Mental Health in the time of Covid, A Musical

Written by Shelby Pickelny

Mental health has always been a taboo subject, and one that was only to be discussed in private if at all. And yet, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.” Despite its normalcy, only 36.9% of those adults suffering from this illness receive treatment. 

Out of the 40 million total diagnosed adults who suffer from anxiety in the United States, far less than half are receiving appropriate treatment due to the stigmatization of mental illness in today’s society.

Everyone experiences stress in their lives at one point or another: that isn’t to say that they automatically have an anxiety disorder, nor is it to say that they aren’t experiencing other symptoms that may be indicative of other common illnesses. 

Other mental illnesses include mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, personality disorders, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – to name a few. For Webmd’s complete list of the types of mental illness, click here.

Image from “Managing Worry in Generalized Anxiety Disorder” by the Harvard Health Blog

Each person’s experience is different, as their brains and chemical balances are unique to the beholder; however, one thing is profoundly common: asking for help is hard. 

And the effects of the coronavirus make everything harder.

What comes to mind when you think COVID-19? It’s likely that a slew of negative-leaning thoughts entered your mind: fear, stress, financial uncertainty, political uncertainty, and – hopefully not but painfully likely – a feeling of grievance. 

You are not alone. An article by Forbes explains, “More than one-third of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both since the coronavirus pandemic began.” This is one statistic of many that outline the effects the pandemic has had on people’s mental wellness, including the jarring: “Text messages to a federal disaster hotline increased more than 1000% last month,” (which was in April of 2020).

One of the ways that we can best help to combat the rise of mental health illnesses is to talk about them.

Normalizing a discussion around sleep or appetite changes, mood swings, problems thinking, and feeling disconnected – all of which are warning signs of mental illness – tells someone who is suffering from a mental illness – knowingly or unknowingly – that they do not have to feel afraid or outcast.

Luckily, a number of celebrities have stepped up in the last decade to serve as good role models and pioneers in the discussion of mental illness. Demi Lovato openly spoke about her Bipolar Disorder and time spent in rehab; Adam Levine acknowledges his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Elton John was once bulimic; Megan Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, and David Beckham live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jim Carie, Miley Cyrus, and Beyonce have struggled with depression. Yes! Even Beyonce!

To name these eleven celebrities with mental illnesses is to only scratch the surface. But these faces in the public eye aren’t the only facets of Western culture with their heart set on shifting the conversation around mental health. 

Broadway has been in on this for years.

Theatre is an art form known for its honest portrayal of the human experience. Intimate encounters involve the audience in whatever realistic, joyous, or heart-wrenching experiences that are being recaptured on the stage. Dialogue and character motivation are often clues to a character’s deepest truths. Music – and especially musical theatre – cuts even closer to the point.

If you’ve ever heard of the musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Next to Normal, you’ve already participated in what is at least the beginning of a discussion surrounding mental health. Brian Yorkey’s Next to Normal follows protagonist Diana Goodman, who suffers from bipolar depressive disorder and delusional episodes. Pasek and Paul’s Evan Hansen is motivated by the effects of his social anxiety disorder, and his devout willingness to remedy them. 

Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss singing “Only Us” from Dear Evan Hansen, notably the line: “quiet the voices in your head; we can’t compete with all that.”

Brian Yorkey, book writer and lyricist of Next to Normal, explains that, “musical theatre gives audiences special access to the internal workings of a character. ‘[A character] can turn to the audience and sing to us, bring us into their mind and let us see what’s happening inside it… The music makes it possible to empathize with what these characters are going through rather than just sympathize.’” 

And the show was grounded in extensive research. Kieron Cindric, author of the Playbill article How Musical Theatre Exposes the Truth of Mental Illness, importantly notes that Yorkey himself read dozens of personal memoirs of people who suffered from different mental illnesses, as well as different books on psychology. On top of that, the team also, “consulted with a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a pediatrician who read each draft of the show as it was workshopped,” in order to ensure that the story remained, “authentic and sensitive.”

Alice Ripley, Aaron Tveit, and J. Robert Spencer in Next to Normal (Joan Marcus)

With contemporary subjects and scores that are close-if-not-in the rock genre, it is clear that these musicals are intended for a modern audience. Similarly, plays and musicals written during COVID’s quarantine have already started to surface. Let me be neither the first nor the last to say that I would not be surprised if a pandemic-inspired musical graced the doors of Broadway once it finally reopens – and when that day comes, be sure to find me again so I can say that I told you so.

But in the meantime, please be sure to ask your loved ones how they’re feeling.

Resources:https://www.boredpanda.com/celebrities-mental-illness-awareness/?utm_source=ecosia&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/covid-19-mental-health/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/crazy-life/201808/4-strategies-make-it-easier-talk-about-mental-healthAdvertisements

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American Apathy & The Rise of Anti-Semitism

What the play Rose Colored Glass by Sue Bigelow and Janice Goldberg serves to remind us today, in 2020.


Catch our radio production of Rose Colored Glass (Act 2!) on November 14th at 2pm here.

Written on 11/6/20 by Shelby Pickelny 

ap·a·thy

/ˈapəTHē/

noun

  1. lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

Activism fatigue is real, but so is American apathy (and one implies a basic regard for another person’s fundamental rights).

When prompted with the phrase, “everything going on in the world,” some immediate kickers come to mind:

To name a few.

The difference is whether or not you were active about resolving any of these issues: Do you wear a mask in public? Did you have a basement party for Halloween? Do you actively denounce prejudiceness – even if the words are uttered from the mouths of your family or friends? Did you donate money to bail out the POC wrongly jailed during peaceful BLM protests? Even if you were vigilantly posting on your Instagram story every day about the need for change, you may start to feel discouraged when you’re supporting a movement that has lulled in momentum – or is no longer trending on Twitter.

If your answer to those questions is, “Kinda…” bear this in mind: In order for you to have activism fatigue, you need to have been advocating. 

This seems like a no brainer, but when most of the American population doesn’t vote, like in the Presidential election of 2016, it’s indicative of a greater problem. 

Visual data of voter turnout in the Presidential election of 2016 where “Nobody” had the most votes, taken from the hyperlink above.

You’re not an activist; you’re apathetic.

What do I mean by American Apathy?

Due to a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern, you let society’s problems – or the problems of another group in society – be solved by someone else – because you misleadingly believe that your own best interest is satisfied, and therefore so is the interest of the greater good.

The problem is this: the greater sect of the American population – that with the ability to vote but don’t – is showcasing their privilege and lack of concern for the human rights of others by, in essence, saying: “I am not affected nor benefited by this, so I am making the choice to not care.”

This apathy only enables history to repeat itself.

In the mid- to late 1930’s, the American public turned a blind eye to the millions of Jews seeking asylum from German dictator and Holocaust-perpertator Adolph Hitler. “In 1933, only 8,220 quota immigrants arrived in the United States, a ninety-five percent decrease in immigration compared to the years prior to Hoover’s instruction,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Word about the developing atrocities in Europe leaked to America. Jewish families with loved ones abroad began to put the pieces together. Unsure of why their letters were going unanswered, many Jewish Americans were left with the fear of the unknown. And, “Still, the vast majority of American people hoped that the United States would remain isolated from foreign conflicts. In 1937, 67% of Americans polled believed there would be another world war, and 73% agreed that a national vote should be required before the US could declare war.”

A view of a Jewish-run shop in Germany, after being vandalized by Nazis and covered with anti-Semitic grafiti, on Nov. 10, 1938.*

Yet, in the evening of November 9th and 10th in 1938, the Nazi regime destroyed and burned down numerous synagogues and Jewish-owned shops across Germany. Kirstallnacht, the night of broken glass, is a name that resonates – or should resonate – around the globe, as Americans and Europeans alike honor the upcoming 82nd anniversary of the warning sign that was mostly ignored.

Granted, in America in 1938, the horrors of the Holocaust were hard to wrap your head around. If you’re going to work, like normal, or making dinner, like normal, or putting your children on the bus, like normal, it’s hard to imagine that someone like Adolph Hitler was successfully planning and then executing a systematic annihilation of millions of people. 

But that’s the thing. By nature, comprehension of the Holocaust is nearly impossible. There are little words that can compare to the horror and injustice carried by the word holocaust. Jewish people lost their business, their citizenship, their homes, their families, and their lives. Though this number should be known by the reader, I’ll say it for those who need to be reminded: Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime killed 11 million people: 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews were murdered before and during World War II. (Non-Jewish people included the Roma and Sinti gypsy people, people from Poland, captured Soviet soldiers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and gay men.)

So why didn’t the American public (meaning, those who aren’t Jewish) do anything?

They were apathetic.

A Jewish woman and a Christian woman are neighbors in Chicago in 1938. Both strong-willed matriarchs of the time, the two women cling to their social perceptions of the other. Their worlds are separate. Their properties are not. A shared alleyway behind their kitchens acts as a physical and emotional boundary between the two. 

What will it take for their worlds to collide? (Dare we say, a lack of apathy?)

Peg O’Riley, granddaughter of Lady O’Riley, has just that. After getting word of what’s happening in Europe, and how it is impacting her neighbor Rose Fleishman’s family, Peg urges her grandmother to reach across their alleyway. Despite the women’s cultural differences, they realize the greater importance of what they do have in common: family and faith. Realizing that what they have in common is greater than what separates them, the three women learn to overcome their own sense of pride to become friends in a world that needs to work together.

A photo from the 2007 Off-Broadway production of Rose Colored Glass.

Sounds a little bit like now, right?

Rose Colored Glass reminds us of important themes that we can bear in mind today, both during and following the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Janice Goldberg, co-author and director of RCG, reflects that, “We live in a divided country… Now, it’s really about how we can overcome our own prejudices.” 

Voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election is on track to break century-old records. As a nation, we are headed in the right direction, but the need for action – and not apathy – does not stop after our new president is announced. 

Continue to ask yourselves:

  • How do we get past our own prejudices?
  • At what point do you concern yourself with the injustice of others? Is that point too late?
  • What do we have in common with someone else, rather than what separates us?
  • Does our society and/or government reflect what I believe to be true?

In the words of presidential nominee Joe Biden, “Once this election is finalized and behind us, it will be time to do what we’ve always done as Americans… to see each other again, to listen to one another, to hear each other again, to respect and care for one another, to unite, to heal, [and] to come together, as a nation.”

——————————-

Want to listen to Act 1 of our radio production of Rose Colored Glass? Click here, and be sure to listen to it before Act 2 premiers tomorrow, November 14th at 2pm!

*Image and caption from “Bearing Witness to Nazi’s Life-Shattering Kristallnacht” by NPR.org

Other Resources:

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/mosaic-of-victims-an-overview

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/04/election-live-results-updates-trump-biden.html

http://rosecoloredglass.net/Home.html

The Theater of Everything: It’s All About the People

-Written by Shelby Pickelny

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.  ~Oscar Wilde

In the theater of politics, people are everything. Like live theater, production is made possible by a team of technical engineers, creative designers, directors, and actors, and the pivotal component that constitutes theater – both dramatic and political – is an audience. 

Now more than ever, in the dawn of the coming presidential election, and in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, it is important to think critically and with compassion. To act in the best interest of one person or one group is not what benefits the public on a larger scale. Namely, today’s political, social, and economic climate calls attention to the pertinent issue of immigration reform.

In the modern political stage, immigration is a signature issue for President Trump, and a point of contention between his administration and the American audience. One of the most notable and devastating policies Trump enacted was his zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossings in 2018 that displaced 2,500 minors from their parents and caregivers. (After enough support from the Republicans, Democrats, and other worldly leaders like Pope Francis, Trump eventually signed a policy that prohibited the separation of families moving forward.) Even still, by 2021 he will have reduced legal immigration by 49% since becoming president. A 2020 Forbes article Reviews Trump’s Immigration Policy:  “Reducing legal immigration most harms refugees, employers and Americans who want to live with their spouses, parents or children, but it also affects the country’s future labor force and economic growth: “Average annual labor force growth, a key component of the nation’s economic growth, will be approximately 59% lower as a result of the administration’s immigration policies, if the policies continue,” according to the National Foundation for American Policy.” For a consolidated, non-partisan list of the presidential candidates and their positions on global issues, click here.

Many Americans fail to understand the hardships of being permanently separated from your family. Of course that’s a hard pill to swallow (especially if you have the luxury of benefiting under the current socio-political machine). 

This is the benefit of theater: it is the priority of the dramatic arts to communicate one person’s truth to another. 

María Irene Fornés, a cuban-American playwright of the 20th century, puts her emigration experience to the United States on the table. Seen throughout her over 30 plays, musicals, and operas, Fornés uses her characters, their energies, and the space that exists around them to offer her audience a vantage point into misunderstood lives that would otherwise go unknown.  In her autobiographical play Letters from Cuba, the exchange of letters between a brother who remains in Cuba and his sister in New York establishes an emotional undercurrent that conveys the loneliness of a family divided by borders. 

The play is set in both New York and Cuba. Inside of a small apartment, Fran (whom Fornés claims is her alter-ego) and her two roommates Marc and Joseph convey the epitome of NYC living: contemplating life and death and wondering how to make good art inside of an apartment that’s shared between three roommates. On the roof of the apartment is Cuba. The set proposes physical barriers to the characters who long to be reunited, and juxtaposes the differences in freedom, in separation, and in their sense of home.

Production photo from the Chicago premier of Letters from Cuba at the Halcyon Theater in 2010.

Fornés awards us some answers. With the one of two other characters who are in Cuba, Luis tells us why not. Why not just move to America? Why not just visit? The reasons, of course, are complex. “For some it’s harder to leave… separating ourselves from what we know… and [what is] close to our hearts,” he says.  

In an interview with the New York Times back in 2000, Fornés reflects on her brother’s choice to stay in Cuba, noting that, “it has to do with attachment… Usually you love a person and you cannot live without them. People have an attachment to their animals, their dogs, there’s a love there. But the love for place is so hard and so beautiful.” On an emotional level, he is content enough to stay in Cuba despite missing the rest of his family. What Fornés leaves to the audience to infer is the unavoidable risk that emigrating imposes under the communist regime of Fidel Castro. 

“But the love for place is so hard and so beautiful.”

  • María Irene Fornés

To juxtapose the appreciation and contentment Luis has for his home in Cuba, Marc, Fran’s American roommate, suggests that he and Joseph should value life more. They dismiss the possibility of a heaven, a place where they would want to go but deem impossible, and conclude that life is valuable because, “Death is a fact.” Void of any feelings of attachment to the cosmetics of their shoebox apartment, the boys only pine after a romantic love they, too, feel is inaccessible to them. In the space where her characters want what they can’t have, Fornés highlights the emotional desires and realistic shortcomings immigrants and Americans experience together.

Today, in the dawn of the 2020 Presidential election and the continued calamities of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to bear in mind the truths of American immigrants and the emotional importance that rests in staying connected to your loved ones. By communicating your emotions and holding space for others’s experiences, one can find a piece of theater wherever they go (or in whatever they write).

References:

https://halcyontheatre.org/productions/alcyone10/lettersfromcuba

Mask-Debate. New Normal.

COVID-19: The mask debate

As lockdown eases down and we become used to the “new normal” we still have to remind ourselves that the pandemic is far from over.

With fresh cases are being recorded every day, a lot of countries are now making face covering mandatory. In the UK alone, the government is investing £14m for firms to make ‘million face masks’ a week.

Whatever your thoughts about masks, whether your argument public health, civil liberties and personal freedom, prevention is always better than cure.

 

Check out below how to wear your mask properly.

Jessie Fahay

12:39 PM (0 minutes ago)

Ripple Effect Artists Remounts a Performance to honor the African American Experience.

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Hello to all,

 

In light of the recent murder of George Floyd, we at Ripple Effect Artists are remounting a Spoken-Word Performance from 2018 via the radio–www.wpkn.org.   In her expository life stories and provocative poetry, Dawn Speaks will give a full spectrum of her life as an African American woman both personally and professionally.   When listening, we laugh, we cry, and we can begin to understand.   We are so honored to have Dawn perform with Ripple Effect Artists and WPKN.org.  Tune in to http://www.wpkn.org on Saturday, July 11th at 2PM.

 

We would also like to introduce this website/resource to all:

https://gottostopllc.com

Erika Ewing, The Founder of GOT TO STOP will be speaking during this Radio show.

Thank you all for following Ripple Blog Talk.

 

“Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.” -Martin Luther King.

 

 

 

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It delights us to announce that multi-ethnic writer and director Jonathan Libman will direct our production of ROSE COLORED GLASS.

 
Born and raised in New York City, his plays include Accidents Waiting to Happen, Please Leave the Light On, The Metro Section, The Men Upstairs, Self-Generated Friction, The Haitian Sensation, Shall I Fetch the Apparatus and other one acts. 
 
Recently Johnathan has been directing THE MUSHROOM CURE written and performed by Adam Strauss at The Cherry Lane Theater.
 
“I am usually interested in stories and characters who get overlooked, marginalised or worse. I will never ignore or deprive character of their essence and language because that is their in my lifehood,”.
 
We cannot wait to see what Johnathan does with our production of Sue Bigelow and Janice L. Goldberg’s Rose Colored Glass in July 2020.

 

Seasons Greetings!

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Season greetings to you all!

 

All of us at Ripple effect Artists want to send everyone an enormous thank you for supporting us on Giving Tuesday (4th December). Together we raised over $4000 from Tuesday alone.

 

 

However big or small your donation, this achievement was all because of you!

 

 

Your money now means we are much closer to producing our rendition of Rose Color Glass next year. All profits from our production will benefit The Road to Hope [https://www.theroadtohope.org], a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting self-sustaining development in Haiti, with a special emphasis on protecting children.

 

 

 

Simply put, if it wasn’t for faithful supporters, we wouldn’t exist. So thank you again for granting the funds for our next production that we need to make a difference in the lives children, families, and communities break the cycle of poverty in the US and Haiti.

 

We will keep you all posted on everything related to this production in 2020.

 

Again we could not thank you enough. Enjoy the holidays and have a happy new year.

 

Image : https://pixabay.com/photos/french-fries-potato-thank-you-18726/

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving: An American Immigrant tale

 

 

 

Autumn is now in full swing and it’s the time of the year we give thanks.

 

 

 

We thank our veterans and serving military for 2 minutes every November 11 and at the end of the month we celebrate thanksgiving.

 

 

 

The Pilgrims celebrated “First Thanksgiving” October 1621. It’s the original American immigration story. Europeans came to another country with no support, no idea if it would work. All they knew it was going to a better opportunity. When things got bad, the locals with food welcomed them. It was the first harvest and success story for these immigrants.

 

 

 

It’s a story we tell and carrying on this story every year of thanks. It’s a tradition that came from a dinner that happened nearly 400 years ago.

 

 

 

Over the next year we at ripple effects Artists will carry on with our immigration stories. With award-winning writer Ina Chadwick’s “where the streets a paved with gold” evening on November 18th {https://ripple-effect-artists-inc.ticketleap.com/when-the-streets/dates/Nov-18-2019_at_0800PM} to our production of Sue Bigelow and Janice Goldberg ROSE COLORED GLASS in 2020.

 

 

 

Join us to make ripples and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Launch of Season 10. How do we practice ethical and responsible immigration?

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As we take on Story-Telling events and go into our 10th season, there is much to share!

We launch our season with the event above in which with a mix of poetry, music, and story-telling, we will hear heartwarming and poetic tales of immigration.  This year, we will continue to share stories, facts, and details about the topic of immigration and how to make the biggest impact in the year 2020.

 

We would like to pay a special acknowledgment to Board Member, Ina Chadwick who put this important event together.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Spotlight on Designer of 2071 Al Kucsar

FROST SET PIX

This set from FROST/NIXON is one of the many designs of our featured Set Designer of “2071: The  World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren.”

Alexander Kulcsar has been designing sets for the stage since 1993, and has been resident set designer for Rainbow Theatre in Stamford, CT (an Equity company), and Square One Theatre in Stratford, CT. He is a also a graphic designer, writer, actor, documentarian and videographer. In 2015 he received an award from Square One for Outstanding Contribution to the Theatre.

SET FOR FROST/NIXON (2013, Westport Community Theatre; directed by Bob Johnson).  What I liked most about this set was its flexibility for becoming many different locations with minimal furnishing; the platforms Right and Left gave characters who commented on the action an elevated space; the pixelated design on the back wall opened to allow entrances and exits. The live video screen was not as big as I liked, but I think it all worked well with our small space and limited resources.

Al, we thank you for your extensive work with Ripple Effect Artists and your commitment to our mission.

One last chance to see these amazing designs in Ripple Effect Artists’ Production of 2071 on August 29th!

Link HERE.

Here’s to designers creating ripples….