Erasing the Distance Literally and Metaphorically
As the lights came up on the cast of My Other Full Time Job, the tone and message of the entire production was immediately set. The first view was a simple, vacated stage with each character walking in procession and taking their allocated seats. The cast was positioned closely to the audience giving a sense that their lines were a part of a personal conversation rather than a performance. Due to the gravity of their message, this element of the production was crucial. A serious, informative but comfortable environment was created from the simple setting, props and design. From there, the cast wasted no time getting into their stories. My Other Full Time Job then delved into the true stories of these four individuals who struggle with a variety of mental health issues and how this affects their everyday lives in the workforce. For some, going through the routine of a workday is obligatory and mundane but for others, it involves additional hurdles and struggles that are often invisible on the surface.
This invisible aspect of mental health was an immediate first theme in the production. The four characters involved looked, from the outside, like average people going about average everyday tasks in average, everyday clothes. The setting present was minimal and simply served to enhance the normality of the production. Any of the four characters could be seen either drinking from a glass of water or a coffee cup as well as writing in a notebook or doing some form of work while the spot light found its way to one of the characters whose turn it was to deliver a section of their story.
As we heard each character talk through it was clear that however normal the setting and cast appeared, their experiences were anything but the stereotypical perception of what is often seen as normal. And for Erasing The Distance, this is the entire point of their mission. Normal doesn’t exist. Yet, these shared stories are actually far more widespread and normal than most recognize. This was amplified by keeping the characters nameless. They could be to any of the audience members or any coworkers, friends or family members.
Four Characters, One Heart
No evasion here. Dancing around difficult and touchy subjects became the new taboo in this production. Nothing was off limits. Every aspect of mental health was discussed and explained according to each character's personal experience.
However different their experiences seemed, there was often underlying common themes that linked them all together. Monologues were delivered independently as if the characters speaking was the only one on stage and their stories were kept separate with no link to each other other than their experiences. We bounced from one story to a next. Common themes emerged; coping mechanisms, legal trouble, sponsored help, patterns of behavior and complicated personal relationships
We felt their struggles when a character described their personal rock bottoms- we felt it. We followed their stories on a rollercoaster. When there was more- and life threatening more addendas- we felt devastated. The stories don’t end with certain, they are lifelong.
Erasing the Distance Lets Stories Unfold
Throughout, none of the characters stood up at any point. They kept everything clean and simple, letting their words do most of the work. It’s beautiful writing. Pieced together so meticulously and thoughtfully, the script explained all while also giving the actors leeway to really show us the full emotional wallop of their words.
For this writer, it really became, it became even more powerful in the discussion after the performance. Erasing the Distance offered up a space for audience members to connect to the performance with stories and specific aspects of the show that resonated with them. This was an especially open environment where the audience was free to discuss or listen to other people’s similar experiences.
Graceful and captivating, MY OTHER FULL TIME JOB will likely impact those of us who experienced it for a lifetime.
For more information on Erasing the Distance, visit the Erasing the distance website: http://erasingthedistance.org/