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Wearing a Veil with Yazidi Women Survivors of Slavery

As a survivor of sexual trauma and someone who lives with complex PTSD every day, I have dedicated my work as an artist to speaking up for and empowering those whose lives have been hijacked by trauma.

Right now, there are thousands of Yazidi girls and women enslaved by ISIS.  The New York Times reports that “the Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority. As yet, there has been no widespread campaign aimed at enslaving women from other religious minorities” (ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape).  Nadia Murad, who survived and escaped enslavement, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.


A Danish friend of mine is currently working with Yazidi refugees in Germany.  She told me that, although their religion does not typically involve wearing a head covering, these women have started wearing veils to show that, after being victims of mass rape by ISIS, they are dead inside.  They only keep living so they can be there for their families and for each other.

This is something that resonates with me so strongly that I have to stand with these women.

Tonight I will be playing at Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem, and I will be wearing a veil to support the Yazidi women who are currently enslaved, and those who now have the long journey of recovery.  From 9-10 EST, you can come to see the show in NYC, or watch a live stream for free.

Please help to share the stories of these women by sharing the linked news articles, and by visiting  You can also follow @nadiamuradbasee on Twitter and search hashtag #Yazidi to retweet petitions and other calls for help.

Vinyl Release March 11th in Wilmington

This show is a highlight reel of my best collaborations over the past few years!  We’ll be performing selections from Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes with Rachel Schain, Sheila Hershey, and more, 80s covers with Hot Breakfast!, and theatrical pieces from the show “Alone With All of You,” in addition to songs from the album.  Don’t miss opening acts: Homey Award nominee for best new band, Area 302, and Lancaster favorite The Original Substance.  Click here to purchase tickets.


An Alternative to Valentine’s Day


How can live performance heal our sense of isolation?

In my new show, “Alone With All of You: A Valentine’s Alternative,” audience members will begin by entering a labyrinth, an exhibition that isolates them as they travel through. The labyrinth will then transform until we are together, experiencing a concert of original improv music and acting. This show is a collaboration with Benjamin Lloyd at the White Pines Place, featuring musicians Wes Morton and Sam Nobles and actors from Bright Invention: Johnny Smith, Michelle Pauls, Leah Holleran, and Gavin Whitt.

“The Seven Invitations” – an anonymous survey

I started by writing “The Seven Invitations,” which invite people to share their experiences of loneliness and connection. I decided that, instead of questions, which seem more like an interrogation, that I would write unfinished sentences. A question can be a spotlight when you’re naked on a stage, a silent staring audience demanding an answer. Instead, I’m just inviting people to finish the sentences, like, “hey, I ate half of this cookie, do you want the other half?”

Alone with all of you

What’s amazing to me is how similar everyone’s responses were to this survey. In the exhibition, we will display the anonymous responses as a collection. One of my favorite things to do with my performances is to bring the parts of ourselves that we hide in dark shadowy places out into the light, so they can breathe. The purpose of displaying the responses is to share how our experiences of being alone, and the things we wish to hide, are things that we all share. Maybe we don’t have to hide after all!

The Exhibition – entering the labyrinth

Set designer Rick Neidig helped us to actualize the idea of the labyrinth in the White Pines Place. In the exhibition, I wanted to let audience members contribute, in the same way that they’ve contributed to the seven invitations. In this way, every show will be different, and built on the audience’s anonymous contributions. In addition, people attending this concert can make masks to wear, make valentines, and choose to carry out fun “quests” in the labyrinth. Eventually, the labyrinth will shift and change, and our walls disappear.

The Performance – isolation was just a mirage

Our goal in this show is to let the performance develop moment by moment, being truly present with ourselves and the audience. Therefore, much of the music and acting is structured loosely with the idea that we can react spontaneously to each other and to the audience. This is a stretch for me, because I’m much more comfortable with having every detail of a performance rehearsed. I’m challenging myself to allow the music (and lyrics!) to develop as we go. The show features a few new pieces of music, as well as songs from my album “My Own Frankenstein,” songs from 2015, and even a song from the 50-song summer that I’ve never performed live. In addition, I’m playing some new instruments. Sometimes with music, and sometimes in silence, the Bright Invention actors will do improv around the 7 invitations and suggestions from the audience.


But what will Noelle stick in her eyes?  What will she put on her head?

We all know I love to see how much junk I can stick in my eyes.  How difficult can I make it to actually see and play my instrument while balancing things on my head?  It’s a fun game I like to play.  Anyway, this show revolves around masks, and the idea that we wear different faces to meet different people and different situations. That’s all I’m telling you. You’ll have to come and see!

Take the survey and experience the show

Join us for two shows on Saturday, February 6th at from 8-10 p.m. and on Sunday, February 14th from 2-4 p.m. at the White Pines Place in Elkins Park, PA (just outside of center city Philadelphia). You can buy tickets and find details by clicking here.  We can only seat 45 people, so buy your tickets in advance!

If you can’t come, you can still contribute by clicking here to anonymously answer the 7 invitations.

Photo credits: Top photo by Patty Maher (that’s not me in the photo). Bottom photo by Joe del Tufo (that one is me).

In Defense of Art in the Cyber World: a Spontaneous Manifesto


“The imagination today is under siege. We are saturated with information; with concepts and opinions that stream ready formed, ready learned from our mouths and are fed to us by the chatter of media networks.” – From Roger Housden’s Why Poetry Is Necessary

In a modern materialist world, we have so much control over our temperatures, births and deaths, appearances, food, and nature in our human terrariums.  We pump money into technology so we can have anything we want whenever we want it, and won’t that satisfy all of our desires?  What place does the artist have in modern society?  Who needs art when all of our needs can already be met by money and science?

1. In our technological convenience, we are disconnected from the earth and our bodies.  Art connects us with our true selves, with what it means to be human.

2. We are constantly connected to each other, yet we have that nagging feeling that we lack community.  Art connects us to each other on a deeper level.

3. Through social media we can all pretend to be experts, but underneath we know how ignorant we are.  Art deals with the unknown and the unknowable.

4. Despite our veil of complete safety, our lives are extremely fragile.  Any natural disaster, sudden illness, or accident can completely uproot us.  In a dangerous and unpredictable world, in which we are completely vulnerable, art gives us comfort.

5. Psychology has demystified our own minds, and medicine has given us anti-everything drugs.  Even though we understand, we are still slaves to our desires.  In a completely logical world, we still go all inexplicably crazy in love and hate and anger and despair.  Art helps us anchor ourselves in a whirlpool of emotions.

6. Atrocities happen.  We think we can never get through this or make sense of any of it.  Art offers no answers, but helps us sit with the question.

7. We all die.  Art deals with mystery and possibility in a life we don’t understand.

Kurt Vonnegut likened artists to the “canary in the coal mine;” artists are “the raw nerve endings of society” who can see in the dark and give early warning signs.  By clicking below you can listen to my song “Canaries,” which is based on this idea.

Meet me at my website to connect amidst what Kerouac called that “Bleak inhuman Loneliness.”

Sing Truth to Power,

Noelle Picara

I’m a Misogynist


Recently I went to the eye doctor, and after the nurse did my initial eye check she said, “the doctor will be in to see you in a few minutes.”  Soon the door opened, and a beautiful young woman walked in.  I noticed my first reaction was, “this can’t be the doctor.”

Horrified, I started challenging my original thought.  Of course women are doctors.  Of course this woman can be in her late twenties or early thirties and be a doctor.  Of course women who are smart and educated can also be gorgeous and sexy.  All of these things I know are true, but yet my initial gut reaction was one of surprise when this woman walked in the door, when I was expecting the doctor.  Then it hit me what the problem was.

I realized that I’m a misogynist.

Even though I’ve studied internalized oppression, internalized sexism, and I’ve taught my students about it, I’m not immune.  If I had such limiting beliefs about doctors and the woman in front of me, is it possible I have these beliefs about myself as well?

It takes a hard look at yourself.  In meditation we see things we don’t really want to see about ourselves.  And then we can’t un-see them.  Personally, I think I’ve been operating my whole life with the fundamental belief that men are the ones in power in the world, and in order to achieve my goals or to be successful, at some point I’ll need to convince male gatekeepers of that power to support me, and to give me what I want, or to give me permission.

In my mind, deep below all of my feminist ideals and intellectual background, that means sex appeal.  This is the way to power in the world.

Where did I get that message?  Being raised in an environment of sexual abuse probably didn’t help.  But in the film America the Beautiful 3, director Darryl Roberts looks at how images in the media are sending girls the message that, “if you’re not fuck-able, you’re invisible.”

I see a lot of teenage girls going through that dance – realizing that they have this sexuality, that it is a kind of power, and then seeing how they can use it to get attention and the things that they want.  In his TED Talk, Why I Stopped Watching Porn, Ran Gavrieli talks about how most 12-year-olds now have access to porn.  Girls grow up with the idea not only that their power is only in their attractiveness to men, but that using their sexuality (reduced by porn to simply mean penetration) is also the only way to get love.

We think that using sex appeal gives us power, but really we are not empowered at all.  We are only borrowing power, like a loan from a bank, who has the ability to foreclose on us at any time when they decide we’re no longer “fuck-able.”

A lot of female musicians seem to walk the line, too, between owning female sexual power and giving it away.  In Lady Gaga’s live performance of Poker Face, she seems strong and empowered, even when saying, “get your dicks out,” and miming giving hand jobs while singing.  I’m not so sure here.  I’m not convinced.  It seems like the message here is that the only way to hold onto your own sexuality as a woman is to be the pimp as well as the whore.  You’re willingly giving it away, and you don’t give a shit.

This is the story of the old madam in the brothel, and the way women have navigated patriarchy for thousands of years.  This is a lot of what my song Chameleon is about.

Is that the only way, even now?

I don’t know the answer yet.  I’m just sitting with the question.

I’m just starting with this – I’m a misogynist.  Now what to do about it?

The Monsters Inside Us

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” – Stephen King


In a recent interview I was asked, “do you mind being associated with ghouls and monsters?”  This started me thinking. Why do I dress up as monsters?  Do I feel like I’m a monster?

Monsters serve a purpose for us.  They allow us to access a part of ourselves that we often deny.  And sometimes this is useful. We spend so much of our lives trying to be pretty, to be nice, to be accepted.  There is something we love about bringing out the ugly, messy bits, the animal ferocity, the abandon that monsters allow us.

This is especially true for women.  Often we get the feeling that we will be rewarded for being quiet, nice, and pretty.  I feel that we need a space to be aggressive and bloody.

It’s not about violence or negativity, or being depressed.  It’s about reclaiming a part of ourselves that we’ve denied, in order to be a full expression of our humanity.

So join me.  Let’s be monsters.  RAWR.

Happy Halloween!

p.s. stay tuned – very soon you’ll have gifts of new songs and videos from Noelle Picara :)

Vulnerability – Lessons for Creative People and Sexual Abuse Survivors

I watched this TED talk by Brené Brown this weekend.  Then I watched it again.  

If you’re a performer or a survivor of trauma, watch this video.  Since I’m both, it was especially striking to me.  I had to watch it twice.  Some thoughts:

Shame, according to Brown, is the thing that keeps us from connecting with other people.  We’re so afraid that there’s something wrong with us that we can’t connect to others.

For survivors of sexual abuse, like me, shame is the main side effect we have to deal with.  A pervading sense of shame seeps into everything we do.  I remember being afraid to leave the house for periods of time, because when I was walking down Main Street in Newark, just to go to the drugstore, I felt like “people will see me and KNOW.”  Yes, I felt “excruciatingly vulnerable” – Brown’s definition of shame.  Any time I got an answer wrong in a class, or a friend got irritated at something I said – there it was – that flareup of shame again.

This is what struck me about this:

Sexual abuse attacks the victim by keeping them from connecting to other people.

It’s a simple yet important thing for everyone to understand.  Connecting with other people is the most meaningful experience in life, and sexual abuse takes that away from the victim.  



According to Brown, though, there’s hope.  People who were able to connect with others and finally feel a sense of self worth were the ones who showed courage, which she says, according to its etymology, actually means:

“Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

See.  Performers.  Writers.  Artists.  Creative people.  This is where you come in.  

People who are able to connect with others let themselves be vulnerable.  They have the courage to be imperfect, and to show others their imperfections, and to say the two most powerful words that Brown says you can say to another person,

“Me too.”

This is what I’m doing.  Join me.


Noelle Picara


For Those Who Didn’t Survive

Tonight I’ll be performing “Medusa” for the first time live at Wilmington’s Ladybug Festival, a festival with performances by 30 female singer/songwriters.



This performance is dedicated to the memory of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons, two teenage girls who committed suicide after photos of them being sexually assaulted were published online. 

Audrie and Rehtaeh were ostracized and bullied by their classmates.  Many victims of sexual assault endure the same treatment.

As a sexual abuse survivor, it is important for us to remember the ones who didn’t survive.

I dream of a world free from sexual violence.  And I’m not just dreaming.  

I am screaming.

For these girls, for survivors and the ones who didn’t survive.  For every child.

Thank you for listening and for standing with me.  Everything I write, sing, and do is for you.

Noelle Picara

“Out of the ashes / I rise with my red hair / and I eat men like air”

Delaware’s “Zombie Girl” Noelle Picara to release Debut Album



Noelle Picara is known to electrify audiences with her passionate style of theatrical piano rock and to “masterfully mesh beauty with death” (Hockessin Community News).  Following the successful release of her single and debut music video, “Zombie Girl,” Noelle is starting production on her first full-length album.  Noelle is excited to collaborate on the album with drummer Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls.

Noelle says, “this will not be an album for casual listening.  I want to push people outside of their comfort zones, to make people question the things we fear, our ideas of sex and power, and what it means to be a living and broken human being.  This album is for intelligent, passionate listeners who want to step into their own power and experience something truly transformative.”  The album is expected to be released in the fall of 2014.

To be the first to hear Noelle’s new songs, see her at the Ladybug Festival in Wilmington, Delaware on July 18th.  She will be unveiling her “Medusa” character, the first of several new costumes to compliment her sexy and terrifying performance art.  For more information, visit

There is No Such Thing as Writer’s Block


I am probably going to piss some people off with this post.  And it isn’t even one of my posts about politics or feminism or religion.  I have a feeling, though, that people are going to argue with this statement:

There is no such thing as writer’s block.

A few months ago I was at a concert for singer/songwriters.  One of the songwriters introduced herself by saying, “I’ve finally got some new songs, after having writer’s block for the last three years.”

For some reason, this really got under my skin.  It irritated me.  I had a hard time believing her.  Is she saying that she actually sat down and tried to write every day for three years, but could never think of anything?  This doesn’t seem possible to me.

First, I think, we have to figure out what someone means by “Writer’s Block.”  As far as I can tell, it could mean one of two things.  The first one is that you can’t write ANYTHING.  

If someone is saying they literally can’t write a single word down on a page, then that tells me they are probably operating from the assumption that writing, whether it’s songwriting or novel writing or blog writing, comes down from some divine inspiration.  Some muse blesses you with an idea, and until that idea appears in your head, you’re not going to sit down and write anything.

To me, that’s total bullshit.  We make our own creativity.  Creativity is a muscle.  You have to exercise it by doing creative things.

It sounds very unlikely to me that you can’t write anything at all.  When my students don’t know what to write, I tell them to keep writing, “I don’t know what to write,” until they think of something.  If you keep your hand moving, eventually something kicks in.  You could write lists of names.  Go outside and write down all of the trees and rocks and things.  There are plenty of exercises you can use to start you writing SOMETHING.

So if you’re saying that you can’t write anything at all, I don’t believe it.  What I think you’re really saying is that you’re not WILLING to write at all until you passively receive some brilliant idea.

This brings me to possibility number two – what you mean by “Writer’s Block” is that you can’t write anything GOOD.

This, I can believe.  However, I’m still not going to give you a free pass on this one.

This excuse (and yes, I think they’re both excuses) tells me that you’re letting your critical mind take over your creative process.  You’re judging what you’re writing before it gets out.  You’re crippled by anxiety about writing something good.

I do feel some sympathy for this dilemma, but I’ll give you a good way to get over this – write something terrible.  Write as many terrible things as you possibly can.  Try to write the worst thing you have ever read in your life.  Let go of that critical mind.  Get really drunk and write for hours and hours.  Eventually, something will come of it.

Again, I think this explanation of writer’s block depends on a faulty assumption.  In this case, you’re assuming that everything you write should be good, when IN FACT, those of us who are really working at writing know that you have to write 99 awful things before you get one good one.

Anne Waldman told us once that you do your best work at strengthening those writing muscles when you can’t think of anything good to write about.  When you have nothing to work with, and you keep working anyway, that’s when you develop the skills you’ll need to really make the most of that brilliant idea.  And if you don’t keep working, you won’t get the brilliant idea.  

It’s just like exercising when you’re tired or sick or you don’t want to – the calories still get burned and the body still gets stronger.  When you’re practicing an instrument day after day, and you’re just not getting the notes right yet, you’re still learning.  Even when you’re not enjoying it or feeling like you’re doing a good job.

So, this is why the idea of “Writer’s Block” bothers me so much.

Basically, when you tell me you have writer’s block, you’re saying that you’re not willing to do the work.  You’re not willing to write the mountains of terrible stuff that you have to produce in order to get one little smidgen of something good.  You’re not willing to sit down every day and do the mental pushups and chin-ups of writing until you get strong enough to come up with the good ideas and the techniques to bring them out of you.

You think that writing is some passively received gift that came down from the gods and you either have it or you don’t, and some of us are lucky enough to be blessed with it, and you’re not, because you’re cursed with “Writer’s Block.”

Yes, this whole idea really bothers me, because I didn’t passively receive my songs from some stork dropping them on me from heaven.

I worked for this, bitch.  

Take credit for what you do, or what you don’t do.  

Noelle Picara