Sara Felder‘s Melancholy, A Comedy, is a solo play that seeks to surmount society’s silence and discomfort around mental illness in a time when 20th century western constructions of “insanity” are being challenged. Combining comic monologue, circus tricks, juggling routines, projections, and image/object theater, the play’s narrative probes into the life of Abraham Lincoln, who suffered severe bouts of depression throughout his life, juxtaposing it against a love story centered on a contemporary bipolar woman. Special programs in conjunction with performances featured the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Abraham Lincoln scholar Joshua Wolf Shenk, Jeff Raz and the Medical Clown Project, and Able Christian of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Collaboration with the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center (the Center) guided Felder in understanding the spiritual dimensions of mental health issues, bringing additional depth and texture to the piece. The Center, established in 1991, was the first Jewish healing center in the country, providing Jewish spiritual care to those living with illness. Its resources include a mental illness leadership committee, composed of lay leaders representing five synagogues as well its rabbinic staff.
Sara Felder has been creating and touring solo theater for over 20 years with pieces integrating her personal experiences with training in comedic and circus skills. The play was directed by Michael Moran and benefited from a development period and May 2015 previews at The Marsh.