1 in-patient facility, 7 women: new play touches on mental health with humorous twist
'There are so many people who feel like they don’t have a right to be depressed,' says Happy Place playwright
Pamela Mala Sinha's new play puts a human face on trauma and even though it focuses on mental health, she says its humorous twists ensure it's far from depressing.
The play is one of several productions that are part of a new initiative from Diwali in B.C. In its inaugural year,the group is highlighting the works of female artists.
Sinha is both the playwright and an actress in Happy Place.
Happy Place tells the story of a group of women at an in-patient care facility and was inspired by a scene in Sinha's previous one-woman autobiographical play Crash. The richness of the characters and topics, she said, made her decide it needed it's own production.
Though it focuses on depression, mental health and suicide, that's not the only story it tells, Sinha told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.
"I understand that you have to say a play is "about something," but I think it's misleading to say it's a play about trauma or depression," Sinha said. "It's about the human experience and the interactions between these women."
These women, each with their own struggles, are put together not out of choice but out of necessity.
"Let's put it this way, they are not friends," Sinha said. "You can't put a bunch of women together and have it not be funny."
And humour is a key ingredient to Sinha's work.
Walking alongside trauma
"I think laughter is a mechanism for coping," Sinha said.
"I don't like to use the word healing because I don't believe that one can get over or conquer the suffering that they have but we learn, and I'll speak for myself, we learn to walk alongside it."
And whatever the cause of the suffering — whether sexual assault, PTSD or the loss of a parent later in life — Sinha said it's important to recognize the validity of the trauma.
"The main reason I wanted to write the play is because there are so many people who feel like they don't have a right to be depressed," she said.
"There are many, many faces to depression and to explore that is like a smorgasbord for a playwright."
Happy Place premiers at the Firehall Arts Centre on Friday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. and runs until Sunday, Oct. 29.
With files from The Early Edition.