Theater aims to break the silence on mental health issues

SCENE: Actors on the set of Breaking Wave Theatre Company's most recent production, "Unspoken, Vol. III: 'Reaching Across.'" Photo courtesy of Breaking Wave Theatre Company

Breaking Wave Theatre Company has successfully completed the third production in its "Unspoken" series, "Reaching Across," a collection of original works and locally composed music that explores the topics of mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

"Reaching Across" was an effort to expand the conversations around mental health, organizers said. It's part of a larger exploration of the idea that it is important to break through the barriers of having difficult conversations and reaching out to support other members of our community. 

According to one of the company's directors, CJ Ochoco, many on "Reaching Across" have had their own experiences with mental health issues, particularly during this pandemic, but also over the years. 

"We hope to help folks with their storytelling skills in hopes of opening the doors for more of our island's youth and community members to write and share their stories," Ochoco said. 

The third production of the series was a collection of stories told through letters, songs and dialogue that looked at real struggles. The two-hour show featured voices of youths and adults.

The actors, guided by the directors, communicated their stories and experiences. Knowing they're touching on delicate issues, directors and organizers worked to ensure their members were in comfortable environments to work on their crafts and allow their members to express themselves without judgment, producers stated.

Board of Directors Treasurer James Lee Avermann has been with the program since the beginning, when the founders were students at the University of Guam. Avermann wants BWTC to grow, so it can inspire younger generations of artists and encourage residents to keep an open mind to sharing experiences as a way of shining light on issues the community can work to address.

"I'm honestly not that great at always expressing myself, but being a part of BWTC's shows has led me to be more introspective and figure out the confusing landscape that is mental health," Avermann said.

The show was streamed on demand from late September to early October. According to the press release, anyone interested in learning more or watching a previous production can reach out to the company. 

 

'There is strength in sharing'

Various local sponsors and the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center supported the program, allowing the organization to "remind the community that we are not alone, that there is strength in sharing with each other, and that we should never let our stories go unspoken."

The BWTC is a nonprofit organization and holds the mission of promoting well-being through self-expression. In order to grow and help the community with their stories, they plan to include a mental health production or event every season. Though plans haven't yet been finalized, BWTC is preparing to focus on topics pertaining to the mental health of Guam's communities.

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