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Auditions to be held in Westminster for those with stories of substance abuse, mental illness

Auditions to be held in Westminster for those with stories of substance abuse, mental illness
Auditions are open for the first This is My Brave Carroll County event. (The Carroll Anti-Stigma Resilience Effort, C.A.R.E.)

The Carroll Anti-Stigma Resilience Effort is hosting auditions for the first This is My Brave Carroll County performance, planned for October — a chance for those with stories of recovery from substance use and mental illness to share them with the community.

Auditions will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday July 16, at the Knit Building, at 535 Old Westminster Pike in Westminster, and those interested should sign up in advance online at bit.ly/CARROLLCOUNTYAUD.

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“Ideally, we want them to sign up just so that every person has their time,” said Lora Strosnider, the director for the performance. “It’s a little bit different than when you’re having open casting for something. This is just a little bit more personal.”

This is My Brave is a national organization built on the idea that there is power in telling personal stories of recovery. Founded in 2013 by a woman who found her own empowerment by blogging about her bipolar disorder, This is My Brave now helps organizes performances around the country that offer people a chance to tell their own story in their own way to the community.

“If they want to express their story through a song or a poem, you know, a rap or whatever else, that’s fine. If it’s just an essay or a story. That’s fine, too,” said Maggie Kunz, a health planner at the Carroll County Health Department and a member of the Carroll Anti-Stigma Resilience Effort committee, a collaboration between the health department, Carroll Hospital and The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County.

Kunz had seen a This is My Brave performance in Bethesda and was inspired to bring it to Carroll as part of the CARE initiative, which seeks to reduce stigmas around mental health and substance use issues so that people are more likely to get the care they need.

“I just really, really enjoyed that and thought it was it was both simple enough and compelling enough to be able to do locally. To sort of really encourage people to show people that their neighbors, their friends, their kids, their pastor, you know, everybody is struggling with with mental health issues and substance use issues,” she said. “And by having a wide variety of people share their stories and experiences, it would kind of take some of the mystique and the stigma away.”

Strosnider has a background in theater and has worked with the health department before, such as on the recently rebooted drug education film, “Heroin Still Kills,” and she was asked to direct the performance — to be held at the Carroll County Arts Center on Oct. 24 — and to help prepare the performers.

“I think that they want the auditions to be something where people can come in and feel comfortable,” she said. “They’re sharing such personal stories, things that they’ve been struggling with. And now they’re telling it to strangers.”

Part of the reason for auditions is to give people a chance to make sure they feel comfortable with that, Strosnider said, and also to feel out how they wish to tell their story. She suggests going on the This is My Brave website — www.thisismybrave.org — for audition tips and checking out the organization’s YouTube channel for examples of performances.

Those who are selected and chosen to take part in the October performance will meet in August and attend at least five rehearsals in September and October, according to Strosnider.

The performance will be open to the public, and Kunz said she hopes people will mark it on their calendars today.

“I think it gives community members a chance to learn more about mental health issues and substance use issues and coming out the other side of them, leading successful lives,” she said. “It will be a really compelling thing to see.”

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