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Comedians, Poets Confront Seasonal Depression With 'Sadapalooza'

Did you hear the one about winters in Olympia, Washington? They’re even longer, and grayer, than the ones in Pittsburgh!

FolkLAB presents "Sadapalooza": 7-9 p.m. Sat., March 6

So attests Rachel Greene, a Pittsburgh native who relocated to Olympia for college and spent eight years in the Pacific Northwest. She never thought of herself as having seasonal depression until her first winter in Olympia ended. When the sun finally came out after three months in hiding, she said, she realized what she’d been missing.

Out of that – and out of her involvement in that region’s spoken-word and slam-poetry scenes -- grew Sadapalooza, an annual “celebration of sadness and seasonal depression” by a mix of Pacific Northwest-based stand-up comics and spoken-word artists. Having since moved back here, Greene now teams with performance troupe FolkLAB to stage Pittsburgh’s own inaugural Sadapalooza – in the middle, no less, of an historic pandemic that has only served to increase the isolation and depression many would already be feeling as March breaks coldly upon us.

Credit Courtesy of FolkLAB
Courtesy of FolkLAB
Comedian Tyler Ray Kendrick also performs.

The Sat., March 6, show is online, of course, and yes, it’s meant to be funny, mostly. But it might be sad, too.

“What we’re trying to do here is say that we have space for all the feelings,” said Greene. “And just because you might be depressed doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about things. And just because you’re laughing about things doesn’t mean that you might not be having a hard time in some ways.”

“Just acknowledging that we are full complex human beings with a range of feelings is really important,” she added.

In fact, along with attempting to destigmatize mental-health issues, Sadapalooza is intended to give performers room to stretch out.

In Olympia, Greene said, “We found that our comedians felt more safe, or invited to explore darker themes, than they might in an average comedy space.”

Sadapalooza features Greene hosting 11 performers. Pittsburgh-based comedians include Brittany Alexis, Tyler Ray Kendrick, Lena Kinney and Arla White, and poets Torrey Shineman, Shooooz, Maya Wright, Lori Beth, and Jalina McClarin. Guests include former Pittsburghers Vanessa St. Clair and Michael Hodges. All performers are performing from their own remote locations.

Tickets are a pay-what-you-wish donation, and the two-hour show benefits Pittsburgh-based mental-health support and advocacy group Inside Our Minds.

If nothing else, Sadapalooza will remind us that facing the winter blues is a common cause, Greene said.

“When we’re all going through something together with the season or the pandemic, we can have more camaraderie and we can invite people to come out into the world without their happy faces on a little bit, and say it’s OK to show a little bit of how you might be struggling,” she said.

The two-hour show will stream live on YouTube, Facebook, and FolkLAB’s web page. For more information, see www.folklab.net.

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