How it All Began

IT STARTED WITH A MOMENT OF HONEST CONFESSION…

SCENE: A delicatessen in San Francisco.
Two women, new friends and colleagues, have just finished leading a workshop in improvisational theatre. One of their students has just left the table, leaving a half-eaten poppy-seed bagel on a plate off to one side.

The two friends continue to discuss the workshop, and some ideas for another project they’re working on.

But… there’s the bagel. Off in the corner. On the plate. With butter. And finally they can’t ignore it any longer. “Are you thinking about that bagel?” asks the blonde softly. Her friend shrinks back, puts her hand to her mouth, and whispers “…yes…”

“So am I…” the blonde responds.

And after a minute the blonde adds, “You know what? We should do a show about THIS.”

That moment of truth over a LEFTOVER bagel ignited a spark that became “LEFTOVERS: The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater”–a humorous theater piece about women and weight and self-acceptance.

As we were developing LEFTOVERS for the stage, we knew we were hitting on a fundamental (although often unspoken) truth, but even we were stunned by audience reactions. Every performance brought an outpouring of emotion–laughter, tears, and some shocking moments of self-recognition. We had people return for a second or third time, with family members or friends in tow… finally, this was a way to bring their private hell of food addiction out in the open. And it was not just women, and not just those with weight problems–everyone found something to identify with in the show. According to audience feedback, the stark truth, told with humor, hit home like never before.

Underlying it all is a core belief that breaking the silence can bring an overwhelming feeling of relief. And that, just as importantly, with a healthy sense of humor you can use that relief in an extremely productive way.

We performed LEFTOVERS on stage for several years up and down the West Coast. We started in an intimate storefront space, and later moved up to small black-box theaters and 250-seat houses. In addition, we performed for women’s groups, eating disorders groups, colleges and universities culminating with a run on Off-Broadway in New York City.

A live performance of the LEFTOVERS theater piece was later taped and made available on DVD. Subsequently we received so much feedback from other therapists and educators wanting to use the DVD in their practices that ETTA was formed and developed a 16-module companion workbook. The LEFTOVERS Workbook/DVD Set pairs specific scenes in the DVD with expressive arts exercises in art, drama, music and writing. The exercises along with discussion, group support and a touch of humor, provide a framework for clients to build on that first step of “breaking the isolation” discovered over a poppy-seed bagel.

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