NEW PALESTINE — A toxic relationship. A diagnosis. And a realization.
New Palestine native Adam Allen looked back on his own life, moments he struggled, as he crafted “The Masks We Wear,” a play about mental illness now that’s now destined for the stage.
The play, a “theatrical exposé about mental health” showing in Carmel this month, brings together eight performers in a cabaret-style arrangement of musical performances with a goal of spurring open conversations about mental health and mental illness. Following each performance — March 16 and 17 at The Cat Theatre, 254 First Ave. — a state representative from Mental Health America of Indiana will lead a talk-back session.
“I want to lay bare the reality of these issues,” Allen said. “In many ways in our society, the door has been held shut against conversation on these issues. I want to hold the door open, keep it open.”
The play began its life as Allen’s capstone project as a drama major at Ball State University in Muncie, but it has developed through the influence of co-producers Indianapolis resident Aaron Henze, also an assistant director, and Ashton Wolf, co-founder of the Indiana Theatre Co., Allen said.
Allen and Henze have known each other for some eight years and have recently been working together through the Nickel Plate Players in Fishers, Henze said.
The production company has put on nine original shows since its inception in 2014, according to a news release.
Henze said the group decided to develop “The Masks We Wear” in part of its ongoing effort of putting lesser-known works on stage.
The idea originally came about after Allen ended a relationship and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He began noticing the discussions of mental health going on around his peers and on social media and drew from his own experiences and those of others as he wrote the show.
He reached out to Mental Health America, a national nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs and promoting the overall wellness of those living with mental illness.
He sought statistics about mental illness and received the support of the organization’s local branch, he said. Mental Health America of Indiana has endorsed the production, and MHAI director for development David Berman will host a short speaking event after both performances, Allen said. Berman will be on hand to answer questions of theater-goers regarding mental health.
In addition, Allen has made his research into the history of mental health treatment in America available for those interested on the play’s website, itcindy.com.
Wolf said while the two performances are the only ones scheduled at this time, he’d like to publish “The Masks We Wear” and make it available for other theater troupes to license and perform.
He said in light of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, facilitating open conversations about mental health feels even more urgent.
“It’s such a worthy effort on Adam’s part,” he said. “Now more than ever, we hope to open up dialogue.”
“The Masks We Wear”
7:30 p.m. March 16 and 17
The Cat Theatre, 254 First Ave., Carmel
The production, which contains strong language and mature themes, is not suitable for children.