Hello, Internet, today is Saturday, October 11th, and we have 2 shows today.
Frank honesty moment: this experience is wonderful… and it’s also very hard. It’s much, much harder than any other show I’ve ever done. Feeling things this acutely all the time, talking about a subject as emotionally fraught as this one, and listening to people relate their own experiences, fears and worst moments has been both marvelous and exhausting. My sleep is fitful. My moods are swinging. I am feeling grief and regret and guilt about things that happened up to ten years ago. Yesterday I put a pot on to boil and completely forgot about it until it literally caught fire. That’s the kind of week it’s been for me.
(Everything is fine, by the way. Well, the pot is not fine, but I put out the fire and waited until it cooled down before throwing it out. The stove and everything around it is fine)
It is, perhaps, one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I hope I continue to do it. These conversations are hard. But they are also the reason that we’re doing this project – we have to deal with the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the most direct way (maybe the only way) to do that is to start having these conversations, and to encourage others to join us.
To that end: thank you to everyone who has come to see the show. If you haven’t yet, but would like to, you can buy your tickets here (or at the door – tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 2pm). If you come, you’ll be given a program with a note in it that I co-wrote with Gemma. But I’ll publish the original here, because I know that there are people who care about this project and won’t get to see this run, and because I want to encourage everyone, everywhere, to take up this conversation – whether in a public or a private way – and to carry it through our daily lives.
Here it is:
The play you are about to see was written in 2004, shortly after my best friend, Richard, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was rewritten in 2007, when Richard lost his life to his mental illness. And then I decided to make it… and I was going to make it right. I was going to make it with the best people I could find, and I was going to pay them.
It took a long time. The first workshop of this show was in 2010. The second was in 2012. Ian and Jamie have been around since at least 2009, through every grant application, every reading, every new draft. Their unflagging enthusiasm for this story has kept me going for the past 5 years, dragging this project forwards from the backburner every few months until we finally found enough dollars to do it.
Kat came on in 2010. Laura in 2011. Mark and Evan in 2012. For the past few weeks, I have found that I am working with a team of artists who are my best friends. But the fact is, we have been working together on this project for so long that they have become my best friends. The team behind Give Me Back is a supportive network that believes in this story, and in the way that we’re telling it.
The fact is that it is very hard to do anything difficult by yourself. The network is key. And this is what is so heartbreaking about mental illness: the stigma can destroy the network just when it’s needed most. The only way to reduce the stigma is to start talking to each other in honest, informed ways, and to listen to each others’ stories.
This is a mission that I share with For the Love of Learning: let’s talk about it, listen to each other about it, try to understand it. Mental illness comes in as many forms as there are people who suffer from it, and every story is different… so there can never be an end to the storytelling.
So, welcome to Give Me Back. Please join us after the show for a chat. And please keep talking to each other as you leave here, and when you get up tomorrow, and every day after. Let’s always be talking to each other, because it’s that network, and those connections, that are going to get us through.