Unmasked Inspirations

Unmasked is based on Megan Zong’s personal experiences of psychosis. In 2014 and at various times since, Megan found herself immersed in worlds that came to have less and less connection to reality. Often scary, these experiences created tension among friends and family but also led her to see the world anew as she grew and healed. Seeking to share these unique experiences and foster empathy for others who have similar experiences, Megan set out to make Unmasked

“I would love those who have never experienced a mental illness to leave Unmasked with a better understanding of what it feels like to live through something like that. For those who have, I want to give them a voice and a sense of connection.”

Megan Zong

To create the show, Megan drew on her memories, journals, personal interviews with friends and family, and doctor’s notes. Each of these helped her to dive deeply into her experiences, serving as a base from which to theatricalize them for an audience. Creating the fictional character of Meg, Megan set out to transform her experiences into a performance that would empower those going through similar challenges and inspire those around them to be better, more empathetic supporters.  

Megan was inspired by other creative work as well. Betroffenheit by Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young was of particular influence. Having spent her career as a performer in scripted plays, the depth of Betroffenheit’s detailed communication through the art of movement got Megan excited to create her own work—especially because it so beautifully communicated the high stakes of a traumatic experience in an innovative theatrical language. It was a theatre experience unlike any she had ever had. She wanted to create just such an experience for others. Evoking the thrill of creating she remembered from theatre school, the show started Megan on the path of making her first play. Quotes from Susannah Cahalan’s book Brain on Fire, though detailing a very different mental health journey, proved to be an important inspiration and touchstone throughout the creative process. She credits these works with inspiring her to share her story but also to do so in ways that defied expectations and embraced multiple styles of storytelling. 

-Article by Production Dramaturg Charlie Peters

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