Stand Up For Mental Health- CT

David 5331427213_f2548639c1_mGranirer

Since 2010, Artreach has partnered with Stand Up For Mental Health founder David Granirer of Vancouver, to create a stand up comedy program in CT. Working via Skype, Stand Up For Mental Health – CT now has 13 comics! Each worked with David to create and perform acts based on their own mental health histories. The result is a hilarious and illuminating look at navigatin
g the mental health system, presented by folks who have “been there, done that.”

David Granirer is a counselor, stand-up comic, mental health keynote speaker, and author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success. He founded Stand Up For Mental Health (SMH), a program that teaches stand up comedy to people with mental health issues as a way of building confidence and fighting public stigma.


Sam Bliven

Sam Bliven

Sam Bliven has worked with The Second Step Players as an actor and singer since the early’90s. He is a former President of the Artreach Board of Directors, and continues to serve on the Artreach board.  Sam has his own band called Sunday Jam.  Sam’s act features anecdotes from his time spent in psychiatric hospitals, including a parody song.

Dylan Croft
 Dylan Croft

Dylan Croft has been with the Second Step Players since 1996. He enjoys writing, acting, and performing stand-up comedy. Dylan’s comedy contains themes of transexuality, and the pros and cons of being diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (a.k.a. “Multiple Personality Disorder). With a wide variety of alters, Dylan has tons of material to work with!

Judy Essex
Judy Essex

Judy Essex joined Second Step Players back in 1993 who loves to sing in Artreach’s Music Showcases.  A long time recipient of community mental health services, Judy’s comedy reflects the quirks of inattentive mental health providers, and what it’s like to get a job when you have a nebulous diagnosis. A staple of The Second Step Players touring theater troupe, Judy enjoys performing sketch comedy and writing as well as stand up comedy.

Becca Option 2

Becca Atkins

Becca Atkins has been with Second Step Players since 1993. She is currently the Executive Director of Artreach, Inc., the non-profit agency of which Second Step Players is a program. A Southern Belle in recovery (from being a Southern Belle), Becca’s act introduces you to wacky Southern family dynamics, and the impact of having Bipolar II Disorder in a land where “crazy” is not a topic for “polite conversation.” Becca is a multi-tasker – you may also find her singing, dancing, or doing powerpoints. You never can tell . . .



Melanie Nagode

Melanie Nagode is a new addition to The Second Step Players. Since she arrived, she has joined the Touring Troupe, written a song and performed it, and created her own stand up comedy act. Melanie works at Artreach as a Van Driver/Coach, and helps design Artreach’s monthly recreation calendar of events. Her stand up act addresses what it’s like to grow up with a Psychologist for a mother, and her favorite ADHD coping skill, knitting.

Melody Smith
Melody Smith

Melody Smith has been with Second Step Players since 2007. She sings and acts in all of our productions, and writes poetry and prose. Melody’s comedy touches on her unique childhood; her family  lived in a green van, moving from town to town before finally settling in New Mexico, then CT. Culture shock is a theme for much of her material, as is her former career as a Nurse.

Bill Paliliunas

Bill Paliliunas hails from the Greater Boston area, and, appeared in Dinner Theatre for several years. After moving to Ct. Bill was first involved with ArtReach, then for the past 2yrs Bill became a Second Step Player, acting, singing and doing stand up comedy. He feels these pursuits are both thereputic and educational. He has had the privelege to meet, perform with,and, befriend some amazing and very talented people!!

Gerald Cory

Gerald Cory has been a Second Step Player since 1998. He prefers to be called Jerry – which he will tell you is spelled with a “J” no matter how you spell Gerald! A retired lawyer, Jerry has an endless supply of material to draw upon, from school and college, to his personal life and his career.