Martha's Musings : Reflections

I cannot believe how fast this past year has gone by. It has been a busy year full of exciting firsts for the Wildwood Theatre.  We have been so lucky to begin building a community of people who are as passionate about The Wildwood Theatre as we are. The mission of the Wildwood asks us to create safe spaces where individuals can feel comfortable to ask personal questions, explore feelings, investigate social norms, and excavate truth. All of this is in hope that we can cultivate a culture of empathy, and we believe community is so important for that.   When we can sit in those spaces and hear stories from each other, in order to look at ourselves more closely.

This past year, the Wildwood hosted multiple events to allow us to hear real stories from one another. Our community round-tables allowed people to come together and talk about mental health and mental illness. We partnered with our friends at Intertwine NE for our two part “What’s Your Story” event where we were able to examine the stories that define us.  We also were able to partner with our friends at Broken Clock Brewery for our Mental Health Awareness event “What’s Your Self Care” and our first annual Autumn Opal Festival. I’ll talk more about that a little bit later.

This April, we produced our first production, Spontaneous Combustion.  After a year of saying we are a theatre company, we were humbled to have been able to be just that with the support of our donors. Theatre can create the safe place to tell stories of being vulnerable and allow us to connect with characters and discuss difficult parts of ourselves through the characters we see on stage.

The Wildwood Theatre is a bridge between the theatrical world, which has long been examining the impacts of mental illness, and the community which is impacted every day by mental health struggles.  Our work on stage is irrelevant if we don’t also create a platform for people who feel marginalized or shame because of their stories.   That is why we are so excited that we were able to announce Tales from the Wood, a new series that allows people to share their story of mental illness in their own voice. ACowSay Cinema graciously partnered with us and filmed our first stories which will launch soon on Patreon.

As we continue to move forward, we want to continue to be the bridge to help our audiences move towards empathy and acceptance. However, this is not possible without continued financial support from our community. At our Autumn Opal Festival, we launched our Patreon Page which allows supporters to give throughout the year and receive perks like free Wildwood Finery and tickets to our productions. We are also preparing to celebrate Give to the Max Day 2018 which is this Thursday, November 15.  Last year many of you gave your support to the Wildwood as we asked  "What Beckons Ye to the Wood?"

Over the last 12 months, many people have shared why they were called to the wood. This Thursday, we will be sharing stories of why people were called to the Wildwood and how the Wildwood Theatre has impacted them this past year.   These stories are what bring the Wildwood to life and allow us to continue to engage with audiences and the community. I’m looking forward to sharing stories from this past year! 

Martha McDermott
Martha's Musings: Arm yourself with empathy

A response to MPR article: When the suicide is someone you’ve never heard of by Bob Collins

It’s been difficult for me to decide how to address the recent attention mental health has gotten in the media. With tragedies such as the recent losses of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we are often left feeling stunned and helpless to the true struggles of another. We collectively offer our thoughts-and-prayers, share hotlines, and sometimes we even share our own personal stories of past struggles with mental illness with seemingly little change. After reading this MPR blog, I couldn’t help but feel like there was more we can be doing. 

Mental illness is often depicted as something you are responsible for — and in a way, this is true. However, this mindset can leave us washing our hands of things when times get tough for another. We rely on the belief that people make their own choices and that people don’t need their hands held to get the help they need. We don’t recognize that we, every single one of us, have the power to intervene.

The Wildwood challenges us to lean in when people are struggling. In order to unravel the stigma of mental health, we MUST take responsibility for the ways we can help others. We don’t all need to become social workers and therapists, but we can promote curiosity and wisdom by taking advantage of the resources that are readily available. Mental Health First Aid teaches you the skills to recognize the signs of mental illness and addiction, and NAMI MN hosts a variety of classes and events about mental health. These are great resources that can allow you to arm yourself with the empathy and awareness we all need to thrive as a healthy, understanding community.

We all know people in our lives who are struggling. Maybe it’s a family member, or that one Facebook friend who can’t seem to catch a break. At this point, it may be easy for you to continue scrolling and label them as looking for “attention” or “likes.” I leave you with one challenge: The next time you hear something, or see something that looks like a cry for help, lean in. Offer a listening ear or connect them with crisis services. You can make all the difference.  

Spontaneous Combustion: A note from the director

Reflections from the Guardians

Whatever it is that brought you here, you are here. 

As you sit down for this performance, you enter a community of people gathered together for a purpose. Whether you like it or not, you will encounter and witness how mental illness effects the lives of everyday people. You will see ups and downs, struggles and triumphs. You become a witness to the journey. 

Here is my ask: Please enter the space with an open mind and heart. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. And acknowledge that these issues and topics presented are real, not just a part of a theatrical performance. I hope that being here, experiencing this community, encourages you to have difficult conversations and enables you to acknowledge these issues outside of the space. The purpose for this gathering is a lot bigger than just the audience, the actors, the set or the lights. These words, spoken out loud, are people sharing their story. All that happens here is to serve to their stories, the emotions, the experiences. As a result, there will not be a traditional curtain call. 

Although we hope that you appreciate the hard work of all those involved, the vulnerability of the actors, the mood created by the lights, the environment presented with the set, these elements are all in service to something bigger. 

Enjoy the show, but also, think, feel, learn, and speak up. 

— Sarah Catcher, Director

Spontaneous Combustion 2018