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The Highwood Theatre Tackles Mental Illness in Student Production

The Highwood Theatre was founded in 2004 by a very ambitious Kevin Kearney. Though only fourteen, Kevin wanted to create an accessible theater space to help students tap into their talents and broaden their skills. Now located in downtown Silver Spring, MD, Highwood continues to provide a challenging but friendly learning space. Giving the students the utmost trust and responsibility, Highwood encourages them to make discoveries about themselves and theatre, while also letting the actors explore many different and beautiful roles. Eleven years from the beginning, Highwood continues to empower young performers, teaching them to explore the inner realms of emotion, the mind, and the soul.

In the midst of our current season, Highwood embarks on another challenging production. Hoping to create a platform to discuss mental health and lift the stigma it has in society, The Highwood Theatre tells the story of August: Osage County. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Tracy Letts explores the difficult topics of depression, addiction, fidelity, abuse and suicide. By displaying the dysfunctions of a Midwestern family, Highwood hopes to expose what it means to be a human suffering from mental illness. While this is not a typical choice for student productions, Highwood has chosen this show for their high school production company and is providing the cast with the necessary tools to address the mature themes in the play. We are excited to take such an intense scenario and be able to work together and put it on stage. It is a thrilling, educational and worthwhile experience we hope will positively impact everyone who sees it.

To tell this story with authenticity and empathy, we have been working with local chapters from the national mental health organization, Active Minds. Members from different college chapters (Johns Hopkins, Marymount, George Mason and University of Maryland) attend rehearsals on a weekly basis to lead wonderful discussions and eye-opening exercises in order to educate the cast on what it's like living with mental illness. Working with Active Minds has been so educational both as an actor and on a personal level. The effort they put into banishing shame is so necessary and important. The issues covered in August: Osage County are very relevant, everyone involved has had some sort of experience with them. Our greatest hope and biggest challenge is to portray mental illness as accurately, respectfully and empathetically as possible. We hope, through the medium of performing arts, to take the first step in destigmatizing mental illness and to open up a discourse about mental health issues that's rooted in love and understanding.

The August: Osage County cast has learned so much and has more to say. Come be part of this incredible story at The Highwood Theatre in downtown Silver Spring, MD, March 27th - 29th. For tickets and more information, please visit

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From This Author Madison Middleton

Madison Middleton is a ninth grader at School for Tomorrow in Rockville, MD. August: Osage County will be her thirteenth production at The Highwood Theatre, (read more...)