The Human Faces Tour – Every Story Sacred. This tour is about laughter, grief, and identity in the human striving toward wholeness
About this project
Laughter is Sacred Space: The Human Faces Tour is a unique event of Ted & Co heading out on tour September 1, 2016 for Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and again in May 2017 for Mental Health Awareness month. The backbone of the Tour is the show, Laughter is Sacred Space, written and performed by Ted Swartz, creative director and owner of Ted & Co.
The play walks us through Ted’s relationship with best friend/business partner, Lee Eshleman, who took his own life in 2007. Ted explores the paradox of working with a comedic partner struggling with bipolar disorder, as well as the challenge of writing and performing stories about God while experiencing the absence of God after Lee’s death.
Using multi-media and his twenty years of storytelling experience, Laughter is Sacred Space is honest, funny and vulnerable, and reveals the unique journey of working as a comedic actor under the shadow of a mental illness, offering hope and humor in a way that only Ted can.
During the past four years performing this show, Ted met many people who have suffered a similar loss, or who struggle with psychological or mental disorders themselves. We think their stories are important. This tour is about humanizing the faces and stories of those who struggle, or those who care for someone in the struggle. It is also about addressing the stigma attached to mental disorders, and catalyzing a closing-of- the-gap between empathy and informed engagement in the Church, or other community groups, who want to help but aren’t sure how. Here are the three elements of the Tour:
The Show One of the primary conduits of cultural change is through the arts – creating space for people to tell their story, shape their identity, and explore our shared humanity. Laughter is Sacred Space is such a space – Ted’s vulnerable, humorous, and resonant play about the loss of his best friend and business partner to suicide.
The Collaboration Ted & Co is working with NAMI affiliates, and other local mental health agencies, to share resources, hope, and awareness at each event. We hope to jumpstart a conversation between these agencies and churches, colleges, and other community organizations to equip people to dismantle stigmitization.
The Faces and Stories This tour also creates space for others’ stories. Ted will be touring with professional photographer Steven Stauffer, who will take portraits of people who’d like to share their own journey of struggling with a mental disorder, as well as those who care for loved ones who struggle or have lost a loved one to suicide.
Below are portraits taken by Steven – people who have struggled in the darkness and found their gift on the other side. People who break through stereotype and stigma to vulnerably share their human and sacred story. Also below is Scott’s true story, a sample of what the photo/storytelling part of this project is. Share your story here if you’d like to be part!
If you’d like to book an event on our May 2017 tour for Mental Health Awareness month, visit our booking inquiry page here.
I have been impacted by suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behaviors at key stress points in my life. I have mostly understood my life story as a process of recovery. I was misdiagnosed, over-medicated, and poorly counseled for 15 years. I was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression a week after my 30th birthday. In the hospital, I learned the stories I had been telling myself were not true: I was not sick. I was not a series of mental illnesses. I am a person who needs structure, accountability, and meaningful relationships to stay sane through the ups and downs of living. I continue to benefit from grounded counsel, which is re-shaping my identity. I also gain spiritual insight and support through a 12 Step Program. I am learning that naming my feelings is part of my healing journey. Because I grew up with mental illness within my family, and also struggled to maintain mental health, I have a unique ability to relate to people who either experience or love someone with mental illness. What I have learned, is the only way through the pain is to feel it, name it, and sit with another person who understands it. I am deeply grateful for what Ted is doing with this tour, and I hope many people come to know themselves through its message in a new way.
Risks and challenges
It’s expensive! And all efforts toward changing the world have a cost. Emotional, physical and financial. That’s why we believe in collaboration.
The emotional cost is helped by collaborating with mental health experts, those who understand and have empathy for mental disorders. We need them, and they need you to help make the world a better place with knowledgable empathy.
The physical cost of being on tour for Ted can be wearing and tiring, so he needs to collaborate with a crew on board to help drive, do tech stuff, set-up, sell merch, and keep up with social media.
The financial cost – that’s where you come in! We want to collaborate with you to help finance this tour to reduce the cost to churches and organizations who otherwise couldn’t afford to book the show. It also helps us to bring our amazing photographer, Steven, to capture the photos and stories so central to this Tour.
Have a question? If the info above doesn’t help, you can ask the project creator directly.