Dylan CroftDylan Croft

“What has Artreach done for me? Do you mean besides giving me the self-confidence to complete my college degree? And besides helping me learn to trust people? And besides assisting me to accept myself as who and what I am? Would that also be besides giving me a sense of family? Besides all that? By being involved with Artreach I have learned to reach down into myself to find my smile and receive the gift of laughter.”


Sam Bliven

Sam Bliven

“Artreach (and the Second Step Players) helps me be creative in the shadow of limitations…to standup instead of giving up. Besides acting , I am blessed to be a board member of such a quality agency. Artreach has been a great place of growth and healing!!”

Because I perform with The Second Step Players, I have learned many coping skills: building self-esteem, peer support and edifying others.
I write songs, sing, and have participated on Boards of Directors (for Artreach, Reliance House). It’s important to clear up the misconceptions about mental illness and help bring people together.



Barbara Stanley

“Two years ago I was sorely lacking in confidence & self-esteem. I would look in the mirror, & not like the stranger I saw there.

And then I met Artreach. Artreach is a place FILLED with positive energy! When we get together, we leave our struggles at the door. If I am doubting my abilities, peers are right there to QUENCH that doubt!

Now, when I look in that mirror, I see a new person emerging. Someone totally new, totally positive, totally empowered. And I have Artreach to thank for that. Thank you!”


Chris Harwell

“I have schizophrenia. Artreach has helped me build skills for being in the community.

I play guitar in the Monday jazz group, which has helped me learn to be a team player. At Artreach, I am treated with consideration.”


Holly Danyliw

“My experience at Artreach has brought companionship instead of isolation, and an opportunity to interact on a weekly basis with other folks who have mental illnesses.


This has brought peace, joy and laughter into my life.”


BillBill Paliliunas

“Artreach and Second Step Players are:

  • Havens for healing
  • Prisms to view the beauty in art, ourselves and others
  • Springboards to recovery
  • Central banks to rediscover and reestablish our own self-worth
  • Triage units to mend broken spirits and egos and I suppose, most importantly:
  • Morphing chambers to turn isolation, loneliness and despair into love and family.


Melanie Nagode

Melanie Nagode

“Artreach and The Second Step Players have changed my life tremendously.

The creative and positive environment encourages me in my personal and professional life.

The people I surround myself with help me by their attitudes of acceptance and understanding.

I expect myself to be the best version of “me” and continue to positively grow with the love and care of the community around me.”


Gerald Cory

Gerald Cory

“Artreach gives me an outlook and perspective I never would have had. I have discovered certain things in my life that I never would have known existed.

For example, now I know that I can have an outlet for my musical talent, and that I actually have some acting talent.

Artreach has given me a life that I never would have had otherwise. It’s helped me develop better self esteem, to isolate less, and to have better connections with people.”


judy Essex

Judith Essex

Artreach and the Second Step Players gives me the courage to do things I have never done before, things I was afraid of. I developed friendships here, which then enabled me to make friendships outside of Artreach. By working with a lot of different people, I learned to see others in a different light.

Artreach expected a lot from me, but didn’t make demands. They held a vision of me that was more healthy than the one I had for myself; and now I see it too. I no longer use my illness as a crutch. Once, during a very difficult time in my life, being in a Second Step Players show and having something positive to focus on saved my life.


Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT
“…One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Saturday Night Live…”


Cory Bridwell, Psy.D. says “I saw your troupe perform at Yale’s Recovery Conference last Tuesday. I was a first time audience member, and an instantaneous fan. I LOVED IT! Theater usually doesn’t appeal to me too much, but you had me in belly laughs! I am going to advocate that all the staff at our psychiatric clinic attend your show.”


Judy Snayd, MS RN CNE
Professor of Nursing, Three Rivers Community College

I have had Becca Atkins and the Second Step Players come to Three Rivers Community College for the past nine years. The theatre troupe does a presentation for nursing students prior to their psychiatric clinical rotation in a inpatient psychiatric setting.

Many students have biases and preconceived notions about clients with a mental illness.My goal is to dispel myths and stereotypes. The troupe is very creative and have turned real life experiences into drama, music, poetry and comedy. At the end they have a session that is referred to as “truth” This group normalizes mental illness and shows people with a disorder as opposed to “the schizophrenic”. This group has been invaluable in the preparation of my nursing students and have helped them to be more effective in the clinical setting.

More importantly the program made an incredible difference in the lives of the participants. They have had a social outlet, made friends, learned about responsibility and commitment and for many found meaning in live. This program deserves funding. It is a gem in Southeastern Connecticut.



“Best part of the conference. I especially enjoyed when they introduced themselves and their own personal mental history. BRAVO”


“It was a wonderful production and was great at promoting awareness on various mental health issues, also was a great ice-breaker!”



“That performance is a master piece in the making and deserves national media coverage.”


The Morning Call, Allentown, PA
“…a relevant and irreverent look at mental illness.”


Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, Conn.
“This is theater at its best: rich, funny, touching, always surprising.”


Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine
“The skits are performed by people who have been there… are not ashamed to admit they have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, for example…”


Stephen J. Bistran, Assistant Director, Northwest Mental Health Authority
On behalf of the Northwest Mental Health Authority, I would like to express both our congratulations and our heartfelt thanks to you and your troupe for your performances in Torrington on Thursday, November 1, 2007.

I have only heard repeated expressions of compliments and praise from those who were fortunate enough to see one of the performances; and the praise has come from people in recovery, their families, the general public and service providers.

Not only were the performances informational and contribute to the reduction of stigma endured by people recovering from mental illness but they also served to inspire all attendees to believe that recovery is possible. Please express our special thanks to the members of the Second Step Players cast who courageously, humorously and with aplomb portrayed a diverse and entertaining cast of characters and who openly shared their stories and answered questions from the audience.