A world premiere theatrical production focusing on “Families and Depression” was commissioned by Rebecca’s Dream and co-produced with Erasing the Distance theatre company. This production brings to life the true story of a family’s struggle to manage depression through three generations.
The production highlights the progress they made living with this disease and shares their courageous decision to break the silence and fight the stigma of mental illness. The work premiered at the Filament Theatre.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
If your family holidays aren’t full of enough drama, you might want to check out Tell Me What You Remember at the Filament Theater. This brutally honest look at depression and family dysfunction (and how they intersect over multiple generations) is as much communal therapy as it is community theater.
Produced by Erasing the Distance, Tell Me What You Remember is a study on depression and its effects on family. Directed by Nikki Zaleski, it at once seems intimately personal but yet universal. What person has had that family member that didn’t seem quite happy or one that battles with image or substance problems even though everything seems fine?
The connection runs through a Depression-era housewife, her daughter and her granddaughter. Seeing how each character interacts with depression, deals with it personally and within the family, and the results it can have on relationships not only illustrates that character but also how mental illness and depression has changed over time. That’s because as much as this is a play about recognizing the symptoms or effects of depression, it is even more about gaining the ability to speak the word on an individual, familial and societal level.
Director Nikki Zaleski doesn’t bind the characters linearly and allows free interaction across generations, even if not directly speaking to each other. With only five cast members, Zaleski creates a full stage with heavy use of motion and overlapping dialogue that helps to create a bigger space and more dynamism that is going on.
Much of the dialogue is directed toward the audience, which creates the feeling of an interloping patient at a therapist’s office who arrived a bit too early and is catching the end of the previous session. There’s the sense that we shouldn’t really be listening to this and that we are inserting ourselves into a family drama that is none of our concern. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and necessary. As the issue is depression and the tendency of families to hide it away buried under silence, the witnessing of the drama is in essence bringing this affliction to the light for the characters and audience.
The set is minimalist, with a dining room table and hanging window panes as the main focus. Projected images over the frames create a diffused image, recognizable but not understandable. It works as a visual representation of the murky recollection of events, clouded by time and pain. The overall effect is one of intimacy, buttressed by the small room and lack of elevated stage.
Even though it lasts only an hour, the entire production is emotionally exhausting. Jennifer Matthews creates an admirable performance as Kristin, the character who embraces her depression and becomes the impetus for the entire extended-therapy conversation. After the performance, the audience is invited to discuss personal aspects of depression or their thoughts on the performance. One audience member said that depression can seem very selfish and self-centered. However, this play let’s everyone in to the raw realizations of what depression can mean on family.
“Tell Me What You Remember”
Highly Recommended ****Over the years, theater audiences have gathered to watch stories of dysfunctional families and their members. We have seen what drugs can do to a young person and what can happen when a young person is mistreated or misdiagnosed. Seldom do we get an inside glimpse of a real story such as the one presented by Erasing The Distance, now onstage at The Filament Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. The play, a roughly 85 minute collection of stories that have been reshaped to intertwine and make us think, as well as see things form a different perspective is well written and directed and is brought to life by five very capable actors. “Tell Me What You Remember”, adapted by Gedalya Chinn and Directed by Nikki Zaleski, takes us on a journey of a family and several generations of that family.
The actors gather around a table at first, looking at the old family pictures that make up the “family album”. These photos, back in our day, were very important to every family as they represented the history of each family and the memories that were preserved. Of course, with the advent of the “electronic world” we live in an d the “cloud”, and of course computers and every phone being a camera as well, we no longer rely on the photo album…a real shame!. In this case, the photos awake some memories as our first speaker, Janet (Eileen Vorbach) takes us into her childhood problems and her family depression, that cause her to get pregnant and married so she can get away from her mother, who “never knew depression”.
This play filled with snippets of life takes us to places where many of us might see things that will spark memories of our lives and one of the beautiful parts of this sterling production is the audience being able to take part in a discussion after the play as well as expressing themselves to their neighbors at the theater. Each audience member also gets an “audience survey” that can be useful for the program as well as for a better understanding of their own lives. This gives them the opportunity to see if the show has indeed caused them to notice new things in their own experiences and lives as far as depression goes. Do most of us not recognize the symptoms or even the causes of depression? That being that case, how many parents miss the signs that their children show, and by missing them miss the opportunity to come to their aid.
The story talks about drugs and how they can be mis-used in handling the cases as “treatment” when they might only be a way of taking some of the pressure off the parents. Much of the story is told to us by Kristin (deftly handled by Jennifer Matthews) who is the daughter of Janet and had experiences that were in some ways “handed down by her mother”. Her husband Charlie (Graham Brown) is a caring man who loves his wife in spite of the things he learns about her and her family. The other cast members, Fred A Wellisch and Stephanie Stroud are all strong in their portrayal of the family members who were unable to recognize the situation that existed in their lives.erasing
In fact, wt the time that this was happening, a time when we were unaware of some of the problems out there, many of us were abused or put down or left to our own devices. That is why groups like the ones that bring these types of stories to the forefront are so important to our communities: Turning Point- solid support when people need it most
Erasing the Distance- shedding light on Mental Health Issues through theater…and Rebecca’s Dream- changing the face of depression.
If you know someone who shows signs of suffering from depression, help them, NOW!