Local actor inspired to write play about his mental health journey

Emily Farley News & Notes

Jeremy Auman has battled depression most of his life. Or, as he said, “for always.”

His great-aunt and grandmother did as well. They also had bipolar disorder, though back then it was called a nervous breakdown, he said.

The way people reacted toward his great-aunt and grandmother made an impression on Auman.

“I saw the stigma that they had to deal with,” he said.

Auman, who has bipolar disorder, has experienced the stigma about mental illness himself. He decided to do something about it.

Following a manic episode last year, Auman, a Bert Nash client, started sharing about his own depression and mania on social media. He was transparent and honest. A friend, Will Averill, told him he should write about it and perform it.

Auman, who is a writer and an actor, took his friend’s advice. He wrote a one-man play titled, “The Last Word is Hope.” The last word in the play actually is hope. He asked Averill to direct the play.

“I wouldn’t have anybody else direct it,” Auman said.

Averill has seen how mental illness has affected his friend and his zest for what he loves — the theater. Both Auman and Averill are involved in Card Table Productions, a local theater company.

“I’ve seen the impact of mental illness on his passion and work in the theater,” Averill said. “This piece is an exploration of his journey as an artist in the theater, and how mental illness has created both moments of brilliance, and moments of crisis.”

Auman described the play as “a biographical journey about his own mental health experiences.” He reached the point in his own recovery where he decided to embrace his diagnosis and not be afraid to talk about it. Or write about it.

Auman is not alone. “There are a lot of creative people who have this diagnosis,” he said.

He plans to perform the play locally this spring “to make sure the material works and audiences relate.” All in the hopes of getting into the Kansas City Fringe Festival, a performing arts festival.

Auman, who receives individual and group therapy services at Bert Nash, would love to see his play about his mental health journey extend to a wide audience.  

Asked how far he hoped it would reach, he said, “To the moon.”