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May 17, 2004 // UPDATED 1:36 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues)'

Michael Mack is a born-again writer. Formerly an MIT business-major, Mack found redemption in the arms of an "easy A." A leisurely elective, a poetry class, got the better of the businessman. Class assignments drew out the profound consequences of his mother's paranoid schizophrenia on him and his family, and, more importantly, unearthed Mack's invaluable insight into the junkyard of this devastating psychology.

Further prodding from teacher and award-winning poet Maxine Kumin prompted Mack to keep writing. Eventually, his poetry collection grew into a solo performance, "Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues)," about upheaval and resilience, moving easily from the school bus stop to the asylum, potato chips to drugs, crayons to cigarettes and laughter to tears.

The technical writer/slam poet champion began performing his candid monologue for health professionals, at conferences and Harvard Medical School. Now, after sold-out shows in Washington, D.C. and Boston, Mack is bringing his transcendent tale to Minneapolis' Mixed Blood Theater.

Describing an almost comatose mother -- moved in and out of hospitals, on and off the streets and zonked out on the1960s cure-all Thorazine -- Mack talks sensitively about mindlessness and the anxiety and terror that ensue when the distinctions between reality and fiction are blurred.

He whispers to the crowd intimately about "Our Lady of Sorrows," including the shameful morning his mom hacked off all of her hair, her claims to be the Virgin Mary, her uncontrollable sobs that he can still hear and other outrageous public displays. Yet, amid the wreckage Mack portrays a triumphant life -- he points out statistically, that unlike many schizophrenics, his mom didn't give up. She died at age 73, still combating her demons.

In this beautiful/compelling memoir, Mack switches seamlessly between the past and present voices of his current perspective, his brave 5-year-old self, his younger siblings and both of his parents. He treats his mom forgivingly as he grapples with the sound effects of her terrorized mind and subsequently, a destroyed family. Graphic, fragmented, confusing and honest, Mack gracefully enlightens.

May 21-23, Friday-Saturday

7:30 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m.

Mixed Blood Theatre,

1501 S. 4th St.

$35. 338-6131.

'Opening Minds, Opening Doors'

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and another local show seeks to shed light on the often-closeted subject. "Opening Minds, Opening Doors" at Outsiders and Others gallery in Elliot Park showcases artwork by Jewish artists with mental illness. Despite the artists' commonalities, their work reflects a diversity of experiences and styles, from the hands-on texture of woven fibers to paintings that reflect on the intangible themes of spirituality.

While artist Beth Barron weaves frayed fabrics, stitches, beads and phrases together to reflect on loss and change, sculptor Stuart Barron carves ornate Torah pointers and other religious pieces. Shoshana Elana's fanciful "picture book prosaics" like "Bird Brain" and "Queen for a Day" articulate lighthearted but universal fairy tales.

Additionally, the balmy hues of Robin Kessler's paintings speak to spiritual growth and healing. In his drawings, James A. Levine takes you inside various living rooms to open a window to another view of the city. Jesse Sanders-Greenberg's watercolor portraits and nudes are prism-like, with duplicate and triplicate after-images. Continuing this dream-like sequence are Joanne Wolfe's nave, abstract paintings that invoke the imaginary.

Momentum from last year's similarly themed exhibit inspired this display, a collaboration with the Mental Health Education Project and RIMON, the Jewish Arts Council with the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

Wednesday-Saturday, May 19-24, noon-5 p.m. (Thursday noon-7 p.m.)

Outsiders and Others,

1010 Park Ave. S.

Free. 338-3435.

Anna Pratt can be reached at