Globe West People

Tackling mental illness

Detail from an image by Newton photographer David Greenfield in “Escape Art,’’ a show at the Stoughton Public Library. Detail from an image by Newton photographer David Greenfield in “Escape Art,’’ a show at the Stoughton Public Library.
By Cindy Cantrell
September 26, 2010

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In his one-man play, Michael Mack relives the experience of growing up with a schizophrenic mother.

There was the time, for instance, when he came home from school and followed his mother upstairs to discover that she had piled all of his belongings in the center of the room.

Or when his friends asked who the man was who had been crying hysterically next to him at the bus stop. The “man’’ was actually his mother, who had chopped off her hair. Mack denied knowing her.

“Her intentions were good,’’ he said, “but she was in a different world than I.’’

In partnership with Lexington Community Education, Mack will perform “Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues)’’ at 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Parish in Lexington, 7 Harrington Road.

Mack, whose comedic drama unfolds through narrative-form poems written up to 25 years ago, said the play is an intimate look into the family dynamics around mental illness, complete with difficulties, desperation, and love. It is, however, ultimately about hope. Medication enabled his mother, whom he calls Annie in the play, to stop a cycle of hospitalization and, for a time, homelessness. She died in 2002, at the age of 73.

“Mental illness is an equal opportunity disease that can happen to anyone,’’ he said. “And it does.’’

An open forum will follow the performance. Tickets cost $12. For more information, call 781-862-8043 or go to

CD RELEASE PARTY: On Jan. 12, Liz Buchanan of Arlington was traveling on Route 2 to perform at a day-care center in Acton when a tanker truck rolled over and crashed into her car, leaving her with a broken neck.

After months of recuperation, she is returning to the stage for a CD release party Saturday morning in her hometown.

The singer, guitarist, songwriter, and music teacher had just finished recording “Singing All the Way Home,’’ her second children’s music CD, prior to the accident.

“It was scary, not knowing whether I’d be able to pick up my guitar,’’ she said. “I was pretty down in the dumps, so now I’m very excited for this concert.’’

Buchanan and her band perform at 10:30 a.m. at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St. Tickets are $10; $8 for children and seniors. Call 781-646-4849 or go to

POWER OF PLAY: A nationally renowned authority and author on child development issues, David Elkind has offered his case for the importance of unstructured play in forums across the country and abroad, as well as on television programs including “The Today Show,’’ “20/20,’’ and the “Oprah Winfrey Show.’’ At 7 p.m. Thursday, he will present his research findings on children’s emotional and academic development at Lexington High School, 251 Waltham St.

Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University, says it’s easy for parents and children alike to feel overwhelmed by the varied demands of modern life. When time is not allowed for spontaneous play, however, then curiosity, creativity, and imagination suffer, he says, and children grow up uncertain of who they are and what they want to do.

Parents also must set an example, he notes. If children are not allowed to spend endless hours on the computer or watching television, then parents shouldn’t either. Instead, he encourages participation in meaningful activities as a family.

“It’s important to have a healthy balance between work, school, outside play, and activities with friends,’’ says Elkind, a former Lexington resident now living on Cape Cod. “Parents have to come back to common sense. Instead of listening to everyone else, listen to your own child.’’

Elkind’s lecture, “The Power of Play and the Hurried Child,’’ is presented by Lexington Community Education. To reserve a space for $10, call 781-862-8043.

IMAGES CAST IN IRON: Photographer David Greenfield of Newton said he is interested in documentary photography as a means of understanding and viewing history.

His exhibition at the Stoughton Public Library, “Escape Art,’’ showcases the imagery of light on exterior fire escapes, their utilitarian role in the development of multistory buildings in cities, and their alternate uses for storage, drying clothes, outdoor gardens, sleeping on hot nights, and generally hanging out.

Greenfield wrote a narrative for each of the 24 photos, which he shot from various perspectives throughout Boston and Manhattan. He wanted to capture the symbol of the 19th and 20th centuries before it disappears from the landscape.

“The external fire escape will wind up being a relic of a point in time,’’ said Greenfield, noting that the stairwells within modern buildings are insulated from fire. “Someday, it will be remembered like a telephone booth on the street.’’

The Stoughton Public Library is at 84 Park St. For more details, call 781-344-2711 or go to

ADVENTURES IN THINKING: Weston resident Pendred Noyce is a medical doctor, writer, philanthropist, education activist, and mother of five. Inspired by her love of reading to her children, she recently founded Tumblehome Press to publish books for “thinking kids.’’

Noyce, who established the Noyce Foundation in 1990 and continues to serve as a trustee, said she wants to encourage children to challenge their imaginations beyond the passive entertainment of electronic devices. The first installment in what she plans to be a four-book series, “Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers’’ is aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds.

“I don’t believe that children today are wasting their minds, but there’s an aspect of childhood that many of us treasure later on that you don’t get by sitting playing a video game. It’s things you made up, what you did with other people, and places you explored on your own,’’ she said. “Some pleasures come very easily and passively, but real joy takes a little more input.’’

Noyce will take part in a book reading and signing Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Dragon Books, 391 Boston Post Road in Weston. For more information, go to

TAKING ANCIENT VIEW: When classes resumed this month, Arlington resident Maureen Toner was excited to incorporate real-life examples into her curriculum at Boston College High School. The recipient of the school’s third annual Martha Winchenbaugh Faculty Development Grant, she recently spent two weeks in Egypt studying political, cultural, and economic connections among ancient civilizations.

While in Egypt, the Latin and Greek teacher and moderator of BC High’s Homeric Academy visited the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo; the Kom el-Dikka excavation in Alexandria; the Oracle Temple of Zeus Ammon in the Siwa Oasis; the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Nobles in Luxor; and numerous pyramids, temples, and tombs.

Despite wearing long, conservative clothing on dusty, tour-filled days that typically exceeded 100 degrees, Toner said she is grateful to have fulfilled her lifelong travel goal, after having already toured Italy, Sicily, and Greece. She was particularly excited to visit the Oracle Temple, where she walked in small circles to ensure that she was literally retracing the footsteps of Alexander the Great.

“I wanted to see what he saw, from the inscriptions on the wall to the apertures where the sunlight came in. I’m a total geek, but it was awesome,’’ said Toner, who took more than 700 photos during the trip.

“Sometimes when you teach history, it seems as if each culture exists in its own little snow globe, but that’s obviously not true,’’ she added. “I really want to make it clear to my students that cultures can interact without conflict.’’

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