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'The Manic Monologues' Takes You Inside the Lives of 21 People With Mental Illness

A virtual theatre experience called “The Manic Monologues” will offer viewers a window into what it’s like to live with a mental illness. The online production was put together by the McCarter Theatre Center in association with Princeton University Health Services and other performing arts centers. It will consist of 21 monologues performed by actors sharing real stories in hopes of destigmatizing and shining a light on mental illness.

“With this digital endeavor, McCarter hopes to reinforce its role as a cultural organization dedicated to innovative projects that spark timely dialogue and strengthen community,” said McCarter’s Resident Producer Debbie Bisno, adding:

In pivoting to virtual creation in COVID, we’ve uncovered exciting ways of combining art and ideas. And, we are excited to make this work, and the conversation around mental health, accessible to a wider and more diverse audience than we would have in a traditional live staged-reading format. These are silver linings.

The idea for the production came about when Stanford University student Zack Burton experienced his first psychotic break and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017. With the help of his then-girlfriend, Elisa Hofmeister, he navigated the new realities of his diagnosis. The two realized that our society lacks accurate narratives about living with mental illness. “The Manic Monologues” was born and was first performed at Stanford in 2019.

The production will now take the virtual stage through an interactive website that is available for viewers to watch each of the 21 monologues at their own pace. The original plan was for actors to perform “The Manic Monologues” on the McCarter stage in 2020 but the reading was re-conceived for a digital platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual experience includes a resource guide with links to support, research, interviews and the script for the monologues.

You can watch The Manic Monologues here and learn more about the McCarter Theatre Center here.

Header image via “The Manic Monologues”