Playwriter, and Owner of Heal. Be. Live., LLC
What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise/and of your art form/expression?
Right now, one of the ways that I promote mental health is through the visibility of my business’ name and the logo on clothing. The logo, itself (which was completely created by the Holy Spirit), is so packed with a message of healing. Heal. Be. Live. The words all tell a story, individually and collectively. The idea is that “in order to live, you must first learn how to “be” and in order to “be,” you must first heal.” Heal. Be. Live. Each of these words represent a single phase that must be carried out in its own right. The three periods represent an “ellipsis.” “In creative writing, the ellipsis functions to indicate that the speaker has trailed off and left a sentence or thought unfinished.” In my logo, the ellipses symbolize the reality that the process of healing, learning to be, and living are ever-ending processes, again, individually and collectively. Finally, Be. Live. is a play on “believe.” The idea is that some level of faith (or belief) is necessary to walk out this process. The logo is black, white and red. “Black” and “white” represent a spectrum of “extremes.” Red is the color of blood, which is the source of life and one thing that all humans have in common. (Red also represents the blood of Jesus).
As an artist, it is my mission to “present” reality in creative way that allows audiences to engage with the topic of conversation in way that is of lower risk. I do not “reinvent the wheel.” I am not trying to be a hub for mental health resources. At minimum, I use theatre to depict ways in which mental health plays out in the real world. If an audience comes into agreement with a particular “depiction,” then we have been successful at 1) helping communities acknowledge that mental illness is real and 2) mental health is worth striving for.
As a social worker/activist, my goal is to then connect audiences to mental health resources within the community that are already doing the work...and doing it well. I am a bridge. Nothing else. Occasionally, these two versions of me come together when I am facilitating workshops or groups in which we are using the theatre to have conversations and challenge participants to engage with their own state of mental wellness (or lack thereof). This leads to my next answer...
What are some things that we should know about your area of expertise?
My “area of expertise” is multi-dimensional. It is a path that is not completely developed and it can look different depending on the person. For me, my “area of expertise” is a culmination of all of my training, educational background, passions, gifts and talents. More specifically, journey consists of “art,” specifically theatre (I have been acting professionally for seven years and performing even longer). It consists of social work and therapeutic methods (I have a Masters in Clinical Social Work).
It consists of teaching and curriculum development (I have a Masters in Education Studies). When all of these elements are combined, I find myself creating art that gives communities and individuals a space to process their mental and emotional state. Beyond this, I incorporate the art into presentation in order to educate communities and leaders, alike, on the importance of mental health and why we need to be more proactive in introducing communities to necessary resources.
How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community, specifically through the arts?
First. Let me say. I love the Black community. But more specifically, I am most passionate about the health and inner healing of the BLACK WOMAN IN AMERICA. All of my artistic work until this point has been centered around the Black American woman and the Black community at large. In my own experiences, I have observed a few things: 1) Black people do not readily admit their need for mental/ emotional help and 2) Black people love entertainment.
My state play, Waking Up Alive, discusses mental illness within the Black church. A preview of this play has been presented four times, with various types of audiences. I have watched the entertaining element of this art form draw members and non-members of the Black community into the reality that it is difficult to be Black, struggling with depression while going to church and being told that “praying takes all your problems away.” Especially, when you see that the problems are not going away. This play promotes acknowledgement and conversation. It also challenges some of the beliefs that are so deeply embedded within the Black community and has forced both perpetrators and victims of these beliefs to examine what messages are helpful and what messages are harmful. And ultimately decide which messages they want to continue carrying and which ones they want professional help to reframe.
My other play, Telling Our Stories, focuses on the Black woman in America and giving her a platform to express herself. One of the main efforts of this creative work was to give Black women space to simply “be” and not question whether what manifested was “right” or “wrong.” The responses from both Black women and non-Black women to this project has been eye-opening, overwhelming and rewarding. Black women feel like they “belong” and are “seen” during this performance, which is said to be a rarity in their everyday lives. This play in particular not only promotes well-being within the Black community, but it also creates empathy for the Black woman by outsiders. And still, the amazing thing is that this piece highlights the diversity within the label of Black American Woman and also foster empathy among Black women, ourselves. So ultimately, I promote change by presenting the “problem” through my art, giving communities space to talk about the problems and then connecting communities to resources if they want help resolving the problems either at a personal level or group level.
Through your artistic expression, what do you want people to know about seeking mental health treatment?
Through my art, I simply want humans to understand that the struggle with mental illness is not an isolated experience. I always hope that my art taps into places where people may have suppressed their hurt, and reintroduces people to the possibility of “feeling” again. Even if this means feeling pain to eventually arrive at the pleasure. Having said that, I want people to understand that the process of seeking mental health treatment is not a perfect nor linear process...that it is full of complexities and discoveries. But even dispelling the myth that seeking help will automatically resolve everything is a belief system that needs to be rewritten. I want people to know that mental health treatment is available and that treatment should be catered to the specific needs and wants of the particular individual. And ultimately, that the process of healing is an ongoing process...that as one learns more about themselves, the process of healing may begin again. And that is ok...and normal...and is indeed “progress.” I want people to know that life can be lived in abundance, and it is ok if we ask for professional help and resources to reach that next level of “living.” As I say, in order to live, you must first “be.” In order to “be,” you must first heal. Heal. Be. Live. Period.
Mogran Breon holds four degrees from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor—none in theatre. She obtained an: LLMSW, EdMA, BA Psychology and BA English. She kick-started her theatre career playing 15 of the 16 characters featured in Nilaja Sun’s, No Child at Matrix Theatre Company. Morgan is an ensemble member of Shakespeare in Detroit and has played the following roles: Lord/ Lady Capulet (Romeo and Juliet), Ariel (The Tempest), Marc Antony (Julius Caesar), and Shylock (Merchant of Venice). She is an alumnus of: Mosaic Youth Theater in Detroit, University of Michigan’s CRLT Players and the University of Michigan Educational Theatre Company. Morgan has been awarded for her plays: Waking Up Alive and Portrait of A Wise Woman. Morgan was a 2017 Mitten Lab Fellow, 2017-2018 University Musical Society (UMS) Artist in Residence, 2018 Playwriting Scholarship Recipient with PlayPenn Theatre in Philadelphia, PA and a 2018 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow. Her docu-play Telling Our Stories platforms the narratives of Black women in America, and a technology-infused version of the project was showcased at the 2018 TEDxDetroit Lab in collaboration with Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit. The exhibit told stories through QR codes, and was entitled smART: Telling Our Stories | Black Women in America. Morgan credits Jesus Christ for her gifts of anything creative.
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