New Chicago play tackles stigma of mental illness



Graham Brown portrays Charlie, the husband of Kristin, the play’s main narrator.

By Brett Stewart

“Tell Me What You Remember,” a play delving into the true story of a family’s struggle with mental illness, will run at the Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., from Nov. 12–15 and Nov. 19–22.

Coordinated by the Erasing the Distance organization, the play’s taboo subject matter ties directly to the organization’s mission to foster conversation, education and healing centered on mental illness issues in Chicago.

Erasing the Distance is a Chicago-based, nonprofit arts organization hosting an array of events to educate and de-stigmatize mental disorders, notes its website. In addition to eight showings of “Tell Me What You Remember,” the organization provides more intimate experiences ranging from workshops to school events to create dialogue about depression and anxiety.

Albert Williams, a senior lecturer in the Theatre Department, said theater has a history of addressing stories about mental illnesses and stigmas.

“What these people are doing is really interesting, but it’s not the first time there was a show that dealt with mental illness or depression or anxiety,” Williams said. “The first musical of the 21st century to win the Pulitzer Prize was ‘Next to Normal,’ which is a modern rock musical about a family dealing with depression and mental illness.”

What makes “Tell Me What You Remember” different from other plays about mental illness is its roots in reality, as it is based on true events, according to Jennifer Mathews, an actress in the show.

“[The play is] based on a real family Erasing the Distance spoke to and collected stories [from],” Mathews said. “It’s like documentary theater. We collect their stories and then we shape them into monologues and scenes in …. We use all of their real words.”

“Tell Me What You Remember” aims to cover ground vital to a successful connection with an audience. Michael Moynihan, a sophomore theatre major, said theater-goers will receive experiences  and emotional connections worth holding onto long after they’ve departed the show.

“[Audiences] should have a strong emotional reaction to [the play],” Moynihan said. “For some people, that reaction will be cathartic, and for others, it may be something else. But ultimately, the audience is paying a lot for that experience, so theater should tackle charged or ‘taboo’ issues.”

“Tell Me What You Remember” is set to run Nov. 12–15 and Nov. 19–22 at the Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. Students can go to for tickets at a student rate of $15, or $20 for normal advance ticket, $25 at the door.