McCarter Theatre Center in partnership with Princeton University Health Services, The 24 Hour Plays, and Innovations in Socially Distant Performance at the Lewis Center for the Arts presents The Manic Monologues.
Originally Created by Zachary Burton and Elisa Hofmeister
Virtual Experience Conceived and Directed by Elena Araoz

Creating a Conversation about Mental Health: The Manic Monologues

This initiative brings to life true stories – experiences submitted by resilient people living all across the world with mental illness. They have things to say about struggle and pain, and also triumph and joy.


When Zack had his first psychotic break and was diagnosed with bipolar in May 2017, he was just finishing his PhD at Stanford University — and his world imploded. Would mental illness dictate his whole life? Would everything change? Zack was underwater, and his then-girlfriend Elisa had no way of knowing whether her happy, gregarious partner-in-crime would ever resurface.

One of the hardest parts about those early days was the absence of relatable, lived experiences. Zack and Elisa decided to create a play based on true stories to disrupt the stigma around mental illness. It resulted in a series of vignettes they called The Manic Monologues. The play was performed live in 2019.

McCarter planned a professional staged reading in 2020. When COVID halted live events, the project was re-conceived for a digital stage.


Take a journey through the minds and voices of people who bravely share the way mental illness has affected their lives, performed by a celebrated cast of actors – enhanced by interactive design and technology. Engage with the stories at your own pace, access a virtual resource guide, and watch interviews with experts and advocates on mental health and the current moment.

Access to The Manic Monologues is free and no registration is required. Content is available to watch at your own pace. Viewer’s discretion advised.

Explore The Manic Monologues


Patrons in need of access accommodations should visit McCarter Theatre Center’s Accessibility webpage for more information.


The Manic Monologues is presented by McCarter Theatre Center. The virtual experience is made possible through the dedicated support of Princeton University partners: The TigerWell Initiative, Lewis Center for the Arts, Innovations in Socially Distant Performance, Residential Colleges (Butler, First, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, Whitman) and The Graduate College; support from Daniela Bonafede-Chhabra & Ashvin Chhabra, and a partnership with One Mind All Media, a non-profit organization that accelerates collaborative research and advocacy to enable all individuals facing brain health challenges to build healthy, productive lives; and The 24 Hour Plays.


The Manic Monologues is a play showcasing true stories of mental illness to disrupt stigma, created by Zachary Burton and Elisa Hofmeister in the wake of Burton’s bipolar diagnosis while a Ph.D student at Stanford University. The two incorporated accounts from dozens of brave individuals across the continent and beyond — from survivors with diagnoses; from health professionals; from mothers, sons, and friends; from lovers. The play premiered in May 2019 at Stanford, and was performed in Des Moines & LA before COVID, drawing accolades from NPR, Washington Post, BroadwayWorld, others.



Drama League Awards Announces 2021 Nominees and Special Recognition Recipients — The Manic Monologues nominated for “Outstanding Digital Theater, Collection or Festival” | Playbill, March 30, 2021