Finding Healing in Performance

Buskirk believes that audience members and participants find comfort and healing by seeking connection with one another. “Part of what we have too much of is death and dying and our heart-breaking mortal experience being a private matter,” he said, “And I think what we desire more of is healing through connectedness and reminders that we’re not alone.”

Buskirk adds, “I leave the show and I feel more alive and connected than I did before it began. And I think maybe I could argue if anything happens at the show, it’s at least that you feel less alone and more alive.”

You’re Going to Die runs the gamut of emotions, from joy and ecstasy to grief and sadness. The performers’ stories can easily move Buskirk to cry one moment and laugh the next. “It’s how it was when my mom died,” he said, “These long stretches of feeling destroyed by sadness and despair and heartbreak. And then suddenly finding euphoria or a moment of hilarity. There’s something healthy about that.”

As the evening winds down and the curtain closes, the show isn’t over for Buskirk. You’re Going to Die is also a nonprofit organization that does charitable work. He organized Songs for Life, a group of musicians who play music for hospice patients. Buskirk also started Alive Inside, monthly open mic events at San Quentin. He hopes to expand Alive Inside to other prisons outside of California.

Buskirk’s creative use of the performing arts has touched many in the Bay Area and has helped normalize open discussions around death—the final act in our lives.

This report was written and produced with the support of a journalism fellowship from The Gerontological Society of America, Journalists Network on Generations, and The Silver Century Foundation.

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