Mental Health Advocacy, Inclusion, and the Empowerment of a Marginalized Community Through the Utilization of Theatre: A Historical Overview of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe, Memphis, Tennessee

👆That’s the pretentious clunker of a title I gave my 2003 Master’s thesis…

It’s now been 16 years since I boarded a plane for Memphis to gather oral histories for my thesis research on Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe. Upon re-reading the final document, I am encouraged both that I’m now a much better writer and that my core research concerns have only strengthened in the intervening years. In many ways, OOVTT is responsible for the shape much of my work has taken. They provided me with a devised theatre roadmap for how to work, as well as a shining example of mental health advocacy in action. Karaoke Visiting Hour and There’s An Easy-Bake Oven Where My Heart Should Be would not be possible without them. I am much obliged for our visits, for being able to see them perform at home and on the road, and for their whole-hearted participation in the very first Easy-Bake Workshop. Special thanks to Khyber Daniel for our conversations this week and his prompt to dig my thesis out of cold storage!

Screen capture of University of Memphis Library catalog record for Amber's thesis.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a copy of my thesis is now held by the University of Memphis Libraries!

I am also incredibly grateful to my old friend and librarian, Dorothy Hargett, who allowed me electronic access to the full-text of my thesis this week! (I lost all my floppy disks a few moves ago.) I was fortunate to be one of Dorothy’s co-workers for almost a decade, and she was an actual angel whenever I needed care or a listening ear. Absolutely none of that has changed. When in doubt, ask a librarian! In Dorothy’s honor, I provide this paltry example of how I attempted to repay her kindness over the years (these beauties were taken for a library customer service presentation she created):

That’s some quality overacting right there.

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