Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our Weekend Retreat: A Review

As the weekend approaches, I am still reflecting on last weekends activities.  It was a busy one for ETD. Friday night we had a party to celebrate our successes, and to spend some unstructured fun time together as a "family".  On Saturday we held a 4 hour visioning brunch at Flourish studios.  I want to tell you a little bit about what we did on Saturday, what we learned, and where we see ourselves going!

In the past year ETD not only doubled the number of people we have served, but our work evolved and expanded in some new and exciting ways.  This happened organically for us.  A client would make a request, a community or school would pop up with unique needs, and we adapted and grew accordingly to meet those needs.  So the staff spent the first part of the morning explaining these exciting changes to the actors, stage managers, and board members who joined us.  Now I want to briefly share these developments with you too.

There are now 4 components to the outreach work that ETD does: Touring shows, custom productions, mental health trainings, and residencies.  Let's break it down!

1. Touring Shows
ETD has three complete productions already rehearsed, cast, and ready to tour to schools, faith groups, hospitals, corporate settings, conferences and community groups.  Each show focuses on the experiences of people living with mental illness at different stages in life.  What's Behind Our Eyes tells high school stories, Facing the Rain tells college stories, and our original show The People I Know tells stories from adults who have left the academic setting behind.
Because each show tells several unique stories, we can also mix and match or bring only a selection from a full show to meet the needs and time constraints of the groups we visit. 
2. Custom Productions
As an alternative to our touring shows, we have now begun creating fully customized performances for groups who want us to address the unique experiences of their communities.  For custom shows we create entirely new productions--often telling the stories of people from the group or community we are visiting--we collect new stories, sculpt a new and unique script.  The performance we created for the Chronic Illness Initiative's symposium at DePaul is an example of this kind of show. 

3. Residencies
ETD now offers residencies to schools.  Typically lasting 3 months, a residency includes mental health training and discussions with participating students, and exposure to some of the stories and performances ETD offers.  We then work with the students to help them collect stories from their communities, and create a unique performance based on these stories(these performances can include monologues, scenes, dance, poetry, whatever speaks to the students involved).  Residencies culminate in a production for the school and community performed by the students.  Recently ETD was in residence at Al Raby high school (pictured.)
4. Mental Health Trainings 
The fourth component of our outreach are our mental health trainings.  Aimed at staff and faculty of the schools and community groups we visit, the goal of the trainings is to help educate about mental health and mental illness, and also to ensure staff and faculty feel prepared to help students who may come to them with disclosures find the right channels in the school for support.
The rest of the brunch was spent discussing goals for the coming year, and ways that the artistic ensemble members and board can be more involved in our outreach, advocacy, and art making.  You can be involved in these things too.  If you are interested in learning how you can help with advocacy, outreach, story collection, fundraising, or our new Ambassador Council reach out to me at jessica@erasingthedistance.org.

And now friends, I hope you get the chance to get outside and enjoy the weather during what promises to be a beautiful Chicago weekend.

-Jessica

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