impressed with the people in charge of the Center of Hope and the care they showed everyone there,” she said.
Shadia owns the Belly Dance Academy of Tulsa and is artistic director of the Tulsa Folkloric Dance Theater, the non-profit organization that produced the show. Following her son’s stay at The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope, a homeless shelter and social services center, she was inspired to write a poem, which she titled “Invisible People.” Her husband put the poem to music and it became the name – and theme – of the production. Shadia said she called the poem “Invisible People” because “so many people who are homeless aren’t dealing with mental illness or fighting substance abuse. But they are just as invisible to the rest of society as those who are.”
Shadia reached out to the Center of Hope and told her about her idea for the production. She worked with several of the Center’s homeless guests to use their photographs as the show’s backdrop and even invited them to the dress rehearsal.
The dress rehearsal was held July 7 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, the premier live- theater venue in Tulsa. Local Salvation Army leaders Majors Roy and Kathy Williams attended the show along with 10 of the guests who had posed for photographs. As honored guests, they were the only people allowed to attend the dress rehearsal. Everyone sat enthralled as a dumpster morphed into a pirate ship and two pirates emerged to act as singing ambassadors from the world of people’s dreams to the reality of an alley where homeless people lived.
The grand finale of the show was a slide show created with huge photographs of the guests from the Center of Hope. After the curtain call, the guests mingled with the performers, some of whom were moved to tears. “The whole cast was touched. It was nice to have them there,” Shadia said. The homeless guests seemed to enjoy the project and handled challenges with humor and grace.
Sallie Godwin is PR Director at the Tulsa Area Command. Sallie began her career as a newspaper reporter and enjoys writing and shooting photographs for six Boys & Girls Clubs and the Center of Hope homeless shelter in Tulsa. She also writes posts for salarmytulsa.blogspot.com.