Well, we spent weeks planning our special event recognizing Eating Disorder Awareness week, featuring Abby Sher, author of Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of A Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying. And this weekend the big night had finally arrived.
Friday night things went off without a hitch. Our small army of volunteers showed up early to help turn Flourish's beautiful retail space into a beautiful performance space. We laid out appetizers, chilled bottles of wine, and the colorful bags where people could drop raffle tickets in the hopes of winning some awesome prizes.
This is the gallery space at Flourish
We set up a resource table with information about eating disorders, OCD, and other mental illnesses, as we do at every Erasing the Distance performance. We felt excited, we were ready. Then around 7 our guests began to arrive. We had a full house of people from all walks of life in attendance. Some ETD supporters and patrons of Flourish from way back, some fans of Abby's book who were new to us, and many representatives from other mental health organizations (we felt honored to have them join us.) Our guests mingled, bought raffle tickets, and nibbled on food. Until 7:30 when everyone took their seats (we had such a full house our intrepid volunteers graciously offered to stand in the back to watch) and the show began.
First Brighid O'Shaughnessy, founder of ETD, took the stage to tell us about how she came to partner with Abby, and Flourish, for this special performance. Then Abby, joined by a talented
line up of fellow Second City alum, took the stage. She read us some letters she wrote to people who had impacted her in a profound way as she began her journey toward recovery. Then she and her Second City friends asked the audience to call out page numbers from her memoir. They would read the page, then create funny and poignant improvised scenes about what had been read.
The dialogue after the performance was my favorite part of the evening. It was so thought provoking, touching, funny, and profound. The questions our audience asked ranged from the place of art in coping with adversity, to the origins of Abby's experiences with OCD and an eating disorder. Abby was candid and honest in her replies, and Brighid was there to provide more detailed information about various aspects of these illnesses. Towards the end, while discussing treating OCD, Susan Richman, the founder of OCD Chicago, shared her own experiences with OCD with our audience, and explained how helpful the right type of treatment, Exposure Response Prevention, can be.
We capped the evening by awarding raffle prizes that included theatre tickets, massages, interior decorating services, photo sessions, writing coaching from Abby, and an amazing 1,000 dollars in free graphic design! We all went home feeling tired, but also very proud of what a wonderful evening it was.
Saturday Abby came back to Flourish to lead a two hour free writing workshop at Flourish,
before heading back to New York. I did not get the chance to attend, but I look forward to hearing about how it went, and posting a little update here.
I want to send a thank you out to Abby, all the wonderful Second City alums who joined her on stage, Julia Rahn at Flourish for co-sponsoring this event, all the generous artists and companies who donated our lovely raffle prizes, and to everyone who attended our event this weekend. Thank you, we literally could not have done it without each of you!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend,