Spotlight on Mental Health Awareness: AACI's J-Town Playhouse "Normalcy" Initiative
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What is the mission and purpose of this program?
This program will allow AACI and J-Town Playhouse go beyond their home-stage and attract an audience that may not typically attend J-Town productions while also partnering with other successful Jerusalem organizations in a collaborative effort to heighten awareness and create discourse on a dynamic in our society that is too often ignored - mental health issues. The success of this initiative will be seen through increased consciousness and attention by mentally healthy individuals to those who battle mental health problems of all degrees of severity. This program has the potential to shift how large cross-sections of Jerusalem can relate to mental health dynamics and, ideally, improve quality of life for both those who are suffering and those who are in good mental health.
J-Town, in conjunction with top organizations in Jerusalem that provide mental health services, will visit at least three communities in Jerusalem for a production of the Tony Award winning musical "Next to Normal" following by presentations and discussion on how to identify and relate to those suffering from mental health issues. Local organizations (Community Centers, Synagogues, Educational Institutions) will act as host organizations bringing their populations to an evening that bridges art with reality and provides a charge to community members to bring mental health issues to the forefront of local social activism. If there is additional funding from beyond NATAN, J-Town's parent organization, AACI, will host a conference or day of workshops and presentations to convene representatives of communities and key players in the world of mental health activism to explore larger-scale calls to action.
Riding the waves of community building and commitment to unity that Jerusalem (and Israel) experienced through social justice protests in recent years and the response to the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens and subsequent events in the the summer of 2014, Jerusalem appears to be experiencing a trend that, if properly harnessed, could increase the awareness and activism around major challenges throughout Jerusalem and Israeli. According to the Israel Journal of Health Policy, "Recent epidemiological surveys conducted in Israel among adults and youth substantiate a solid case for mental health action." Their study can be seen at http://www.ijhpr.org/content/4/1/3.
The Spotlight on Mental Health Awareness: AACI's J-Town Playhouse "Normalcy" Initiative enables mental health awareness to be brought to a more prominent place in communal discourse and together with the drive that many local communities in Jerusalem have exhibited, awareness can transition smoothly into activism.
J-town has succeeded in producing an experience that can be taken beyond just the period of time that audience members sit and watch a theatrical presentation. While J-Town Playhouse is one of several English language theatre companies in Jerusalem that provides a cultural and entertaining experience for its audiences, J-Town distinguishes itself through producing works that push the envelope of political, intellectual and emotional exploration. Participants in shows produced by J-Town go beyond character exploration, rehearsals and staging shows, exploring the, often times, edgy topics, that enable them to meet and interact with audience members following presentations to discuss how topics in shows actually can be seen in today's world.
How do you measure the success of your program?
We will utilize pro-bono services of professional program evaluation professionals which will include focus groups and interviews with professionals and participants in multiple aspects of the initiative.