Advocacy in theater: E-52 promotes mental health awareness

Suicide Inc
Grayson Ziegler
E-52’s newest production advocates for furthering mental health awareness.


Legacy Publishers is in the business of ensuring their client’s voice lives on in the most professional manner. The premise of their business? Writing and editing suicide notes. Pairing dark humor with heartbreaking truths, E-52 Student Theatre’s latest production, “Suicide Incorporated,” touches on many unspoken realities behind suicide.

“I feel like suicide as a topic has become very taboo in our society,” Grayson Ziegler, the director of Suicide Incorporated, says. “It’s been sort of pushed down and ignored, and I feel like this show does a good job of showing people a lot of different sides behind suicide — the warning signs and the trauma it leaves behind after.”

The six-character production tells the story of Jason (freshman Mikey Malaszczyk), a stubborn former author of Hallmark Cards, who just landed a spot at Legacy Publishers helping to edit suicide notes. With his traumatic history involving his younger brother’s suicide, Jason is determined to sabotage the company’s values, and save the clients from their sought-after demise. The only thing stopping him is his sociopathic boss, Scott (played by freshman Jake Steltz).

“It’s a role that I’ve wanted to play for a long time now — not Scott specifically — just this insane-type person,” Steltz says. “I was really happy when I got it, but I found pretty quickly that it’s a difficult thing to get in this mindset of mentally unhinged, wild, random and unpredictable.”

Scott is easily angered and emotionally-abusive to both Jason and his assistant, Perry (played by freshman Ari August). Through a series of devastating scenes, the characters’ upsetting backgrounds are uncovered to reveal how important it is to not overlook signs of damaged mental health.

Due to the complexity and depth of the topic, Ziegler said he aimed to cast students who “genuinely would want to get into their mindset and feel their character.” He says that while the dark nature of the play made it difficult to stay positive throughout the production process, it brought the actors closer together as a team.

“Usually when you put a show on, when it’s a comedy or something like that, you get close to the cast,” Steltz says. “That’s a given. But when it’s a show like this that requires so much deep thinking with the characters, and so much thought about the themes that are at play, it really does bring you that much closer.”

“Suicide Incorporated” offered the cast a platform to advocate for mental health awareness among college students, as well as shine light on the unspoken, stark statistic of male suicide rates. According to the play, 80 percent of all suicides are completed by men because they do not feel comfortable speaking up or seeking out help. In order to promote mental health awareness further, E-52 is donating $2 of each ticket sold to Active Minds at UD — a student-based, on-campus mental health advocacy program.

“We just had a suicide on campus last semester so it’s still very raw,” August says. “I feel like it’s important to keep the conversation going because if the conversation ends, that’s when it becomes a waiting game for the next one.”

The production will be performed in the Bacchus Theater from March 8 to 12.

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