Dramatic storytelling breaks down mental health barriers

When the sold-out show began, people scrambled to find a place to sit. More quotes came through the speakers. The audience was silent, but not for long.

Musician Melanie DeMore and the McPherson Neighborhood Leadership Academy Children and Youth came out, wielding colorful pounding sticks, and encouraging the audience to clap along, sing along and even stand up. The kids wore black T-shirts with the words “everybody has a story…” printed on them. The message of the music was to be there for one another and not to give up on the ones you love.

“The most precious thing we can do for each other is to be there,” DeMore said.

Then it was time for Living Arts Playback Theatre, a drama therapy group based in Emeryville. Through music and drama, director Armand Volkas’ actors portrayed their own stories – one would tell his or her story, then the others would act it out – literally and emotionally.

Then it was the audience’s turn to share individual stories and see them spontaneously acted out on stage by members of the Playback Theatre.

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