Pueblo County High School play receives Mental Health America award

A suicide education play produced by the Pueblo County High School Arts Academy won the inaugural Youth Mental Health Champion Award at Mental Health America of Pueblo’s Robert Hawkins Tribute Dinner on September 16.

Mental Health America recognized Pueblo County High Consulting producer Roxanne Pignanelli’s student cast members and Arts Academy for their contributions to advocacy for youth mental health through her production of the play No One Hears Until You Scream.

Pignanelli introduced the play to Pueblo County High School in 2017. The original play was written by New Jersey playwright and educator Joey Madia.

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“It’s amazing to be that representation for people who are struggling because life can be really tough,” said Pueblo County High School junior and cast member Addison Doub. “It throws a lot of different things at you, which can be difficult, especially at our age.”

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Since No One Hears Unless You Scream was presented at Pueblo County High, the series has undergone three rewrites. Some revisions have been made to address modern issues affecting teen mental health, such as bullying of LGBTQ students, eating disorders and isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This project is one of my favorites because it demonstrates that art and theater are not just entertainment, but rather a vehicle for advocating for social justice, and therefore validates it in terms of funding and relevance,” said director Taylor Gilman. “I think that can be forgotten by many districts, how huge the role art can be, not just in our society as this billion-dollar industry … but as a form of healing, connection and communication.”

Pueblo County High Junior Alora Spence plays Laurie, a teenage girl struggling with drug addiction. As the play progresses, Laurie’s addiction causes her mental health to progressively deteriorate, and she eventually decides to contact a suicide prevention hotline.

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“You’re going to[perform]and one person, even if it’s just one, is going to benefit,” Spence said. “They will turn to someone, they will get help for themselves or someone else. I think that’s really cool.”

Kaden Gonzalez, a senior, plays Scott, a young boy who is afraid his parents will stop accepting him if they find out he’s gay.

“Just to see … problems that kids my age have sometimes, it really means a lot to stand up for them and show them that help is available … I think my favorite message from the show is, ‘It’s okay, don’t to be okay,'” González said.

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Pueblo County High School of Art is hosting a free screening of “Nobody Hears Unless You Scream” on Thursday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m. at Pueblo Community College’s Hoag Theater.

On October 29th, the students will perform with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in Colorado Springs. The venue for the show in Colorado Springs has not yet been determined.

“Our next step is to work with the students again and work with some mental health professionals to expand this project into a curriculum,” Gilman said. “That way we can bring the play into a school and then give the teacher or building manager some kind of guidance on how to keep the conversation going after the play is presented.”

Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at [email protected]

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