The Mars Assignment

A young girl struggles to speak in front of her class.

An ad exec prepares to pitch a new client.

A stand-up comedian reluctantly prepares for a tour.

Looming over each decision they make and every fear they face is a mental illness that affects them—and more than 19 million Americans, nearly 10% of the population: Depression.

The Mars Assignment, Collaboraction Theatre Company's new production, is an intimate play that puts a human face on clinical depression. Just last month, JAMA Internal Medicine published survey results that found less than a third of people who said they were depressed had been treated for the symptoms.

Written and directed by Ronan Marra, former Co-Artistic Director of Signal Ensemble Theatre, and created in collaboration with noted Chicago theater artist and Collaboraction Company Member Elsa Hiltner, the play shines a light on the issue of depression. 

The Mars Assignment

"People with depression are usually placed in exploitative roles in theatre and film—meaning that the characters are often used to create the crisis or arch of the plot through destructive addiction, self-harm, or a suicide attempt," says Hiltner, who was inspired to start the process of creating The Mars Assignment

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) will be participating in post-show talk-backs, inviting the audience to engage in a thoughtful discussion on depression. Post-show comedy nights are scheduled Saturday, October 29, and Saturday, November 12.

"We specifically set out to create a show that showed realistic characters living with depression in the way that millions of people do. Living the 'everyday' and navigating stigmas, without leaning on the stigmatizing tropes of suicide and addiction," Hiltner says. 

The Mars Assignment

The Essentials:

Collaboraction Theatre Company's The Mars Assignment

Performances of The Mars Assignment run through November 20 at the Pentagon Theatre in Wicker Park: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Additional Industry Night performances are Monday, November 7, and Monday, 14, at 7:30 p.m.

Single tickets to regular performances are $20–30; $10–$15 for students, educators and industry. Buy tickets now.