What: “Madhouse Rhythm” with Joshua Walters
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4; doors open at 7 p.m., performance starts at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Odd Fellows Hall, 415 Second St., Davis
Admission: Free, but a $5 donation is suggested
By Roger M. Pehlke
He knew he had a mad side. Diagnosis in February 2001 confirmed it: bipolar disorder at age 16.
A gifted theater artist, Joshua Walters sought from the beginning to create a solo show about his relationship with mental illness. He knew it had to be funny so his audience could navigate through such a heavy topic. Walters will bring his “Madhouse Rhythm” to Yolo County on Wednesday evening, Jan. 4.
The route to widespread acclaim for Walters has been circuitous and unconventional. Having performed onstage for more than a decade, he is equally adept at poetry, beatboxing, stand-up comedy or theatrical treatment of very personal reflection. Performances to date encompass San Francisco, New York, Berlin, Istanbul and Jerusalem.
His poetry stems from earlier days as a member of the Berkeley Poetry Slam Team and hosting other poetry slam events nationwide. Likewise, beatboxing was born of a passion years ago. Walters was an original member of the Bay Area beatbox collective, The Vowel Movement (2003).
He has shared the stage with hip-hop legend Black Sheep and National Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka. He is also a regular contributor to “Snap Judgment,” a weekly storytelling radio show on NPR that is additionally broadcast on PBS television.
Yet it is his uncanny ability to mix humor with intimate reflections on dealing with mental illness that is arguably his greatest gift as an actor. Walters’ unique combination of performance disciplines and his active involvement in mental health have provided him with a national platform and a responsive audience.
A year after his diagnosis, in 2002, he co-founded the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) Young Adults Chapter in San Francisco. He has since spoken, performed and taught as a mental health advocate across the country. He is a National Alliance on Mental Illness state speaker and has performed at NAMI conventions nationwide.
In “Madhouse Rhythm,” Walters portrays a person who has flipped “afflicted” into “gifted,” and coined “mental illness” into “mental skillness.” Alternating between rhythmic antics and provocative thoughts, Walters keeps audience members in their discomfort zone and then releases them with ample reason to laugh out loud.
“In the end, it comes to us that we all, thankfully, have a mad side,” a news release said.
Light refreshments will be provided.
NAMI-Yolo provides advocacy and support for people living with mental illness and their families, and education and awareness for all people in the community. For more information, visit www.namiyolo.org.