Erasing the Distance’s DocFest puts mental health center stage | Performing Arts Feature | Chicago Reader

Erasing the Distance’s DocFest puts mental health center stage 

The theater company hosts two weekends of performances and workshops.

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Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks

Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks

Corey Dewald

In early September, the documentary theater company Erasing the Distance will open its doors to the public for a series of events aimed at promoting discussions about mental health and well-being.

"We know, statistically speaking, that mental health issues are more prevalent than cancer and heart disease combined," says artistic director Heather Bodie. "Oftentimes there isn't a single person in the audience who hasn't either experienced something themselves, or is related to someone, or knows of someone one degree away."

Like the shows Erasing the Distance tailors for private audiences in schools, community organizations, and places of worship, the second annual DocFest will feature two full-length productions based on transcripts of people telling frank stories about the way trauma reverberates in the classroom setting (Learning 101) and the way the body's menstrual cycle factors into mental health (Over the Moon). Each performance will be preceded by a monologue; the series explores a wide range of issues, including PTSD, depression, and eating disorders.

"Our goal is to be the jumping-off point to get the conversation started," says Bodie. And with an experienced clinician licensed in the relevant topic on-site, audiences will have an opportunity to engage with the material after each performance through a Q&A in a safe, supportive environment. "The talkback can almost function like act two . . . The sharing that happens is often really candid," says Bodie.

Additionally, audiences will have the option to attend up to three free interactive 90-minute workshops about the physiology of trauma (Beto Chavez, 9/8), the effect of different foods on our brains (Sheila Petersen, 9/9), and the use of movements inspired by Japanese butoh as an aid in storytelling (Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks, 9/16).   v

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