Presentation Title

Five Lil Birds: An Exploration of Depression and Anxiety Through Theatre

Authors' Names

Elijah Fisher

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

Mental health is an issue that has risen to the top of our society’s discussion. Specifically, depression and anxiety are two conditions of mental health that many people deal with on some level or other. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 18.1% of the US population deals with anxiety while 6.7% of the US population deals with depression which is 40 million adults and 16.1 million adults, respectively. In my experience, there is a large group of people around me that deal with either one or both. So, I wrote a play, Five Lil Birds, to explore the issues of depression and anxiety to help foster a dialogue between those affected and those not affected.

Five Lil Birds personifies depression and anxiety as characters in relation to one character, named Gertrude. In this play, there are also birds that examine what’s going on with Gertrude through dialogue and dance. In my early drafts, I only shared the play with a few people to get their feedback about how I could improve the piece. After revising the play and gaining confidence, I was able to organize an open-to-the-public reading where I gathered actors to read the play aloud for the first time in front of an audience. The audience included members of the faculty and students, both undergraduates and graduates. I had a helpful colleague of mine conduct a feedback session directly following the reading, so I could focus on taking in the feedback.

Like most large-scale problems, mental health is not an issue that will be solved with one conversation or discussion. There is no one person who has the answer, and we cannot stop talking about it. So, I will keep talking to people about it and researching more into organizations that specialize in the topic of mental health like ADAA or TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) and many more. This presentation will include a scene from the play where I will have actors to read the play aloud. I will also have an original song to share accompanied by some choreography that will be used in production as inspiration.

Moving further, I need to finalize a script that can be performed in front of an interested and willing audience. Once that script is finalized, I will share it with a director and producer who will help in guiding the process on the way to performance. First, we will need to pick a space on certain days to perform the piece. We will need to create a budget that allows for designers to get props, create costumes and build set pieces with some creative freedom. We will need to put together a creative team that consists of a choreographer, a dramaturg, an assistant director, and musicians as well as designers for props, costumes, lights and the set. As we start to assemble, we will cast an ensemble of actors to begin the rehearsal process (usually 5-6 weeks to performance). Then, through hard work plus theatre magic, this show will be ready to be presented to an audience at the University of Montana. At some point, the goal is to produce this play to make it available to the rest of America and humanity.

Mentor Name

Bernadette Sweeney

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Feb 22nd, 4:20 PM Feb 22nd, 4:35 PM

Five Lil Birds: An Exploration of Depression and Anxiety Through Theatre

UC South Ballroom

Mental health is an issue that has risen to the top of our society’s discussion. Specifically, depression and anxiety are two conditions of mental health that many people deal with on some level or other. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 18.1% of the US population deals with anxiety while 6.7% of the US population deals with depression which is 40 million adults and 16.1 million adults, respectively. In my experience, there is a large group of people around me that deal with either one or both. So, I wrote a play, Five Lil Birds, to explore the issues of depression and anxiety to help foster a dialogue between those affected and those not affected.

Five Lil Birds personifies depression and anxiety as characters in relation to one character, named Gertrude. In this play, there are also birds that examine what’s going on with Gertrude through dialogue and dance. In my early drafts, I only shared the play with a few people to get their feedback about how I could improve the piece. After revising the play and gaining confidence, I was able to organize an open-to-the-public reading where I gathered actors to read the play aloud for the first time in front of an audience. The audience included members of the faculty and students, both undergraduates and graduates. I had a helpful colleague of mine conduct a feedback session directly following the reading, so I could focus on taking in the feedback.

Like most large-scale problems, mental health is not an issue that will be solved with one conversation or discussion. There is no one person who has the answer, and we cannot stop talking about it. So, I will keep talking to people about it and researching more into organizations that specialize in the topic of mental health like ADAA or TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) and many more. This presentation will include a scene from the play where I will have actors to read the play aloud. I will also have an original song to share accompanied by some choreography that will be used in production as inspiration.

Moving further, I need to finalize a script that can be performed in front of an interested and willing audience. Once that script is finalized, I will share it with a director and producer who will help in guiding the process on the way to performance. First, we will need to pick a space on certain days to perform the piece. We will need to create a budget that allows for designers to get props, create costumes and build set pieces with some creative freedom. We will need to put together a creative team that consists of a choreographer, a dramaturg, an assistant director, and musicians as well as designers for props, costumes, lights and the set. As we start to assemble, we will cast an ensemble of actors to begin the rehearsal process (usually 5-6 weeks to performance). Then, through hard work plus theatre magic, this show will be ready to be presented to an audience at the University of Montana. At some point, the goal is to produce this play to make it available to the rest of America and humanity.