UNPLUGGED: weathering despair and trauma through song



Nobody quite goes back they way they were before
But the storm helps us learn…


The storms of youth and coming of age can be challenging for anyone; when combined with the trauma of abuse and the crushing despair of depression they can be particularly destructive. Author/performer/educator Paul McComas  explores how we weather these storms through the fictional character Dayna Clay, a  troubled young alternative-rocker and rape survivor. Her struggles are subject of an acclaimed novel, Unplugged (2002), and of musical performances with Chicago singer-songwriter Maya Kuper.

Neighborhood House of Milwaukee  hosted two performances of Unplugged: Scenes & Songs from the Novel on Monday, July 28. The one-hour program of scenes and songs to combat rape and despair is adapted from McComas’ critically acclaimed novel, with guitarist Mike Holden and Milwaukee drummer Tim Buckingham, and the author’s niece Joelle Taknint on hand drums. Merchandise proceeds (nearly $600 was raised!) benefited Neighborhood House and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), on whose National Leadership Council and Speakers Bureau McComas serves.

McComas brought the show to Neighborhood House in memory of his mother Hazelyn McComas, a long-time supporter and former Board President who passed away earlier this year. After her passing, Paul toured Neighborhood House and was “gobsmacked” by the powerful ways its mission is being expressed now, and how it dovetails both with Hazelyn’s ministry and social engagement, and with his own interest in social healing through music and the arts. “What the staff and families are doing here every day is heroic,” he adds, as is the work of RAINN, his main cause. McComas presented Neighborhood House Executive Directors Richard Cox and Jeff Martinka with “MVP” awards – Most Valued Provider – to illustrate his point.

Both the novel and the show tell the story of Dayna Clay, including her solitary journey into the wilderness of the South Dakota Badlands and her subsequent struggle to recover from depression, come to terms with her traumatic childhood, and secure a hard-won inner peace. “Anytime we can break the silence on serious issues that affect young people, it creates an opportunity for all of us as a community to heal and move forward,” said Anna Bierer, Director of Programs at Neighborhood House.

The event was co-sponsored by Aurora Health Care’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center & The Healing Center. Mental-health professionals from Aurora Health Care joined Paul & Maya during talkbacks after each performance. Author Bridget Birdsall also spoke.



Listen to Song Samples

Buy the CD!

Paul McComas and Maya Kuper, interviewed by Stephanie Lecci. Aired on WUWM 89.7 Milwaukee on March 25, 2014.

12-min. interview on WMSE-FM alt-rock:

Feature article in the Milwaukee Shepherd-Express:

Feature article at OnMilwaukee.com:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article:

Feature Article in Marquette Tribune:



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