Most of my 25+ year career has been spent in a creative field – television production. I only relatively recently discovered, however, the healing and help that creative endeavors can bring through developing my current documentary project,The Silent Goldens, opening the conversations about my family’s 30-year silence following my mother’s suicide.
Through my work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I’ve been lucky to meet many others who are using their creative talents to help themselves heal while spreading awareness, de-stigmatizing the subject, and starting discussions. One such person is Kelly O’Malley, a fellow loss survivor and producer of A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope – five one-act plays chosen through an open competition with stories focusing on different aspects of suicidal struggle and loss.
Being a lifelong fan of the theater, I jumped at the chance to meet Kelly in the spring of 2017 when she was gearing up for the second season of performances with proceeds to be donated to the AFSP’s Greater LA chapter. We connected instantly and I was thrilled to work with her again this year to talk to the directors about the basics of suicide prevention and safe messaging, bring educational information to the shows, and be part of some Q&A sessions.
Side note: The plays are staged at the world famous Stella Adler Studio of Acting on Hollywood Blvd where Kelly studied. The real deal school where she, Brando, DeNiro, and now I have graced the stage! Even with all my years in the TV industry, hanging out backstage with the actors in that building before a show was the most “Hollywood” I’ve ever felt! (Photo above – Kelly to the right of moderator, me far right.)
As a theatergoer, seeing the show back-to-back a few times allowed me to notice some nuanced changes in the performances as the days went on, and being a part of the whole experience allowed me to ask those involved about their artistic choices, creating a very interesting learning experience.
The play series and alightindarkplaces.org, the non-profit Kelly has started, are meant to raise awareness, open discussions, build community, and bring hope to those struggling – and she is absolutely doing it as evidenced by the very thoughtful questions brought up in the Q&As. This was a remarkable event with powerful stories and a cast and crew who were all extremely dedicated to the material and passionate about the overall message of hope. I saw many familiar faces from the first year I was involved and a number of people I spoke to had a direct connection to the cause, so were also using their creative talents to add their voices to the conversation.
Kelly’s hard work has impressively doubled the play submissions each of the 3 years to over 150 this year. I applaud and thank her and all involved in A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope, not just on behalf of my AFSP chapter, but as a survivor. These plays do a great service in allowing people to witness the deep pain so many others live with and how human connection – achieved through conversation – can help. I am excited to see how her mission and the submissions grow in 2019 and am motivated and inspired by what she’s done to keep pushing forward with my own project!