Erasing the Distance

Help break the silence.

Story Sharing

Erasing the Distance (ETD) uses true stories from people like you to create our docu-drama style performances. How do we gather these stories? We hold story sharing days to collect stories from people who want to share their experiences with mental health issues. We audio record the collections and then, with the storyteller’s permission, transcribe and sculpt the stories into monologues, scenes and full productions, always using and honoring the real words of the tellers.

Do you, or someone you know, have a mental health story that we’re currently looking for? Here is a list of current topics we are seeking:
Depression in families – seeking to collect stories from several people in the same family to gather different perspectives on how one person’s illness affects the entire family unit.
ADD or ADHD – ages 14+
Asperger’s in young people under the age of 30
Bullying – workplace or in school
Anxiety not related to trauma – for example, feeling the need to be perfect in school/work/family dynamic
Bipolar disorder in African American or Latino men

We are also searching for mental health stories from these age/ethnic/cultural groups: African American, Latino, LGBT, teenagers, and senior citizens

Story sharing days are usually held on Sunday afternoons at a location convenient to public transportation in Chicago.

If you have a story to tell that fits into any of the above topics, please complete the submission form to your right and an ETD staff member will contact you shortly with more details. In the meantime, feel free to review our frequently asked questions below for answers to the 20 most common questions we receive from storytellers. Thank you for your interest in Erasing the Distance!

FAQ

Our Story Gathering Process

How do you conduct your story gathering?

We gather stories through conversational one-on-one sessions that typically last about an hour. We use audio recorders to tape record the sessions so that we can capture your experiences accurately and create scripts that reflect your unique voice and personality.

Who does the collection?

Our collections are conducted by trusted volunteers from within the ETD family who have been trained in our story collection technique.

Would I need to sign something to share my story?

Yes. We will ask you to sign a consent form stating that you give ETD permission to use your story in our performances.

Can you help connect me with resources/therapy/referrals right now?

Yes. You do not need to wait until the day of your collection to get support or information about mental health issues. If you are currently in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. For further information, visit the resources section of our website.

Who do we gather stories from?

I want to share my story but I am not sure if it counts as a mental health issue story? What kind of topics do you interview people about?

We tell stories shared by people who have experiences (direct or indirect) with mental health issues in all their forms and degrees. Topics we cover include, but are not limited to: depression, anxiety, self-injury, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, substance abuse, and PTSD or mental distress stemming from violence or trauma.

I don’t have a mental health issue but my family member/loved one/friend does. Can I share my story?

Yes. Mental health issues do not only impact the life of the person living with a disorder. They also affect the lives of the people around them. We encourage anyone who has been personally affected by mental health issues, directly or indirectly, to share their experiences with us.

Do I have to be over 18 to share my story?

No. We tell the stories of teens, college students, and adults of all ages in our shows. We currently accept stories from people 12 years and older. If you are the parent of a child between ages 12-14 and would like us to consider collecting a story from your child or family, you can contact us at 773.856.3455.

If I am a minor, do I need parental consent/accompaniment?

You do not need parental consent to schedule an interview or share your story with us if you are 15 or older. If you are under 15, we do require that a parent or guardian accompany you to the interview.
However, you should know that if, during our engagement with you, we become aware of abuse or believe there is the potential for you to cause harm to yourself or others, ETD becomes a mandated reporter under the law and will be obligated to notify the proper authorities.

What happens after the interview is over?

What happens after the story collection?

After each Story Sharing Day all the recorded interviews collected that day will be added to our digital library of interviews. Trusted volunteers will transcribe the bulk of the interviews and these transcriptions will be added to our story library. We will then contact you to let you know what our next steps are.

Will my story definitely be in a show?

Every collection we conduct impacts and informs us. However, we collect more stories than we are able to use in our staged productions. Many collections we conduct will not make it onto our stage. Our reasons for not using a certain story can be varied and has nothing to do with the worth or quality of the story. Sometimes a story is about a topic or perspective already well represented in our shows. Sometimes the story, while compelling, does not lend itself to dramatization. Sometimes we do not have an actor in our ensemble that fits the role.
If we know prior to transcription that we will not be able to use your story in a stage production, we will let you know as soon as we can.

When will I find out if you plan to use my story?

The time-frame for going from interview to performance varies widely depending upon many variables at play, including our schedule and upcoming project needs. It can take anywhere from weeks to months or longer. When we contact you after your collection, we will let you know about our projected time-frame for your piece. We also welcome you to check in with us if you have questions, and to stay in touch with ETD.

If you do use my story in your show…

Do I have to use my real name?

No. On our consent form, we will give you the option of using your own name or choosing a pseudonym. We can also change the names of people and places you reference in your interview at your request.

Can I have input/request that you make changes to the script created from my story?

Yes! While you are sharing your story with us, and through us with our audiences, it remains your story. If you have thoughts about the finished script, feel we did not get something quite right, or just want us to omit something we have included, we will honor your requests. We will keep you informed as we create the script from your interview so you can make your voice heard during the process.

Can I read the script/attend rehearsals/meet my actor?

Yes. We always invite story sharers to meet their actors, drop in on a rehearsal, and read the script we have devised if they are interested in these opportunities. If your story is in our show you will have the option of doing any or all of these things.

What if I change my mind?

You are sharing a highly personal part of your life with us, and our audiences. We never forget that while we are telling your story on the stage, the story is yours to share, or keep private. If you change your mind and ask us not to perform your piece, or prefer us not to perform it in certain venues we will respect that request. We simply ask you to provide reasonable advance notice if you do wish to make such a request so that we can plan accordingly and replace your story in the staged production.

How else can I be involved with ETD or share my story?

Can I get involved/volunteer/donate to ETD?

Yes. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming more actively involved in the work we do, you can contact Executive Artistic Director Brighid O’Shaughnessy to learn about our current volunteer needs at brighid@erasingthedistance.org.
To help support our work through a donation you can donate now through paypal by clicking here, or mail a donation to us at 3840 N. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60641. Checks can be made out to Erasing the Distance.

Can I attend a show?

Of course! Many of our shows are open to the public and free to attend. We would love to see you at a performance. To check our schedule for upcoming shows go to our calendar page.

I am not able to attend the story-sharing day; can I schedule an interview for a different day/time?

We hold Story Sharing Days four times a year—in January, April, July, and October.
If you can’t make it to the next scheduled Story Sharing day, you can schedule a spot for the one after that. If you would like to do your sharing via Skype or phone, that is fine too. Just let us know. If there are special circumstances that you would like to discuss with us you can email info@erasingthedistance.org or call 773.856.3455.

Are there other ways for me to share my story w/ ETD audiences besides the stage productions?

Yes! Ask us about sharing your story with our audiences on our blog, in panel discussions, or during school residencies. Email info@erasingthedistance.org for more details.

If you have more questions that we did not answer here, please email Managing Director Diana Clegg or call us at 773.856.3455.

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