Holcombe Waller

  • Edlis Neeson Theater
    First Floor, Accessible via the Griffin Entrance on Pearson Street
    220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611


Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders
Photo: Tyler Kalberg


Holcombe Waller has a gorgeously androgynous voice, both as a singer and songwriter—one that cuts through ordinary and extraordinary situations with delicacy and emotional precision.
—National Public Radio


Copresented with Chicago Humanities Festival

Now, more than ever, we’re deluged with data telling us where we are and what’s around us. In his highly imaginative song cycle Wayfinders, Portland-based performance artist Holcombe Waller asks—both literally and figuratively—where are we? Titled after Wade Davis’s acclaimed book which connects endangered and extinct cultures with our own sense of meaning and purpose, Wayfinders is inner poetry come alive and a haunting blend of lush song arrangements, video, light, and movement.

Waller’s stories, luminous interactive videos, and live music, which flows between arranged and improvised notes, converge in this poetic search into how technology both illuminates and obscures our awareness of presence, place, and death in our everyday lives. The score and libretto reveal Waller’s unique blend of chamber pop, folk, opera, and sung epic storytelling. The five-piece chamber ensemble integrates his arresting vocal performance that looks at both how we journey and is a beautiful journey in itself, evolving with each performance.

A formidable music project, Wayfinders is an MCA commission and was developed in residency at the MCA earlier this year.

Running time: 50 minutes, no intermission

Sun, Nov 9, 7:30 pm

This performance of Wayfinders includes an American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation service.


Featured image

Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders
Photo: Tyler Kalberg

Artists Up Close

MCA Talk: First Night
Fri, Nov 7, postshow
Audience members are invited to stay at the end of the performance for a conversation with Holcombe Waller and collaborators, moderated by Cameron Heinze.

About the Artist

Singer, composer, and performance artist Holcombe Waller composes for concerts, film, and dance—as well as his own interdisciplinary shows that integrate his music with his video and theater design. His works explore themes of nostalgia, intimacy, and the search for spiritual meaning. Waller has released five albums on his own label and scored the Emmy-nominated documentary We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco, which premiered at Sundance in 2011. He has performed in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Paris, among many others, and he has been awarded grants from the MAP Fund, Creative Capital, and the United States Artists. The latter noted his mournful, folk-inflected style as well as his approach to music “as total theater.” Born and raised in the San Francisco area, Waller studied art at Yale University and now lives in Portland.

Featured image

Performance view, Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders, MCA Chicago, November 7, 2014
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Featured image

Performance view, Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders, MCA Chicago, November 7, 2014
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders, is generously supported by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Wayfinders is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project cocommissioned by MCA Chicago in partnership with Legion Arts, Miami Light Project, On the Boards, and NPN. Additional support comes from the NPN Forth Fund and Performance Residency Program.

Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.