Rethinking Mental Illness: New play grounded in truth

MORGAN: Your worker says you have been behaving differently.

KOKO: I pride myself on behaving differently.

-excerpt from Breaking Through by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore

The stories of five individuals struggling with mental health issues interweave in Sarasvàti Productions new play, Breaking Through. Playwrights Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore created Breaking Through as part of community-based two-year Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project. The project saw McIntyre and Moore team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as working with multiple community organizations and the public. The resulting play is an exploration of mental illness grounded in real experience.

This week, we catch up with the playwrights to talk about the journey of this new, provocative play – from inspiration to early stages of production.

1)            What was the impetus that got you going on Breaking Through?

McIntyre: Meeting with so many people and hearing their stories was all the inspiration needed. We were lucky to have several individuals contact us to share, others show up to the open sessions and amazing workshops at numerous organizations. There was never an issue of lack of material or desire to write but more so too much material!

Moore: For me it was during our visits to female prisons across Canada during the writing of Hope and I’s play “Jail Baby.” Early on I realized at least 30 percent of the women we were meeting, had serious mental illness. In prison, those issues were not, and would never be, addressed.  I wanted to be a part of changing that.

Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore at the book launch of their play ‘Jail Baby’

 

2)            Do you feel like your understanding of mental health has changed while working on this play? How?

McIntyre: Not changed per say as I have worked with and had many people in my life who struggled with mental health prior to this project. I think what I realized is that every individual has their own experience and own perspective. One of the challenges is to show the myriad responses and points of view. Some have been devastated by the medications they were prescribed and lost quality of life whereas others we spoke with believe the medications saved their lives. There are no easy answers or one size fits all solutions but a need to really honour each story.

Moore: Definitely. Particularly when it comes to medication in North America. While visiting Selkirk Mental Health Centre, I realized that what I originally thought was “mental illness” was really the side effects of medication. That was a scary moment.

3)            While doing research, workshops and interviews with the public, what surprised you most?

McIntyre: The willingness of people to share was the most surprising. There was clearly a desire to talk about it in order to educate, increase awareness and to stop feeling like it was something that needed to be hidden. Many people I knew beforehand in other capacities came forward to share. I feel I started to stop and listen more after going through this process. Asking someone how they are doing, really doing, can be such an important thing.

Moore: That most of us experience mental health issues, even those people who may seem like they have the world by the tail. I was surprised at just how sick people can get. How much care takers and loved ones sacrifice to help those suffering from mental illness. How very real psychosis is, to those who experience it. That we need to recognize people with mental illness, are not their illness, for example, a person is not schizophrenic; they are a person with schizophrenia. The illness should not define them, any more than cancer should define someone. That person is not cancer; they are a person who has cancer. We really need to rethink how we talk about mental illness.

4)            What do you hope the audience is talking about on the car ride home from Breaking Through?

McIntyre: I hope they are opening up about their own struggles, discussing the reality that it is universal and exploring how we should support anyone who is going through a rough time by providing them with what they need.

Moore: I hope there is passionate debate. Talking about mental illness is the first step. It is my greatest wish as a playwright, to raise questions, rather than answer them. Silence is the most difficult hurdle. We should be able to talk about mental illness with our friends, in our work place, without fear of being stigmatized.

Breaking Through premieres on May 23rd and runs until May 28th at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film. Tickets are available now on our website or by calling the office at 204-586-2236.

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All the World’s a Stage this International Women’s Week

Hot off the heels of an incredibly successful community tour, our performers are ready to showcase this year’s line up of monologues this Saturday at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over !  We are proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts.

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We started off by taking the pieces that were created through community group story-sharing back to the groups of women who had helped us to create them. After well-received performances at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and Welcome Place, we set off to tour the wider community! Here are the great host groups, all amazing organizations worth checking out:

March 2 – Genesis House – Manitou, Manitoba
Genesis House exists so that people of South Central Manitoba will be free from family and intimate partner abuse achieving results that justify the relative worth. They provide a confidential service, which includes a shelter for abused women and their children, residential and non-residential programs and prevention through public education.

March 6 – UWSA Women Trans-Spectrum Centre
The Women-Trans Spectrum Centre is an accessible and inclusive resource centre for women and trans students on the University of Winnipeg campus. The centre is a great space to hang out, study, and build community.

March 7 – North End Women’s CentreNEWC IWW17 (2)
The North End Women’s Centre is a community based organization that provides women with support, knowledge, and opportunity as they move forward on their journey towards independence and healthier lifestyle.

 

March 7 – Nova House – Selkirk, Manitoba
Nova House is a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. They provide temporary shelter, counseling, support groups, and referral to community resources for women and their children.

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March 8 – North End Family Centre

The North End Family Centre is a community gathering place that provides a comfortable and safe environment for community members to connect and belong.

March 8 – U of M Womyn’s Centre
RRC IWW17 (1)The Womyn’s Centre provides a feminist voice and safe space for womyn on campus. The members strive to create a place where women are listened to and recognized, and facilitate women as they gather the information they need to make informed decisions in their lives.

March 8 – Rainbow Resource Centre
Rainbow Resource Centre provides support, education, and resources to foster a proud, resilient, and diverse LGBT2SQ+ community.

March 9 – Agape House – Steinbach, Manitoba
The mission of Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre, Inc. is to empower women and children experiencing family violence by providing safe shelter, information, counseling, and ongoing support.

March 9 – Mount Carmel Clinic
Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to accessible health care, Mount Carmel Clinic goes the extra mile to help clients connect with the services they need—in their homes, workplaces and neighbourhood.

March 9 – St. John’s Library
In addition to offering the services of a public library, St. John’s Library offers an array of free programs and workshops for all ages.

March 10 – St. Aidan’s School, Aberdeen Campus
St. Aidan’s School Aberdeen Campus is a Grade 6-10 school, primarily focused on at-risk kids, and presently serving kids from about ten nations – Cree, Tanzania, Metis, Kaska, Canada, Eritrea, Congo, Ojibway, Ethiopia, Burundi.

March 10 – IIWR-MB
IIWR-MB is an organization open to all individuals, as well as organizations that have an interest in promoting women’s human rights.

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March 12 –The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is a progressive Organization with strong and durable roots in the people and history of Canada.

March 19- Manitoba Storytelling Guild
The Manitoba Storytelling Guild supports and promotes the art of oral storytelling throughout Manitoba.

A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

Join us for a performance of the full line-up, and a lobby full of visual art on the theme of ‘Starting Over’ at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, March 11, 2017.