Why my new solo show is the most vulnerable project I’ve ever written

David Silverberg
2 min readMar 22

When I went full-time freelance in 2016, I wanted to dive deep into creative projects. First, I wrote a poetry collection published in 2017, and then I wrote a solo show called Jewnique about my tumultuous relationship with Judaism. Thing is, I was just scratching the surface with those shows.

I was avoiding writing about a subject that has long been on my mind but one I never covered thoroughly as a writer: my father’s mental illness and how it affected our family.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is devastating in both its tentacled reach into a sufferer’s mind and its impact on those circling his orbit. When I was living with my parents, I was confused about what it was, why it made my father disappear from us, and exactly how it began to entrench itself in my father’s body.

I attempted to write a poem about my father’s OCD when I was younger, but I wasn’t proud of this early attempt to understand it. I knew I needed a wider berth to really delve into its various nuances and ripple effects on not just me but also on my mother and brother.

And so my new solo show Before & After began to take shape in 2019, thanks to a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts. It’s gone through nine drafts, two directors, one dramaturg and dozens of rehearsals since the final text was finalized two months ago. And it’s been one of the most difficult shows to write because of how personal and vulnerable every single paragraph has become.

Now Before & After will finally hit the stage! And I’m both nervous and excited, as many fellow theatre folks can relate to. On March 29, I’ll be performing this solo show at Tranzac’s back room in Toronto, and tickets are available now.

I’ve heard from numerous artists to write the project you are most afraid to write. This is that show, due to how open-hearted the text is, how I’m sharing skeletons in the closet whose bones are seeing the light of day for the first time. I don’t know how audiences will react but I know one thing for sure: It’s so damn catharthic to share this story about mental illness in my family.

As a line from the show says, “If there’s one thing that mental illness makes me want to do, it’s to make me want to make you understand.”

David Silverberg

Freelance journalist. Editor. Writing coach. I blog about how to earn more and level up your skills as a freelance writer.