‘Real secrets from real people’

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – An inmate. A diner at an upscale Carbondale restaurant and another at a Basalt taco stand. A troubled youth. A shopper in a high-end Aspen boutique. Seemingly different people from different walks of life, but they all have one thing in common: a secret.

On Saturday, those secrets will be shared onstage at the Wheeler Opera House in a benefit for the new Aspen Hope Center.

“These are real secrets from real people; they represent a true cross-section of our community and the things they are feeling right now,” said Arna Einarsdottir-Ross, associate director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, which oversees the Hope Center.

“Secrets,” a one-woman show by Carbondale resident Ellie Davis, will include more than 100 anonymous confessions – each one memorized by Davis and performed verbatim. The secrets were submitted by people across the valley via 20 boxes set out for this exact purpose.

“These are deep and dark secrets, these are happy confessions … and everything in between. Everybody has secrets – all types of secrets – so these are things we can all relate to,” said Einarsdottir-Ross, adding that though she has not yet seen the upcoming show (it, too, is a secret to all but the actor and directors), it is said to be “amazing.”

“When I saw Ellie perform ‘Secrets’ last winter in Carbondale, I knew right away this was a perfect fit for a benefit for the Hope Center,” she said.

In fact, Einarsdottir-Ross said she believes the connection between “Secrets” and the Hope Center – which provides access and referrals to mental health services, as well as crisis intervention and treatment – could not be more clear.

“The things that will be shared on Saturday are secrets, and the hope is that by sharing those secrets, people can let them go,” she said. “The center is also about giving people hope.”

The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation opened the Hope Center after learning just how great the need is for a mental health resource in the Roaring Fork Valley. According to a study commissioned by AVMF and conducted by the Depression Center of the University of Colorado, the estimated number of suicides in Pitkin County is 11 per year; the state of Colorado has an annual suicide rate that is approximately 40 percent higher than the U.S. rate.

Since opening in June, the Aspen Hope Center has worked with nearly 200 individual clients. According to AVMF data, 17 percent of those cases involved potential suicides or psychological crises, which the center’s 24/7 mobile crisis team handled. Other calls were for personal referrals or referrals for family and friends.

“There is obviously a need for this,” Einarsdottir-Ross said. “We realized that through the study and having seen the demand first-hand, we know how important the Aspen Hope Center is to our community.”

“Secrets” stars Ellie Davis and is directed by Marisa Post, with an original score by Mateo Sandate. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Wheeler Opera House; tickets are $20 for general admission and $125 for patrons through the Wheeler Box Office.