Our communications director Oriana Fowler recently interviewed our outreach director Jessica Mondres (pictured below), with the goal of letting you get to know Jessica better.
Oriana: Hi Jessica, How are you?
Jessica: I’m really good.
O: Great! So, I want to start by asking how did you first get involved in theatre?
J: You know I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in theatre. I think my earliest memory of performance was when I was five and my parents signed me up for this little acting class at the Kennedy Center, cause I grew up outside of DC. I just always loved theatre and performance, so I’ve always been a part of it, ever since I can remember.
O: And what brought you to Erasing the Distance?
J: Well my boyfriend Chris was an ensemble member in The People I Know, our signature show, and I started going out with him and people from the organization socially, and I got to know Brighid O”Shaughnessy, our Executive Artistic Director, through that setting. So when she started hiring people for the staff, she asked if I would be interested in submitting my resume and interviewing--I was very interested--and sooo here I am.
O: Why do you think Erasing the Distance works?
J: That’s a great question I’m really glad you asked. Mental Illness is something that I actually have, ah, personal experience with both in myself and in some people I’m pretty close to. And the one thing that I have found is just the most detrimental is silence, feeling like you can’t talk about it, but it can be a really intimidating subject to just start a conversation about. So seeing a play that’s engaging and realistic is a really non-threatening way to get people thinking, and then get people talking about it. Because it creates…it creates a space for the conversation and it tells people it’s ok to talk about it. I just think that that’s key.
O: Is there a particular moment or experience with Erasing the Distance that stands out to you that you want to share?
J: Yes, actually at one of our most recent performances, at Whitney Young High School. I was sitting in the audience so that I could observe how the kids were receiving the show. It really struck me that even the kids who maybe we don’t think we’re reaching—because they don’t speak up in the dialogue or they’re kind of talking—I was actually sitting next to those kids, so I was able to witness that they were talking, but they were talking about the performance!
O: Oh wow.
J: Yeah. They were really affected by what they saw. A girl to my left shared with me that she had "friends who self injure.” She was too shy to ask questions so she asked me to ask the questions for her. A girl to my right then turned to me and asked me questions about the Jaron piece, which deals with substance abuse, and um…and they just had really great questions. So it just struck me that even the kids who are quiet during the dialogue, even the kids who seem like, you know, it seems like from the stage “Oh well they’re talking or it doesn’t seem like they’re paying attention.” They actually are and we’re reaching them. We’re reaching all of these kids. That had a big impact on me.
O: Awesome! So on a closing note, I’d love to hear about what's next for ETD.
J: Well…One project that we are about to start working on that I am really excited about is ah—we’re going to be working with DePaul University to help them create a piece based on stories from their chronic illness community to be performed at their symposium on chronic illness and the arts. We’re going to be one of their featured presenters. We are going to use some stories of mental illness, and then stories from the people in their community who have other chronic illnesses.
It’s exciting because it's reaching a whole new community, a community that sometimes is actually more reticent to talk about mental illness then the general population. That's why I think it’s great that they'll be seeing our work.
O: That’s so cool, and it seems like it’s really neat to be involved more deeply with DePaul’s campus.
J: Yeah, it is!
O: Awesome. Well, I look forward to seeing you around ETD’s blog and performances, and until next time.
J: Ok, thanks!
-come back next week to read Jessica's interview of Oriana!