COLLABORACTION’s The Mars Assignment explores depression and its many stigmas

| October 31, 2016 | Comments (0)

the-mars-assignmentGood theater often opens channels for hard conversations. This month, Collaboraction Theater Company, Chicago’s social issue-driven contemporary theatre, tackles mental illness with The Mars Assignment, a world premiere production about depression and its many stigmas. 

The Mars Assignment looks at how different people prepare for every day activities. A young girl presents a school project about astronomy. An executive prepares to pitch a new advertising client. A stand-up comedian prepares for a tour. The underlying thread is how they manage their lives while hiding their depression. Why create a play about depression? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, “Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.”

“People with depression are usually placed in exploitative roles in theatre and film – meaning that the characters are often used to create the crisis or arch of the plot through destructive addiction, self-harm, or a suicide attempt,” says Hiltner, who was inspired to start the process to create The Mars Assignment“We specifically set out to create a show that showed realistic characters living with depression in the way that millions of people do. Living the ‘everyday’ and navigating stigmas, without leaning on the stigmatizing tropes of suicide and addiction.”
Written and directed by Ronan Marra, former Co-Artistic Director of Signal Ensemble Theatre, and created in collaboration with noted Chicago theater artist and Collaboraction Company Member Elsa Hiltner, The Mars Assignment will shine a light on the presence of depression in contemporary society and the stigmas that continue to keep our friends and loved ones from seeking treatment for their mental illness. It’s the last part that makes The Mars Assignment so important. Numerous studies show that quality of life for those with mental health illness improves with treatment. Many people delay or do not start treatment due to the stigma associated with mental health illnesses. The Mars Assignment hopes to entertain and educate as it opens doors for important conversations.
The Mars Assignment runs through November 20, 2016 at Collaboraction’s Pentagon Theatre, in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.  Single tickets to regular performances are $20-30; $10-$15 for students, educators and industry. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) will be participating in post show talkbacks. Post-show comedy nights are scheduled Saturday, October 29 and November 12.  For tickets and information, visit or call (312) 226-9633.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of Collaboraction.

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About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

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