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Wrestling Stigmas on Stage, Stacy Stoltz Tells Her Family’s Story

“Telling our stories in a room full of people is a sacred thing,” says the playwright and actress.

A scene from Walk a Mile   Photo: Mali Anderson

Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Stacy Stoltz, whose play Walk a Mile premieres at Sparkfest on Friday.

First off, what is Sparkfest?

It’s a festival featuring a series of three true stories meant to destigmatize mental health. One deals with end-of-life caregiving, another deals with addiction, and mine deals with mental health in the family. My father is a veteran, and he struggled with PTSD and addiction. My parents went through a divorce when I was little. My mom has experienced a lot of loss in her family—by the time she was my age, both her parents were gone, and she struggled with chronic pain.

What inspired you to write the piece?

I was basically looking for a way to heal my connection with my parents—and to learn how those connections affect the way you move through the world. I wondered, if I went back and looked at my parents’ stories, if could I become more empathetic toward them.

Sparkfest performances are unique in that they’re all true stories. What was the process of mining your own past like?

I collected the stories in Walk a Mile through recorded interviews with my parents, then shaped those into the play. During the performance, the audience hears stories of my mom, my dad, and my stepmom as I heard them. There are three locations on stage that represent their respective psychological and emotional spaces. During the show, I move between those areas and share different aspects of their stories.

What did you learn about your family along the way?

It was an intimate process. I learned a lot about why my parents are who they are, and why I am who I am. For example, blowing things out of proportion runs in my family. While writing this play, I realized I’d picked up that habit. Through finding the origin of that, I’m learning to shake that habit.

Why is the theater a useful place to wrestle stigmas against mental health?

Telling our stories in a room full of people is a sacred thing. It lets us put a face on our sorrows and struggles and joy. When you gather together in a room, you feel certain emotions together, and that’s profound.

The other part of it is talking about these issues that don’t get talked about publicly. When you put a face on it in a room where we’re all sitting there, we have to deal with it and accept it.

What do you want people to take away from the performance?

The issues my family dealt with are issues a lot of people deal with. And they’re difficult for everyone. I hope the performance inspires people to consider their own relationships with their family, and how those relationships affect their everyday lives. And if people are in situations where reconnecting is appropriate, I hope it inspires that too.

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