Speaking Without Tongues

Hidden Voices

Triangle Area, North Carolina


My Role: Composer/Sound Designer
Director: Kathy Williams
Script by: Lynden Harris
Lighting Design: Cecilia Durbin
Performed at: The ArtsCenter (Carrboro, NC), UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, Duke University (Reynolds Theatre)

Cover Photo by Cecilia Durbin

Hidden Voices is a non-profit theatre organization whose mission is “to challenge, strengthen, and connect our diverse communities through the transformative power of the individual voice.” Speaking Without Tongues uncovers the stories of female survivors of domestic violence. The stories are performed by survivors themselves – not by professional actors.

The performance is based on the fairytale “The Woman Without Arms,” told through recorded narration. The survivors’ stories are interspersed between narrations and relate to the idea of powerlessness and, eventually, regaining a sense of power and self.

Music and lyrics written, recorded and edited by Shannon O’Neill.
Guitars, Vocals: Shannon O’Neill
Bass: Wendy Spitzer
Djembe: Ali Colleen Neff
℗ 2008 Shannon O’Neill

A mix of documentary-style and traditional songwriting, I wrote this for Speaking Without Tongues, a Hidden Voices production that premiered in 2008 in Carrboro, NC. This particular song was inspired by a story that didn’t make it into the show, but stuck with me, nonetheless. Details about the story (location, etc.) have been changed, and the river portion was a device added in based on the stories of many of the women who were involved in the production. There seemed to be a pervasive theme of cleansing (more figuratively than literally) as the women left situations of abuse and worked to create new lives for themselves. It lead me to think of baptisms in rivers, though in my case I was thinking of baptism in a more secular sense — a general renewal and a starting over, rather than in terms of Christianity.

Music and lyrics written, recorded and edited by Shannon O’Neill.
Instruments, Vocals: Shannon O’Neill
℗ 2008 Shannon O’Neill

This is another song that made it into the show, based on stories that were told by the women involved. One of my favorite parts of this song is that each woman who spoke to me about it found their own story in it. It is for that reason that I choose not to discuss my initial intent in writing the song.

To hear how it was used in the song, please visit: https://soundcloud.com/soundslikeshannon/swt-opening