Gospel Play “For Every Mountain” Dramatizes Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Lyricist Reshanya Keough plays the part of “Billye” in the upcoming gospel play “For Every Mountain.” Photo by Adam Turner.

By Ashley Chambers Shedding light on modern day mental and emotional health challenges, the inspirational gospel play “For Every Mountain” is returning to the stage after a successful run last year. Presented by Totally Led Ministries under Rev. George Brown and Grace Baptist Church in Oakland under Pastor Charles L. Hopkins, the play is written and directed by veteran Bay Area playwright Beverly Brown. Featuring a group of talented Bay Area actors, musicians, and vocalists, the play is based on a modern day “Job,” a man who faced a great test of his faith in the Bible. The journey of the main character, “Joy” played by Tamara Edwards, gives viewers a glimpse into the impact of mental health issues on the victim and on those close to her as well. “Billye,” a close friend of “Joy,” played by lyricist Reshanya Keough, goes to all ends to support and protect her friend. “Billye is feisty and passionate. She’s supportive of [Joy] as she’s going through her mental issues,” Keough said. “I’m really protective of people that I see are victims, but even more so individuals that I care about,” she said, relating to her character. Other characters in the play include “Ellie,” the bitter, manipulative friend played by Michelle Jenson; “Zoey,” the seductress played by Simone Foster; “Ron,” Joy’s husband played by Jeremy Bardwell; and special guest comedian J-Red. Performances of the play will be held at the El Cerrito Theatre and will feature a mental health resource fair. Representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Berkeley Christian Counselors, Family Education and Resource Center of Alameda County, Mental Health Friendly Congregations, and Family Paths of Alameda County will be on hand with information, answering questions and making referrals. “There’s a stigma in the Christian and African American communities that we don’t seek professional help for our issues,” Keough said. “Beverly’s objective with this [play] is that there’s nothing wrong with people seeking professional help for mental issues. It’s also important for individuals to be supportive of people they know that might be going through mental issues.” Performances will be held on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 4 p.m. at the El Cerrito Theatre, 540 Ashbury Ave. in El Cerrito. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.totallyled.org or call (510) 904-7045.