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article imagePlay aims to reduce stigma of mental illness one show at a time Special

By KJ Mullins     Nov 3, 2009 in Arts
The theatre show Type 2 - A Journey Into a Bipolar World takes audiences into the world of mental illness. The bipolar disorder is often misunderstood and social stigma has hid information behind silent walls.
Type 2 has appeared at two Fringe festivals in Ontario. The show won the Patron's Pick and Best of Fringe at the 2008 Windsor International Fringe Festival.
Type 2 has also appeared in private showings. One of those showings was for Eli Lilly Canada Inc. for the Neuroscience Nurses and executives from the company.
The play was written by Jason Gale, who has the disorder. Award-winning actress Michelle J. Mainwaring joins Gale on the stage as a stand-up comic with bipolar disorder who goes off her medication.
The play shows the importance of medication, treatment and education when it comes to this ailment.
With a minimalist staging the show can easily go on tour, which is the ultimate goal. The Fringe shows and private showings that the cast and crew have had have helped their audiences to understand Bipolar Disorder.
I spoke with actress Michelle J. Mainwaring about the show and how the performance has changed her life.
The role of Jasmine was written especially for Mainwaring by her friend and fellow actor Jason Gale. The two worked together on the stage production of Misery. At the time Gale was having medication issues concerning his Bipolar Disorder. Michelle knew that he had the disorder but he was high functioning at the time. However during the run of the show Gale entered 'the pit'. The pit is a time when sufferers can be impulsive, unreliable, loud, aggressive and self-destructive.
Michelle Mainwaring
Michelle Mainwaring
special permission by Michelle Mainwaring
image:58932:1::0
"I was frightened by his behaviour and was nervous around him. I wanted to help if I could. I asked him how I could help him if he hit the pit again." Mainwaring continued, "Jason said that was the first time anyone had asked how to help. He told me to 'just let me know you still love me.'"
Mainwaring did just that and more. She began to research the disorder on her own.
"I got it then. I became a support system for Jason. Our friendship has been an incredible journey."
When Gale wrote the play Type 2 - A Journey Into a Bipolar World the role of Jasmine was tailor-made for Mainwaring. Gale felt that playing a character with Bipolar himself would be too close to home, which is why Jasmine is the character that suffers from the condition. Mainwaring is passionate about the play that debuted in July 2008 at the first Windsor International Fringe Festival. She had no idea that the play would change her life so dramatically.
"The play has come alive for us during the two years we have performed it. We have had audience members come up to us after a show saying the they saw themselves on stage. The world is ready for the stigma of Bipolar Disorder and mental illness to be reduced."
Since the beginnings in the Fringe shows the play has been performed for those in the mental health field. Professionals have thanked the actors for bringing awareness of the illness to life.
Because of the great need to reduce the stigma of bipolar disorder, Mainwaring and Gale are working now to get the funding to have the show part of the Windsor's Historic Capitol Theatre for tour groups and to take the show on the road. The show is in consideration for the Aviva Community Fund.
"The Aviva Community has huge groups that are promoting their entries, then there is just Jason and I promoting Type 2," Mainwaring told me, "We're having a difficult time mustering support for this great play. Just being in the public eye could mean a possible booking."
Mainwaring is happy to see that Bipolar Disorder is finally becoming more public as several celebrities, including Robin Williams, are admitting they have the disorder.
The website for Type 2 reports:
Type 2 has been a topic of conversation around our office since the production on March 27. Some people found the presentation disturbing,but at the same time, called it realistic and said the acting was superb. Even though it is a play we may not want to see, it is a play everyone needs to see. Personally, I would watch it again if given the opportunity and I would still recommend it to many others, especially those looking to understand the nature and impact of this illness on those living with it, family members and community members. It is not an illness that affects only the person diagnosed with it, it affects everyone.
Terri McCartney, Canadian Mental Health Association, Oxford County
scene from Type 2  a play with Michelle Mainwaring and Jason Gale
scene from Type 2, a play with Michelle Mainwaring and Jason Gale
special permission by Michelle Mainwaring
image:58933:5::0
The Aviva Community Fund is a competition for Canadians with three opening rounds. At the end of the three rounds on November 29, 2009 there will be 62 semi-finalists. The winners will have a chance to share the $500,000 Aviva Community Fund.
The 25 most popular semi-finalist ideas will be moving on to the judging phase. A panel of judges will review all of the ideas to decide which of the ideas will be funded. Aviva will fund at least one of each sized idea, with remaining monies funding ideas until the fund is exhausted.
Aviva is an insurance company is Canada. The contest is a way for the company to support Canadian groups that are creating positive changes in their community.
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