Clowns Like Me Premieres at Cook Theatre

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Joel and Scott Ehrenpreis. Photo courtesy of Erin Hoffer.

“During the evolution of the play, it went through 10 different drafts. We had five different developmental readings of the play where we invited people to come listen to it. Our purpose was to say ‘tell us what you liked, didn’t like and how we can make the play better’,” says Joel Ehrenpreis, the founder of Lifeline Productions. “Instead, people started telling their own stories and were just blown away by the pervasiveness of mental illness. From that, I’ve already achieved one of my missions: having conversations and changing the words with which we use to speak about mental illness.”

Joel is speaking about Clowns Like Me, a one-man show starring his son, local actor and storyteller Scott Ehrepreis, that is making its world premiere on May 18th at the Cook Theatre in FSU’s Center for Performing Arts. In the show, Scott, who has a long list of acting credits and is currently performing as part of the ensemble cast in Florida Studio Theatre’s Network, shares the story of his journey living with mental illness. Scott suffers from several diagnoses including OCD, Bipolar Disorder, and Asperger’s Syndrome. The impetus for the production came about several years ago, when Scott’s father, Joel, wanted to begin to change the stigma that’s associated with people suffering from mental health challenges.

“The stigma around mental illness and the marginalization of people who struggle with it really got to me. A few years ago I started to talk to my son Scott, who happens to be a professionally trained actor, about the possibility of telling his story on stage,” says Joel. “One of the interesting things about this is that one of Scott's diagnoses is Asperger’s Syndrome and his form of aspergers is the form where he’s particularly good at one thing at the expense of a lot of other things. And for Scott, his passion is acting and storytelling. So that irony kind of struck me and my son only feels like his true self when he’s playing somebody else. I wanted to put these two pieces together–theater and mental illness–to help normalize mental illness and put a dent in the stigma.”

Clowns Like Me, May 18 - 28, Cook Theatre, FSU Center for Performing Arts, 5555 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Pictured: Joel and Scott Ehrenpreis. Photo courtesy of Erin Hoffer.

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