Kent State student writes personal play about mental health issues and recovery

Hannah Kelley

“What’s hard on your heart is good for your art.”

This is the motto of Emelia Sherin, a 21-year-old Kent State public relations major in the midst of writing her second play.

Sherin’s first play is being performed in multiple states, festivals and community programs, and has received interest from The New York Times, Marvel Comics and famous filmmaker Chris Columbus.

“(In)Dependent,” written by Sherin and Zach Manthey in 2017, was inspired by the opioid epidemic.

“The first play, I’m still processing that because so much has happened and continues to happen,” Sherin said. “It’s really interesting because this play was never meant to be anything as big as it’s become. The best things in life come out of nowhere. This is one of those.”

Sherin wrote “(In)Dependent” based on people she had met who struggled with opioid addiction.

Sherin also entered and won the Miss Akron/Canton Beauty Pageant in October 2018 to raise awareness for Oriana House, a local chemical dependency and treatment center.

Sherin said she wants her work, including speeches and creative writing, to be focused on topics people prefer not to talk about.

“I want people to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and understand the misunderstood,” she said. “I really think having conversation about topics like addiction, mental health, periods, homelessness in depth like this is why I write. … People can do what they want with it.”

Sherin began writing her second play in August 2018 based on her own experience with mental health and depression recovery.

She said the purpose of the next play is to normalize mental health issues, to explain what different mental health issues “feel like” and to remind people to take care of themselves. She hopes others watch the show and feel “understood and accepting.”

“Life is neither a comedy or a tragedy; it’s just reality, and that’s how I write my shows,” she said. “I’ve had some wonderful, silly things happen to me, and I’ve had some heartbreaking, painful things happen to me. That’s kind of my virtue.”

Sherin’s role models include Columbus and Stephanie Smith, an associate professor in Kent State’s College of Communication and Information. Columbus is known for directing “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” along with writing films such as “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.” The two met after Columbus read “(In)Dependent.”

Sherin plans to graduate from Kent State in May 2020.

Sherin’s plan after college is to do public relations work at the Akron Civic Theater, the House of Blues or Oriana House in Cleveland.

“I wrote my first play as a freshman, so it was pretty cool to see this all flash before my eyes,” she said. “This is something that will keep me grateful for the rest of my life.”

Sherin is hopeful the play will be ready for debut in March 2019. She will also compete in the Miss Ohio pageant next year.

Hannah Kelley is the dean of students and regional campuses reporter. Contact her at [email protected].