A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

It’s an American idiom for a reason. Steven has been on the Laughter is Sacred Space: Human Faces tour with Ted for the month of September as photographer, driver, helper, and Nature Slim advice-giver, assisting the crew to survive the wilderness of the journey. His photographs are the highlight of this tour – opening space for faces and voices to be seen and heard, coming out of the darkness to humanize our struggle with mental health.

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By Steven Stauffer

There are lots of things we could discuss about Ted. He’s a good talker, especially when he can use his hands. He’s nailed the “touch of grey” look, and he will adamantly defend his right to wear cargo shorts. He’s also mastered the ubiquitous sound effect that’s a bit like a “frrrrp”. You know the one.

But I’d rather talk about his story-telling: the way he can take his life experience and skills as a writer and actor and channel them into some profoundly meaningful shows, like Laughter is Sacred Space. He’s taken his experience from the devastation of Lee’s illness and suicide and created a space for his own healing and a service for others – a theater show as opportunity to facilitate community dialogue… a way to de-stigmatize conversations about mental health, and perhaps bring others a little farther down the road towards their own healing.

On this particular tour, I’ve had the humbling task of taking portraits of audience members after they’ve seen the show – people that would like to share their own stories with mental health. We had no idea what to expect, unsure if anyone would want to take part. But in these four weeks taking this show around the country, we’ve had close to 50 people wanting to participate. 50 people with their own stories.

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Some of the people I’ve met wear their pain on their sleeve, and some keep it hidden behind their eyes. Some display an infectious joy and optimism, and some need a few moments to collect themselves. Some people come healed and resilient, and some are in the throes of suffering, unable to speak. Some have been sharing their stories for years, and some are stepping forward for the first time.

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Ted’s is a story that has resonated around the country in the last month, and will hopefully continue to do so. So many more stories are out there that deserve to be told, and deserve to be heard. There is pain, but there is also hope.

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