Friday, April 30, 2010

Phone Interview with Chris Popio

On Wednesday evening, Erasing the Distance performed "Facing the Rain" for students at University of Illinois - Urbana.
Not only was this performance one of our first outside of the Chicago-metro area, but also we've recently grown our cast of actors, casting six new males including Chris Popio. This was Chris' first time performing with us. (Hooray!)

Communications Director Oriana Fowler spoke with Chris over the phone about his
experience.

Oriana: So, from your perspective, how did it go performing on Wednesday?

Chris (pictured at right): I was more nervous than I thought I would be! It felt like going on as an understudy or something because, so far, I’d only done the performance for Brighid, my girlfriend, and the guy who lives across the hall.

But I feel good about the way it went. I felt people’s attention. There were some people who were writing down notes. People were definitely interested. So as far as my part went, it went well -- and it was also great to see the other actors. Their pieces were really well done and everyone is extraordinarily talented.

After the performance, we pulled up chairs for a talk-back. It was REALLY great to see how much people cared, and how interested they were in what Erasing the Distance is doing. It made me feel proud, and great to be a part of it.

One thing that really shown through to me was how much Brighid [Founder & Executive Artistic Director] really cares about what she does –- her passion for bringing these stories to people in hopes that it may raise questions, that it will help people to seek help and raise awareness -- that was beautiful to witness.


Oriana: Was there a particular moment in the post-show discussion that stood out to you, or was particularly memorable?

There was one guy that brought up a roommate of his and how, he realized now, his roommate was displaying some OCD tendencies. At the time, he and his friends just found it quirky -- he counted everything in fours (stairs, french fries, all this stuff). Seeing our show made him realize, this might be a bigger problem than "hey, he counts in fours." So he was wondering about how to approach somebody, how do you bring up your concerns to someone in a way that might be accepted rather than push them away?

It reminded me of my own experience raising the issue [of alcoholism] with a friend. I remember bringing it up ... the first time he denied that he had a problem. But I realized that me bringing it up again might spark him into getting help further down the road. ...I would rather he be well and not be friends anymore than he not be well. And I did lose his friendship. After a while, he said he had totally cleaned up, he had quit smoking, and gotten married.

Unfortunately, he hadn't dealt with the underlying problems because once his marriage had problems he started drinking again. He actually died not too long ago, not directly from the alcohol but from complications related to the alcohol. He left two small children, passing away at the age of 44. Which is just absurd.

Brighid and Erasing the Distance help make it that much easier to take that first step of realizing that maybe there is something I should be dealing with, with a professional, or how do I approach my friend/lover/wife... It means that many more people will take steps to get help.

Oriana: Is there anything else you'd like to share about your first experience with Erasing the Distance?

When I auditioned I didn’t know all that much about Erasing the Distance, and the scope of it, and the power of the mission. It's really struck me and really moved me. I’m just a huge fan now, and I’d love to work with you guys as often as you’d have me.

After the show, me and Jared (another first-timer) were hanging out by the resource table. A guy came over and said hi. You could tell he wasn’t totally comfortable talking. We said, "If you don’t mind me asking, what drew you here?" He said that a friend of his also has OCD and he was trying to figure out ways to help, and, like I said, that was something I could really relate to. The three of us ending up talking for quite a while.

I personally didn’t know that much about OCD, but that wasn’t the point. He wanted to reach out to us, those of us that brought this presentation to him. I felt like it meant a lot to him. He wanted a human connection after the show and Jared and I were able to provide that, and it was really cool –- even though we didn’t have the same level of mental health knowledge as Brighid and Jessica, we were able to provide that in our new guy kinda-way.

~

We are so glad to have Chris as a "new guy" at ETD. Thank you sharing your experience with us.

~ Oriana

Parts of this interview were paraphrased.

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