If anyone can make a concert about mental health entertaining, it's Elisa Korenne, New York Mills' award-winning singer, songwriter and storyteller.
Korenne will be bringing her newest song-and-story concert, "Crazy About You: Sifting for Sanity in the History of the Insane," to Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre next Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m.
The 70-minute concert will be preceded by a 4 p.m. writing workshop for all ages and a 6:30 p.m. mini-concert for children, who will then be whisked away by childcare providers so their parents can attend the 7 p.m. concert.
"Everything is free," says Korenne, though pre-registration is required for both the workshop and childcare.
It's all made possible, she added, through grant funding from the Fergus Falls-based Lake Region Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from Minnesota's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.
"The LRAC saw my vision as an opportunity to open a conversation about mental illness, by providing an entertaining concert as a forum to engage people in this conversation, and to bring them to a greater awareness about mental illness."
She said another unique factor about this show is the fact that free childcare will be available for parents "who might otherwise be unable to attend. I have two small boys at home, so believe me, I understand."
After the success of her crowd-pleasing concerts, "Madams, Matrons, and Madwomen," and "'Oy Vey' is Jewish for 'Uff-da,'" Korenne shifted her attention to a topic that was a bit more serious.
"This show is exploring an essential part of the human condition: mental health," she says, adding that she was at least partially motivated by her own struggles with depression.
"I cope with depression - sometimes I cope with it well and sometimes, not so well, but it's a part of my life I deal with every day," Korenne added. "I talk about it a lot in my own life, but I don't talk about it a lot in general conversation, or in my art, and I wanted to."
"Crazy About You" combines original songs, stories, anecdotes, and music to examine the fine line between sanity and insanity and how it has shifted over time.
After the concert, Korenne will stick around for a question-and-answer session with the audience, where she says no topic is off limits.
"It's an open forum where the audience can ask me anything," she said, but cautioned that as she is not a mental health professional, her answers on that topic will be limited to her own experiences. "But I would love to talk about anything in the show, and hopefully lead them to do more research."
One of the topics that might come up is Korenne's budding literary career: Her first book, an autobiographical tale entitled "Hundred Miles to Nowhere: An Unlikely Love Story," will have its official launch just two days later in New York Mills, which Korenne has called home for more than a decade now.
Fittingly, the launch will take place in NYM's Cultural Center, which was responsible for bringing Korenne to the community as an artist-in-residence back in 2006.
"I had no idea what I was getting into," she says. "I came to the Cultural Center as an artist in residence in May 2006, for one month."
In a strange twist of fate, the New York City-based singer-songwriter ended up making her visit to the small northwest Minnesota community a permanent one.
"I wanted to go canoe camping," she said, adding that even though the group that had signed up to go with her on the trip dropped out, one by one, the Cultural Center board member who had agreed to act as her tour guide did not - so the group excursion became a wilderness trek for two, and romance ensued.
"I fell in love," she says, and so the big city girl moved to a small rural community in northwest Minnesota.
"There was some culture shock," she admitted - something that contributed to her struggles with depression as well.
Though her stories about her experiences as a transplanted Minnesotan have frequently found their way into her music, Korenne decided she wanted to try her hand at writing a book about it as well.
"When I came here and was dealing with culture shock and the depression related to it, as an artist, the way I handle those things is by creating," she explained. "When songs couldn't tell the whole story... I started writing prose."
She quickly found that writing prose was a separate skill from songwriting, and now that she has successfully tackled writing her first book, she wants to help others develop that skill - hence next Thursday's writing workshop, which will deal with "writing about the interesting characters in your life... how to put them on the page and capture their essence." The June 10 "Bagels and Book Launch" event in New York MIlls, which starts at 10 a.m., will also include some reflections on her writing. At 10:30 she will present an hour-long program with readings from the book, live song performance, a presentation on how to go from new writer to published author, and an audience Q&A.
"If you can't make it to the concert on June 8, then please come to New York Mills," Korenne said.
For more information about the June 8 concert, to sign up for free childcare, or to reserve a spot at the workshop, please call the Historic Holmes Theatre at 218-844-7469. For more information about the June 10 book launch, please call the Cultural Center in New York MIlls at 218-385-3339. More about Elisa Korenne and her music - including video links to some of her past performances - is also available online at www.elisakorenne.com.