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Copeland, The Marsh raise money to fight depression on stage

June 2, 2019
Elisabeth Sherwin -- ensherwin@gmail dot com

The Marsh theater in San Francisco and actor Brian Copeland are trying to raise $80,000 so they can present Brian's one-man show "The Waiting Period" weekly for one year (2019) at no charge. About $22,000 had been raised by the end of May 2019.

The show, which is about Copeland’s ongoing struggle with depression, has saved lives by motivating people to seek help. Suicidal people have reached out for help after seeing the show. Copeland particularly wants young people in high school and college who can't afford to the $30 to $100 to have access to the show and its message, which is: "You're not alone. If you're struggling, tell someone.”

The Marsh is a registered 501(C)(3) nonprofit and all donations are 100% tax deductible. There is a Go Fund Me page up and running for this fundraiser.

According to The Marsh publicity, this show is an unrelenting look at a 10-day period in Copeland’s life. The 10 days represent the mandatory waiting period before he could lay his hands on the newly purchased gun with which he planned to take his own life. Even in the midst of this tragedy, however, his wonderful sense of the comedy does not desert him (how much should he spend on the gun?), indeed serves him well as a buffer against the grim reality of his intention. Copeland hopes this very personal and redemptive story will reach people who struggle with depression—often called the last stigmatized disease—as well as their families and loved ones.

Copeland has been in show business since he first stepped on the comedy stage at 18. He opened for myriad rock stars over the years and also made a name for himself in radio, which is where I first discovered him.

In 1995, San Francisco KGO Radio premiered “The Brian Copeland Show.” Its unique mix of talk and entertainment made it very popular. I remember hearing him interview Bill Cosby before Cosby’s public troubles led to prison. Nothing was known about Cosby’s dark side then and Copeland graciously, it seemed to me, let Cosby take over the conversation, turning it into a monologue. Kind of like spending a few hours with your boring grandfather (Cosby) who you have to respect (Copeland). It was also fun listening to Copeland do his back-and-forth with young local comedians.

So it came as a shock and surprise to find out that Copeland was fired by KGO in January 2018. He filed a bitter lawsuit claiming race and age discrimination. The station’s owners were trying to find a new voice and fired nearly everyone, it seems. I wonder if they are privately regretting it now.

Fortunately, Copeland is a man of many talents. He has been very successful with his solo plays, the first of which was "Not A Genuine Black Man” in 2004. This critically acclaimed exploration of race and identity created a blend of laughter, tears and sociology that led to the show becoming the longest running solo play in San Francisco theatrical history. Successful runs in Los Angeles and Off Broadway and a bestselling book adaptation followed. "Genuine" has been performed in over 30 cities across America.

I saw his Christmas play, “The Jewelry Box,” also a one-man show at The Marsh, and loved it. Copeland and the Marsh seem to suit each other very well. The stage is very small and intimate, perfect for his very personal work.

Now that I live in Colorado I don’t get to the Marsh very often and several times when I have been back in San Francisco I’ve missed Copeland’s performances. But when I saw that the fundraiser was under way, I immediately contributed to it and I hope you will, too.

I respect Copeland’s honesty about his own difficulties and I am a little surprised that the goal of $80,000 – not a huge amount – wasn’t met within a few weeks. In any case, now is your chance to lend a hand to this great cause – not political, not controversial. Just the right thing to do. Thank you, my friends.

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at ensherwin@gmail.com

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