Stories of Humor, Hope and Healing Enthrall at History Theatre

Stories of Humor, Hope and Healing Enthrall at History Theatre

On Tuesday evening, February 19, Vail Place members took the stage at the History Theatre in St. Paul. They performed pieces based on their lived experiences with mental illness. They were applauded with a standing ovation and responses including:

“The stories of the actors and their bravery to share them with us. Awe-inspiring.”

“The honesty of emotions and the courage to tell these stories is deeply moving.”

“Helped open my eyes, thoughts, caring. I’ve never experienced the causes/effects/ feelings of mental illnesses and understanding the impact on trying to be comfortable with oneself.”

“It was deeply moving and inspiring.”

“Helps me gain insight into the roads they traveled. Very thankful for all.”

These are typical responses every year to members’ performances since the Vail Place Theater Arts program launched five years ago in close partnership with the History Theatre. The performance is the culmination of 15 weeks of work by members, guided by History Theatre Teaching Artists. Members learn about the process of theater. How to craft stories and present them to an audience. Some of those stories come together in a final performance. Getting on stage is scary and daunting for many members. But the rewards are amazing.

The sense of confidence and accomplishment. The joy and fulfillment of creative expression. And, of course, the chance to get the kind of audience response they do. It is so important to them to reach out and tell folks what their lives are really like. Richard closed the performance with this speech: “Things I wish for: One of the things I wish for is for people to get to know people with mental illness. Not judging. Not as negative stereotypes bent on social destruction. But as human beings with the capacity to love and be loved. As people like other people with needs and wants and wish lists. To know the pain and laughter of our lives. To be with us in our ups and downs. Our triumphs and struggles. To really know us. And finally admit yes, they are just like us. Accepted.”

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.