Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank you, Shana!

Today's "Five Questions With" features SHANA BENDER.  Because of her efforts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is bringing us to campus to perform five stories -- our first touring performance beyond Chicago and the surrounding suburbs!  We'll be at U of I - Urbana this Wednesday, April 28th performing at 7 PM.  

Thank you, Shana, for helping to make this connection happen!

Five Questions with Shana Bender
ETD collaborator since January 2009.

1.  What is your role with Erasing the Distance?
I originally joined the ETD family to help assistant direct their new teen show, "What's Behind Our Eyes." Larry Grimm, director of the teen show and Chicago theatre artist, asked me to join him after I took a Steppenwolf workshop from him. He recognized that I had a passion for theatre and for students with disabilities. I've also helped coordinate Erasing the Distance for their performance at University of Illinois.

2. When you are not working with Erasing the Distance, what might you be doing?
I'm getting my Master in Education at University of Illinois in Special Education. I work for the University in a traineeship position, so I've been working in a gifted education early elementary program this year. I also have practicum experiences that is part of my program. This semester I'm teaching reading for struggling students. Of course, there's also classwork.

3. Can you share with us a favorite ETD moment?
When we were initially rehearsing, one of the students who shared his story for production came in to watch our final few rehearsals of his story. He was so moved by what he saw, he was in tears. I find this to be remarkable. When we are watching something that reflects our experiences, we often become very critical because we don't want to be portrayed incorrectly. But for him to be moved and to feel like the actors were giving his story an honest portrayal of his past was so wonderful to witness and it demonstrates how Erasing the Distance performances really respect and honor the stories of those they share with audiences. 

4.  What do you think is a pressing mental health need in your community?
Speaking without knowing the exact statistics for mental health issues on a college campus, depression runs rampant on campuses, especially around this time of year. Anxiety disorders are more likely to manifest or be heightened during high-stress times. Also, I would guess that many drug addictions can really begin when young students are being pressured to try new substances. Mix this with anxiety and stress and it's the perfect recipe for a student to develop dependencies or to unearth addictive characteristics. 

5.  Can you tell us your favorite way to de-stress?
Most of the time my stress results from feeling like tasks are overwhelming. When I recognize feelings of overwhelmingness (Is that a word?), I can calm myself down by making a task list or organizing my tasks by priority. Something about seeing it written on a list, broken down into pieces, helps me get it all out of my head and in a format that is more manageable. Plus, there's nothing like the satisfaction of crossing a finished task off a list! Otherwise, I've recently taken up Tango classes! I also think cooking de-stresses me because I like doing activities that are hands-on. 

Visit the Facebook event page for the University of Illinois performance by clicking here, or Erasing the Distance's website here.


  1. I'm a U of I grad and I wish i were still in Champaign to experience this! Please share with us how it goes, if you can. This cause is dear to me and I am glad to see mental health issues are being disucussed on campus. Thanks to all of you for this work!

  2. Thank you for commenting! A few days after this post, we shared an interview with Chris Popio, one of the performers in the U of I - Urbana show. I hope you got a chance to read it! He shares about a couple of the connections made between ETD and the members of the audience at that performance.

    I also encourage you to join ETD's e-newsletter if you haven't already. :) The sign-up can be found on the right side of this page: http://erasingthedistance.org/getinvolved/

    Thanks again for you comments!
    ~ Oriana @ Erasing the Distance