Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Added Challenges: Speaking Our Truths: IYF series, Part 3

In the newest edition of the –Ism Youth Files podcasts, host Jenell Theobald talks with young artists about the challenges of disability during and after the pandemic.


Stage & Studio debuts the third episode the special five-part documentary series of interviews and creative writing by and with 20 young artists and writers. This week we feature “Added Challenges” featuring three youth stories of disability.

On “Added Challenges” host Jenell Theobald discusses the challenges of disability during and after the pandemic as youth returned to school, and how that compounded issues in the pandemic. She speaks from personal experience and also brings in other youth that have similar challenges.

“I was born with several physical and mental disabilities, including autism. And because of that, I always struggled to fit in and I experienced depression. One of my teachers once said, “every generation has a turning point.” For my generation, it was the covid-19 pandemic.  It forced us to adapt and make changes we might not have made.” – Jenell Theobald

Featuring writers Niko Boskovic and Veronica Salrin with a reading by actress Fermina Lopez.

Poetry excerpts from the writers:

My OCD is a raging bull that wakes at dawn and doesn’t relent until I fall asleep. 

The beast won’t ever rest even when I am exhausted its eyes are covered and caked 


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in the stadium’s dust. Even when I relax the bull scrapes its hooves in preparation of a charge at any friendly face. – “Loosen The Ties That Bind” by Niko Boskovic

Walking becomes harder and harder, more painful as though my joint sockets are sandpaper. Rubbing down whatever is left of the bent and broken me. Each reminder of my pain pulls me down. I cover myself in a syrup beneath me putting on that positive perspective that makes the bent and broken attractive again. – “Bent and Broken” by Veronica Salrin

More about the series:

MediaRites, a Portland nonprofit led by Executive Producer Dmae Lo Roberts, created the series Speaking Our Truths: The –Ism Youth Files (IYF). This is a culmination of a two-year book and podcast project detailing the effects of the pandemic on youth mental health, This series of half-hour episodes features interviews with 20 youth artists and writers who submitted work and were chosen to be a part of The -Ism Youth Files project.

Their work (which includes essays, poems, graphic novels, and artwork) is now available as an anthology book available in paperback or ebook form on Amazon.  We listen to them describe the trials they have overcome, including a global pandemic, and how various factors have impacted their mental health and wellness and how they have overcome to flourish now.

For more information about the project, the published book or ebook or to download a free youth mental health toolkit, visit

The –Ism Youth files book and podcast project was produced by Dmae Lo Roberts with Amanda Anderson and Samson Syharath. Literary works editor was Sandra de Helen and the mental health consultant is Dr. Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara of Luminosa Psychological Services. The episodes were mixed and mastered by Clark Salisbury.


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All episodes feature music by Tomo Singh in Boston, Mass. Podcast is appropriate for ages 14 and up. A content warning begins each episode for listeners. Podcasts will debut each Friday on Stage & Studio on ArtsWatch, continuing October 6 and 13.

Listen to episode one here.

Listen to episode two here.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on, which continues at ArtsWatch.


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