"When I die, I'd like "Friends" to be listed behind helping people." --Matthew Perry
Help us make a difference in mental health through the arts and support our research efforts!
The One About the Project
The One With Friends: A TV Show Within a Play is a play about depression recently produced at UCLA by the Semel Institute's Center for Health Services and Society and UCLA Health. Written by UCLA's Joseph Mango (NYU alum), the play follows a struggling actor and an aspiring writer, both living with depression, who find connection and hope through the beloved TV show, Friends as well as the support of each other. The play was inspired by Joseph's own experience with depression and how Friends has helped him and so many others during rough patches. This led him to propose a research project at UCLA for the Narratives Project, which is funded by the California State Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health, especially after finding very little research regarding the correlation between the arts and mental health.
With child psychiatrist Dr. Bonnie Zima as his mentor, Joseph became the Principal Investigator for the research study portion of this project to measure how the arts helps promote healing and also how the arts can de-stigmatize depression when accurately portrayed. The audience was given an anonymous survey to complete before and after the play measuring their perceptions and attitudes about depression and stigma.
We are taking the play to New York City to expand our research sample size and NYU, who we have a relationship with, has been generous enough to donate a venue for two performances of the play. We also plan to perform the play at our Center of Excellence sister school UC Davis and other UC schools where we can keep the costs to a minimum. While the play has a simple setup and is easy to produce on the stage, we are asking for donations to help cover the costs of our statistician and research assistant's time in analyzing the data so we may disseminate our findings as well as compensate our actors and cover their travel costs. Joseph, Dr. Zima, and our center want to make a stride in research correlating the arts and mental health and explore how the arts can help promote healing and offer hope for recovery.
"A meaningful, funny, and smart play with a lovely cast that conveys its complexity and hope.” --Dr. Kenneth Wells (UCLA Professor-in-Residence/Psychiatrist)
The One About the Play
In a Santa Monica coffee shop, a struggling actor with depression and no confidence strikes up a conversation with a stranger–an assignment by his therapist. The stranger turns out to be an aspiring TV writer who is going through a depressed time herself and just happens to be writing the reunion episode for the beloved TV show Friends as a fun side project. As the two begin their somewhat rocky road to getting to know each other (without the help of social media, apps, or phones) they find connection and healing through the beloved sitcom and soon discover that six “Friends” (Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe) can change their lives.
The play is not only a celebration of one of America's most beloved sitcoms, Friends, but also an opportunity to show how powerful and educational the arts can be in making a difference in mental health.
"It was warm, funny, and very touching." --Elyn Saks (Author of The Center Cannot Hold)
The One Where We Share the Press Articles
The One About the People Involved
The play was written by NYU Tisch School of the Arts alum and current UCLA employee, Joseph Mango; directed by NYU Tisch School of the Arts alum and current UCLA employee, Ashley Griggs; Featuring American Academy of Dramatic Arts alum Nick McLoughlin, UC San Diego theatre alum Miranda Wynne, NYU Tisch School of the Arts alum Chloé Hung and Yale theatre alum Lindsey Moore Ford; Produced by the UCLA Semel Institute's Center for Health Services and Society under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Wells and center administrator Elizabeth Lizaola. The Narratives Project is co-led by Dr. Bowen Chung and Joseph Mango with support from Dr. Armen Arevian and Dr. Bonnie Zima.
We greatly appreciate your donation and support! It truly means a lot to our center, researchers, cast, and creative team.