Play shines spotlight on mental illness


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Depression and bipolar disorder don’t carry quite the social stigma they once did, but they’re still widely misunderstood.

    University of Louisville graduate student Jocelyn Matsuo is dealing with that problem in an unconventional way. She’s written a play, “Wrong with Me,” to help people learn more about mental illness.

    Matsuo, a Los Angeles playwright who is pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts, spent more than a year researching, writing and directing the production. Five other UofL students are portraying characters in the play.

    Matsuo sat in on support group sessions for months and listened to more than a hundred personal stories of mental illness before tackling her script, she said. She also consulted frequently with UofL psychiatrist Gordon Strauss, who helped her keep the drama grounded in fact.

    Strauss, who offers mental health counseling to students through UofL’s Campus Health Services office, hopes the play will encourage people who need help to step forward.

    “People with mental illness are often reluctant to tell someone when they’re depressed or have thoughts of suicide,” Strauss said. “Seeing these things brought to life on an open stage shows that it’s OK to talk about your feelings.”

    The Louisville chapter of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a peer-support group for people with mood disorders, funded the play and worked closely with Matsuo on its development, said chapter president Michael Kuhl.

    Matsuo, Strauss and Kuhl will be on hand to chat with members of the audience at “talk back” sessions immediately after each performance.

    “Wrong with Me” is open to the public but is not suitable for young children. Performances are scheduled Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. each night in UofL’s Thrust Theatre, 2314 S. Floyd Street. The play is free and no tickets are required.