Winnipeg theatre group breaks through mental health issues in new play

A local theatre and production company is tackling the stigma surrounding mental health issues in a new play based in Winnipeg.

Sarasvàti Productions' Breaking Through features stories of mental health struggles, stigma

Kelsey Funk and her fellow cast members read lines from Breaking Through on Sunday. (CBC)

A Winnipeg theatre and production company is tackling the stigma surrounding mental health issues in a new play.

Performers and artists with Sarasvàti Productions have joined forces with Artists in Health Care, Selkirk Mental Health Centre and Red Threads Playback Theatre to create Breaking Through, a play based on the stories of mental health challenges and triumphs of select Manitobans.

The play follows five characters as they struggle to cope with troubling diagnoses, problematic mental health stereotypes, insufficient community supports and more.

Actor Kelsey Funk said she has a personal connection to the subject matter tackled in the play.

Funk received treatment for an eating disorder a few years ago. She wanted to share her opinion on the stigma associated with mental health issues, so she auditioned for the play.

"I had experienced some social stigma toward that so I wanted to share what I had been through and how it had impacted me through my journey," she said.

While there is a character with an eating disorder depicted in the play, Funk is portraying another role entirely.

"The character that I play has bipolar disorder. Although I know a few people in my life with bipolar disorder, I didn't completely understand all the symptoms of it or the side effects of the medication," she said.

Funk added that playing a character with bipolar disorder required a lot of focus and care.

"I think as a … society we tend to put people into these boxes and categorize people rather than look at it as more of a spectrum and see each [person's] situation as unique."

The play runs at the University of Winnipeg's Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on May 22 at 3 p.m., May 24 to 27 at 7 p.m. and May 28 at 3 p.m.