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Russell Schneider

Code 21

Location + schedule

Gremlin Theatre
2400 University Av W

DateTimeMy FringeAccess
Friday 8/610:00 p.m.  
Sunday 8/84:00 p.m.  
Thursday 8/128:30 p.m.  
Friday 8/135:30 p.m.  
Sunday 8/152:30 p.m.  
About the show

Contains Violence, Adult language
For ages 16+
Drama, Family, Teens

Written by Russell Schneider

Overall rating

Welcome to the Ward.

Code 21 takes place on a fictional locked adolescent psychiatric unit. In this version, the focus is on Sara and Rebecca, two girls who have been put together as roommates on Station 12. Immediately they are at each other's throats because of their different feelings towards everything around them; distress, "mental illness," the hospital itself. But they begin to realize that they prefer each other's company to that of the hospital staff, who appear regularly to "regulate" them. By the end of the story, they give each other a much-needed bit of emotional release, and the ability to at least try to move forward.

But this concept of "moving forward" is complicated. Sara and Rebecca never do quite come to a definitive conclusion as to whether or not they are even broken or "damaged" to begin with; much of their apparent progress is based on subterfuge towards the institution; and the real goals they must achieve are largely reliant on what kind of help the world can offer them. Can there be progress, healing, or absolution when the world itself is the source of despair?

Code 21 is not meant to offer any easy answers to these questions. It is an expose on the nature of the psych ward, especially when dealing with adolescents, and it is a challenge to all of us: how can we deal with distress better?

Our production is many things: an opportunity for new- or even non-actors to take the stage and express something important to them; a tentative first step for a social movement; an exercise in production chops; a darkly humorous and truly heartwrenching event for the audience. We here at Iconoclasm Theatre hope that you will enjoy it.

More about Iconoclasm Theatre:
Technically, we don't exist yet. The organization known as Iconoclasm Theatre is still merely a concept, and may not properly coalesce for many years. But when it does, it will carry on the tradition started by this performance: a Theatre whose production process is as important as its performances, which works to give a transformative experience to all involved by working to respect and uphold boundaries while enlivening the mind; a Theatre whose works are socially conscious and against the grain, striving to tear down hurtful and unnecessary conventions and to replace them with ingenuity and thought; a Theatre whose goal is a revolution of social consciousness.

More about Code 21:
This play is the result of 5 years of incubation and workshopping. After Russell Schneider, the author, was hospitalized in Fairview Riverside's adolescent unit 4B in 2004, he began pondering as to how he might turn his experience into a dramatic text. Four years and several other visits to Riverside later, he was able to put enough distance between himself and the subject that he could write about the people he'd met there and the experiences he'd witnessed, and the full version of Code 21 was born. It was performed in its full length, 2-act version after a summer of workshopping in November 2009 by Macalester College student group Fog Machine. A video recording of this performance can be found on Youtube:

The current version is shorter, with less characters, due to the length restrictions of the Fringe Festival. Its transmutation was overseen by co-producer Zoe Christianson.

Almost everything in this play, in both versions, was either seen directly or learned about second-hand by the author during his many visits.

Amelia Mohn
Role: Sara
Amelia Mohn, recently 17, totally blew away the producers at her last-minute crack audition by delivering an impressive monologue, despite virtually zero prior experience - while Macalester College bagpipes interrupted her, no less! Since then, she has overcome a seemingly insurmountable hill of lines and formed a very rich character, who we are thrilled to have in our show.

Zoë Christianson
Role: Rebecca/Co-Producer
Zoë Christianson, 21, has previously developed her theatrical skills on the stage and off, performing her original poetry at many different venues. With this experience, and a deep understanding of the material itself gained as the author's co-producer, she was a natural fit for the role of Rebecca.
She is a Creative Writing major and Psychology Minor at Macalester College, and looks eagerly forward to continuing the work of this play by applying her education towards earning a masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology.

Mickaylee Shaughnessy
Role: Lorelei/Dramaturg

Russell Schneider
Role: Writer/Director/Producer/Doctor Song
Russ is incalculably thrilled to be producing/directing his work in the Fringe - he's been dreaming about it for quite some time now, actually. To be honest, though, he wasn't really expecting (or even wanting) to be acting in it! But such is life and theatre and it will work out for the best.
Russ is 22, a recent graduate of Macalester College with the BA in Theatre, and plans to revolutionize the world with the power of theatre, activism, and their intersection. Previous roles of note include The Marquis de Sade in Macalester's 2010 production of Marat/Sade, and Orgon in Macalester's 2009 production of Tartuffe.

Natalie Khuen
Role: Graphic Designer
Natalie Khuen is a brilliant designer with talent, passion and dedication to her craft, capable of creating untold majesty on page and stage - unfortunately, we couldn't fit that majesty in the van and carry it on and off stage every night, so we had to cut it. Virtually all of it.

Nonetheless, if you saw a poster or postcard, you saw her solid design work.

Caitlin Carlson
Role: Makeup/ASM

Rebecca Zenefski
Role: Photographer
Rebecca is a committed and knowledgeable photographer getting established in the Twin Cities, and Iconoclasm Theatre is all to happy to giver her our business. She deserves mention on our cast list because even though our time together was short, she was professional, courteous, and incredibly effective at her work. If you saw our postcards or posters, you know what we're talking about.

Rebecca, being a professional photographer, would be happy to have your business.

User reviews

where others fear to tread
by Katie Prock Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
If you've never had to go in, this show will bring the psych ward to you with brutal honesty. No matter how much we'd like to sidestep the ugly things in life--from simple insecurity to self-inflicted wounds--Schneider's work says what needs to heard. Pills really are touted as the only cure. You're identified by your problem. And you have to be able to not only pull yourself through, but making friends and sticking together can work wonders for figuring yourself out and why you're "sick" in the first place.

The people putting on this show aren't professionals. And that's a good thing: despite the smooth delivery 'real' actors and actresses can give, here it's all about the experience. Russ and Zoe know firsthand how mental illness is regarded and treated in modern America, and it's that experience that really drives their points home.

'Code 21' isn't pretty. The truth rarely is. I congratulate their bravery and wish them all the best.

Bravo Code 21!
by Oliver Christianson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
There's a lot to like in this play! Complex topics, well written, well performed! See it while you can!

Difficult subject matter well handled
by Sylvia Rosem Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Parts of this show made me want to cry.
as someone who has been through some of the same things, the show hit hard for me. So true that those responsible hardly ever pay. For actresses with little or no prior experience, I thought they did very well.

This Show Needs Counseling
by Andrew Fafoutakis Follow this reviewer
Rating 1 kitty
Well the production was an eager one with high aspirations, but there were too many faults that led to a poor show. The writing was a bit heavy-handed with much of the dialogue working too hard to try to get the audience to care. No relationships were built for any of the characters and emotional breaking points were forced with little payoff. The acting was very wooden with many lines mumbled or said through clenched teeth. The climax at the end was full of emptiness and over-acting. There were bright spots in the script, but the whole production needs a lot of work.

Needs work...
by Scott Gilbert Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
Like the lives of the characters this script and direction needs work. I appreciate the effort, but it just didn't work.

Poor script, wooden acting
by FringeBob Squarepants Follow this reviewer
Rating 1 kitty
Wow. Yeah. I don't want to feel like I'm attacking the writer/director's life either. But this really didn't work for me.

The script is poorly put together and poorly directed. There's no sense of authenticity here, no genuine depth of character. Reviewer Nick Decker hit the nail on the head: the blocking is distracting and doesn't feel natural, and the script ends up feeling forced.

It feels like there's too much agenda, way too little content. I understand the notion of "write what you know", but man, yeah. Watch a good teen issue flick instead, or catch Blank Slate's Disordered @ Fringe instead. The teens here have a far more genuine show to propose.

Code 21 might work better as a piece of occupational therapy.

by Nick Decker Follow this reviewer
Rating 1 kitty
I’m not here to attack Russel Schneider’s life. His experiences are personal and troubling, and no doubt he has a legitimate complaint about the American mental health system.

But his message was obliterated by what was actually delivered onstage.

There is absolutely no chemistry or sense of connection between any of the characters. Part of the blame goes to the wooden performances of the novice actresses, who ramble off their lines with no emotional stakes, and then expect an unearned dramatic payoff at the climax. Part of the blame falls upon Schneider’s inability to coax the performances he needs from his cast, or his inability to block their movements in the least distracting method possible (really, they’re territorial teenage girls and total strangers; they shouldn’t move from one girl’s bed to the other without an established rapport).

But then, part of the problem is the script. Most of the dialogue boils down to:

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

“Well, here’s what’s wrong…”

I’ll accept that exchange once, maybe twice. But by the fifth time, it’s devolved into a formulaic excuse to provide exposition.

I’m not here to question the show’s interpretation of young women coping with trauma. But there’s just so much theatre, film, and literature that’s better, that’s more authentic at chronicling these issues. Go read The Big Rewind or read/watch Girl, Interrupted instead.

Code 21: a review
by Jim Eelkema Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
The simplicity of the set stood in stark contrast to the sturm und drang of the turmoil displayed in Code 21 - a play written and produced by Russell Schneider. As a physician, I am familiar with the ways and means of your average psych ward, as well as with the jargon and slang which is particular to every walk of life.Even so, there were no inside jokes and the medical and psychological issues were presented in a form which the average Jane or Joe could comprehend.
The play was a snapshot of the intersection of two lives on a psych ward. One, Rebecca ( or was it Lyndsey?) was a "frequent flyer"to the ward and the other, Sarah, a first time patient. Both want just desperately to get..., well, well.
The struggle for normalcy seems, at times, to be impeded by the well meaning staff. The staff is merely following rules and regulations which have been honed and fine-tuned over years of practice and hundreds if not thousands of patients. The struggle of the staff between following the rules and thinking outside the box was muted as the main focus was on the two troubled teens.
At length the two patients did see what I felt to be a dim light at the end of a long tunnel. A sequel would ( and should) take that light and shine it brightly over the chaotic landscape called mental health.

Adolescent angst
by Amy Keppel Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Russell Schneider's tale of two teen girls, roommates in the adolescent psychiatry ward, is a powerful look at the way society perceives mental illness. The system is experienced from the inside out. Strong performances from the lead actresses gave a look into the psychic pain of two lost souls. And although all 16 year old girls hate their mothers, watch out for these two!
Schneider does a convincing job as the psychiatrist who believes medications will fix anything. A worthwhile look into a seldom seen world.

by Elaine Schneider Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A poignant look at two troubled teenage girls, as they interact and work through their issues that have landed them in the psych ward. Extremely well-written, and the acting was excellent as well. Touching and profound. Highly recommend.