Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding Peace in This House: Ramona

Welcome to the third entry in our six-week series focused on ETD's Finding Peace in This House, which opens Jan. 23, 2012. Today, we offer a sneak peek into the process of sculpting and performing the story of Ramona.

Ramona talks about growing up in a dysfunctional household filled with abuse and neglect. She fights hard to overcome her childhood struggles, experiencing years of homelessness before finally obtaining a graduate degree in social services and dedicating her life to working with homeless youth. Ramona is just one of the six remarkable people featured in Finding Peace in This House. (Click here to read about the other stories that comprise the show.)

Sarah Silva, a graduate student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, interviewed the real Ramona and then transcribed and edited her story. Actor Desla Epison performs Ramona's story onstage. Both women share their perspectives on how this process has impacted them.

Sarah (Story Collector):
"Collecting a story from Ramona was absolutely incredible. Knowing her on a personal and professional level, I was skeptical about how her story would alter my perception of her. But I was completely open to being in tune with her story. She had this yearning to tell others about her story, not one that I could ever read in a textbook. It was a story filled with complex trauma, one I could barely imagine. However, her story was not told with sadness or regret, but of a survivor who decided to make something of herself and be an advocate for other homeless youth. Ramona has altered the way I perceive others. She inspires me to see mental illness not as something that is all encompasing, but of something that is a part of you. In my current training to become a mental health counselor, I have noticed that people enjoy telling their stories. It tells me more about who they are, nothing even close to what any label or diagnosis could ever attain."

Desla (Actor):

Desla Epison as Ramona
"Working the Ramona piece has been a great challenge but so much of a release for me. The strength and courage she had to share her story meant a lot to me. I could instantly relate to her pain, denial, self-reflective journey, and accomplishment. A lot of us go through our daily lives having to accept drastic changes from job loss, homelessness, death, rejection…you name it. We must suck it up and move on, holding in resentment, bitterness, and anger. Feeling like no one can possibly understand what you are going through. And what's really jacked up is people will act like they can't relate, like no one has helped them out of a situation. We are taught that showing any emotion in this world is a sign of weakness, so behind walls we suffer in secret.

Rehearsing with [director] Brighid [O'Shaughnessy] feels, for me, like an honest therapy session. It’s like she reads your soul and casts you for parts that sooo fit what and who you are, what you may be or may have gone through. She is very easy to talk to (she's the theater therapist), for there's no judgment. Performing Ramona is like sharing parts of my story with the world. I am reaching out for someone to hear me, help me, understand me, respect my struggles, don't judge me and help me find the best solution. There are a lot of lonely Ramonas (including me), and I really want them to know that we are in this together, as painful as it may have been or still may be. We will get through this."

Please join us Jan. 23, 24, 30 or 31 for Finding Peace in This House. Advance ticket purchasers save $5.00 off each ticket! With only four performances, tickets will go quickly. SO GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

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