SPARKfest: A Festival Addressing Mental Health Issues

Urban Balance is proud to be sponsoring SPARKfest, a three-week festival with performances that address mental health issues, including depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and conditions related to aging. Presented by Erasing the Distance, SPARKfest is meant to expand audience’s knowledge about the issues in the productions. There will be workshops, panels, and exhibits happening alongside the productions.

Erasing the Distance is an organization that uses the power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate, and promote healing surrounding issues of mental health. Erasing the Distance collects true stories from people whose lives have been impacted by mental health issues. They sculpt the stories into theatrical pieces for the stage, which are then performed by professional actors. Every performance is followed by a moderated, interactive dialogue with the audience that addresses the themes they have just seen.

The festival takes place September 7 – September 24 at the Filament Theatre in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago. You can buy tickets here.

Below are descriptions of SPARKfest performances:

Breathe With Me focuses on end-of-life caregivers, Walk A Mile focuses on depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and The Lies We Tell focuses on addiction.

Breathe With Me

Devised by Millie Hurley and Maura Kidwell

43.5 million Americans are currently caring for an ill or elderly family member, according to the latest research on caregiving done by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. While we speak of caregiving as both a gift and a burden, we never really consider how hard it is on the actual person who is having to balance work, family, and the needs of the ailing family member. How does the caregiver get taken care of? How does the person taking care get emotional support? This work explores the quiet and complex emotional world of the end-of-life caregiver and those who choose to care for others.

Walk A Mile

Devised by Stacy Stoltz

How do you reconnect or strengthen your ties to your family? How does your connection to them affect the way you move through the world? With all the chaos and confusion in the world, in our country, why is family important? Walk a Mile is about a woman uncovering her family’s stories, personalizing those stories and re-telling them as though they are her own. While attempting to grow her empathy for the people who made her who she is, she hopes to inspire others to consider their own family connections.

The Lies We Tell

Devised by Charlotte Drover, Mariana Green, and Adam Poss

The story of one man’s struggle with addiction, starting in high school, continuing through college, graduate school, and in the workforce. As a high functioning addict, he told lies to friends, family, coworkers, and girlfriends to protect the addiction. Along with the lies he tells, the work explores the lies others chose to believe. How does and addiction impact relationships? What truths are impossible to share when you are an addict, or someone involved with an addict?