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Meet STILL/FALLING Q&A facilitator: Shilpa Narayan!

This month, Green Thumb rehearsed a live broadcast prototype of STILL/FALLING by Rachel Aberle which will be available to secondary schools in 2021.

STILL/FALLING a one-person show that tells the story of a teenager experiencing depression and anxiety for the first time. We are excited to be finding a new way to continue sharing this important story with young people while our in-person touring remains on hold due to COVID-19.

In addition to testing out lighting, audio, and videography of the performance, we also tested out what our post-show Q & A sessions will look like in a digital format.

Joining us for this exploration was Shilpa Narayan, who will be facilitating the discussion after the performance. Shilpa was scheduled to join us for spring 2020 BC tour of STILL/FALLING, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. We're so excited to be able to continue working with Shilpa in this new format.

Since she will be fielding questions during our rehearsal, we thought we'd take the opportunity to ask Shilpa a few questions about her work, theatre as a tool for approaching complex subject matter, and ways to support mental health during this time.

If you are interested in learning more about STILL/FALLING, or booking a performance in 2021, please email touring@greenthumb.bc.ca for all the details!

Hi Shilpa! Thanks so much for joining us as facilitator for the rehearsal of our STILL/FALLING live broadcast. What has it been like for you to move to a digital format for your facilitation and workshop work?

Thank you so much for having me! It has been such an incredible experience to work with Green Thumb Theatre on such an important topic and such an important play. At first, I was a bit nervous entering the ‘tech world’ of workshops and facilitations. However, Green Thumb set up the process and the livestream in a comforting, easy to navigate way! I have been able to continue to do workshops and facilitations over zoom or in person using physical distancing. It has worked really well and I have been able to learn many skills along the way.

You previously worked as a stage manager, do you feel like theatre or live performance offers something unique when it comes to having conversations around complex and stigmatized subject matter?

Absolutely! I am a strong believer in using theatre to bring forward the conversation around various social justice issues such as: mental health stigma, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc. Not everyone feels comfortable in sharing how they feel or their opinion on a matter using just verbal methods. These can often be barriers for individuals who use other ways of expressing themselves. So to see that COVID-19 has not stopped artists from creating work around very important and timely topics means a lot to me.

How have you been supporting your mental health during the pandemic and accompanied lockdowns?

It has not been easy. There are days that I cannot get out of bed. There are days where I don't know if I can keep going. However, with the support of my spouse and friends, I have been able to access resources to support my own mental health through the various stages of lockdown. I have allowed myself to slow down and take each day as it comes. Before the pandemic, I was running myself to the ground and not giving myself a break. The pandemic lockdown has forced me to slow down and live in the present, that in turn, eases my in the moment anxiety. It is okay to not be okay and everyone is worthy of love and support.

Where would you suggest a young person turn to access support if they are experiencing difficulties managing their mental wellness?

BC has access to a myriad of services for youth. Different organizations have access to help lines, online chats, forums, and support workers to bridge youth to things such as: counselling, financial aid, gender affirming services, sexual health resources, and so much more! Foundry BC is an amazing organization that has centres all across British Columbia. They meet youth where they are at in terms of their needs and can help them with: counselling, finding a primary care provider, youth programs, youth in care barriers, housing barriers, access to food and a variety of unique programs which now have been re-designed to be online!

Do you have any resources (websites/ links) for young people that you can share with us?

Foundry BC (https://foundrybc.ca/)

Kids Help Phone (https://kidshelpphone.ca/)

Theatre for Living (https://theatreforliving.com/index.htm)

Mind your Mind (https://mindyourmind.ca/help/where-call)

Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre (https://keltymentalhealth.ca/)

Anxiety Canada (https://www.anxietycanada.com/learn-about-anxiety/anxiety-in-youth/)

Anything else you would like to add? How can organizations or individuals reach you to learn more about your work?

Don’t give up. Listen to those around you and support one another, especially in these times. It is always an honour to be apart of theatre for social change and using theatre as a way to destigmatize mental health. I am available on social media: Shilpa Narayan and my twitter and Instagram is: @shiilpsn

(L-R) Actor Lisa Baran and facilitator Shilpa Narayan during rehearsals for STILL/FALLING Live Broadcast

About Shilpa:

Shilpa Narayan is a 24-year-old award winning social justice, mental health, intergenerational art activist and oral history researcher. She is a graduate of the Gender, Sexuality, Women's Studies Department at Simon Fraser University and a Master's Candidate of the Family & Couples Counselling with Drama Therapy Program at Antioch University in Seattle, Washington. Shilpa's work focuses on the intersections between the LGBTQ+ community, mental health awareness and intergenerational arts activism using theatre and drama. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, facing tremendous adversity and struggling with self harm and suicidal ideation. However, she then realized that stigma should not get in the way of taking care of our mental health. Instead of calling her depression and anxiety a "struggle", she began to call it "her journey." She became an active voice to support others.

Shilpa creates workshops for students, teachers, parents and social service providers to connect with resources and educate on mental health literacy and LGBTQ+ communities with the importance of creating safe spaces for those struggling and needing ways to cope. Shilpa also uses intergenerational arts activism as a unique way to shed light and break down stigma around the intersection of mental health awareness and queer youth.

Shilpa has presented in multiple regions such as BC, Ontario, Montreal, USA, and Australia. She is a multiple award winner for her work in social justice, mental health, and theatre. She has been recognized from multiple organizations and institutions such as: Simon Fraser University, Canadian Mental Health Association, Surrey Board of Trade, Surrey School District, SHER Vancouver, The Province Newspaper, The Surrey-Now Leader Newspaper, Foundry BC, Kelty Mental Health, and The Vancouver Canucks Foundation (mindcheck.ca).

Shilpa believes that no youth should face their challenges alone, therefore, she dedicates her life to ensuring that youth voices, specifically of those marginalized are heard and honoured. As she continues her work and her journey, she is honoured to present and host various mental health and social justice workshops in the local, national, and international sphere.

Posted on

December 9, 2020