Enter Mind Play, a theatre festival devoted to exploring mental health through the medium of performance art. Created in 2017 by Adam Bryan, Mind Play is bringing this often hidden subject into the spotlight.
“My friend and mentor, Darren Stewart–Jones, who runs the HamilTEN Theatre Festival, chose to take a year off from producing the festival as a friend of his passed to suicide, along with her daughter a few months later,” says Bryan. “I created Mind Play to not only fill the void of another festival in between things like Frost Bites and the Hamilton Fringe, but to also pay tribute to her and her daughter and give artists an opportunity to talk about their mental health in a safe space.”
Mind Play will host six diverse productions with an intermission in between: Lightbulb Heart’s Karaoke Visiting Hour, Notapom Productions’ And How Does That Make You Feel?, Love, Loss, and the Shit in Between by Blethering Clype, Shannon MacKinnon’s Dear John, Sarah O’Connor’s Beep, and Xiety Complex from Alia J Productions, which offers a unique fusion of spoken work, movement, music and hula hoop routines.
“My dad passed away to lung cancer at the end of summer last year, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do the festival this year,” says Bryan. “One of the shows I actually picked right out of HamilTEN, which is Beep by Sarah O’Connor. It tells the story of people trying to relate to you when you’re going through the loss of a parent. So that definitely shaped this year’s theme, ‘Just Keep Playing’. Because I'm moving on, and staying positive, and enjoying my life, and the festival is relying on the support of others. When it comes to the rest of the shows in this year, I felt they all had a similar message of strength and overcoming difficult situations. They're still here, they’re telling their stories, and that’s so fantastic.”
Though the topics explored in this festival may be a somewhat heavier departure from other festivals that don’t have such a singular focus, Mind Play wants audiences to leave feeling inspired rather than weighted down by the subject matter. In an effort to combat potential triggers, Bryan put a flag system in place to create a sense of safety for all involved.
“We have yellow flags in between every seat in the audience, so in case anyone feels they are overwhelmed or a show hits too close to home, they can have someone guide them out of the theatre,” says Bryan.
And yet, Mind Play makes no apologies for focusing on the real: struggles, loss, hope. Life at its most vulnerable and most sincere.
“I think a lot of the artists involved have felt they’ve had a story to tell but never a platform,” says Bryan. “If you’re doing a festival like Fringe that relies on a lot of self–promotion and ‘hey, here’s all my marketing material, come see my show about depression’, and they’re worried that no one will see that versus a comedy show or a musical with rabbits playing guitars. So I’ve heard time and time again, ‘thank you for making something like this, I didn’t think I’d be able to tell this story.’ And that’s why I do it. And that’s why I chose to continue it on this year after all my hardships of 2018.”
Getting through hardships together is exactly what Mind Play is all about. Says Bryan, “Someone can come to see one of these shows and find themselves in that, and either find peace or comfort in knowing that someone’s going through the same things as them, or be a support for people going through those times, or find the ability that they didn’t know they had to share their own story. V
MAY 31 - JUNE 1 @ 7 PM.
Staircase Cafe Theatre
27 Dundurn St. N, Hamilton