Portraits From the Human Faces Tour: Mental Health Struggles and Resilience
By Ted Swartz with Valerie Luna Serrels and photos by Steven Stauffer
Published 2020 by Ted & Company TheaterWorks
Presented here are the faces and stories of people across North America who attended performances of the play, Laughter Is Sacred Space, during what was dubbed the Human Faces Tour. Playwright and actor, Ted Swartz, wrote the play as part of his artistic journey in search of healing after losing his best friend and theater partner to suicide in 2007. In 2016-2017, photographer Steven Stauffer toured with Ted, offering to take portraits of audience members who wanted to share their own story following the play.
The cathartic process of watching Ted openly express his grief and joy on stage created a safe space in which audience members began to share their own deeply intimate accounts of mental illness and suicide. The courage of those who chose to participate made this book possible.
Portraits from the Human Faces Tour is a visual and heartfelt addition to the important conversation around the mental health crisis in this country that has resulted in an increase of suicides and a deeper loss of connection to the soul. Through striking black-and-white portraits and poignant words, we bear witness to the struggles and incredible resilience of those impacted by mental health challenges—whether their own or that of a loved one. Together with written stories, the images capture the ethos of pain and healing, sorrow and solace.
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