Acting Out! Fest Returns to Blend Arts and Comedy with Mental Health Awareness

After months of planning, Cleveland-based artist Derek Hess and his longtime business partner Marty Geramita announced plans for their second annual Acting Out! Fest, including an expanded lineup of free live music, art, stand-up comedy, films, and talks at venues throughout Gordon Square from Sept. 13 to 16. The weekend features more than 15 events over four days. The subject of mental health is particularly important to Hess, whose battles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse are not only well known, but subjects in his emotionally charged artwork.

“After Acting Out! 2016 we realized the greater need to connect the public and those in need with mental health and addiction resources,” says Geramita. “We strive to achieve this goal through programming partnerships with leading mental health and addiction organizations. Our core arts programming includes collaboration with local experts and nationally known celebrity mental health and addiction advocates, sharing their stories to help us deliver our message to a larger audience.”

Highlights for this year’s event include: a waterfront concert by Andrew WK at Whiskey Island; an art exhibition at Hess’ 78th Street Studios gallery featuring more than 30 artists from Cleveland and around the country who have been diagnosed with or have been affected by mental illness or addiction; a screening of Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw (followed by a talk with former WNBA player Chaminque Holdsclaw and Dr. Sam Manier, professional sports psychologist); a stand-up comedy showcase with headliner Aparna Nancherla (Late Night with Seth Meyers, Inside Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow’s “Love”); Heroin Storytelling: My First Time – featuring former users in recovery sharing personal stories and a roundtable discussion with Dr. Joan Papp and Judge Joan Synenberg; a presentation by Dr. Joseph Calabrese with Derek Hess discussing the connection between Van Gogh’s psychiatric symptoms and artistic production; a discussion with local musicians and Monique Powell (front-woman, Save Ferris); and a keynote speech on spirituality and recovery by author, counselor and Buddhist teacher Noah Levine.

Acting Out! 2017 is presented with generous support from The Centers for Families and Children, The Woodruff Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, Recovery Resources, Signature Health/Connections, Ohio Guidestone, Jakprints and Gordon Square Arts District.

Mental health and addiction professionals involved in festival events include: Dr. Joseph Calabrese (University Hospitals), Dr. Joan Papp (MetroHealth), Judge Joan Synenberg (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas), Dr. Jason Joyce (Recovery Resources), Dr. Sam Maniar (Center for Peak Performance), Joseph Penola, (The You Rock Foundation), Dr. Julius Bailey (Author & Wittenberg University Professor) and more to be announced.

All events are free, but most events require tickets. For a complete schedule, with dates, times and event descriptions, visit

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