Company: Gutless & Grateful/Hampshire College
I grew up believing that my entire life would be dedicated to the performing arts. Now, I’m also a survivor and “thriver” of sexual abuse, 27 surgeries, coma, organ failure, and the PTSD that comes from ten years of trauma – or what I now call my “beautiful detour.”
At 18, years old, a blood clot caused my body to go into septic shock. I was in a coma for six months, and after a total gastrectomy, I was unable to eat or drink a drop of water for six of the past ten years. After 27 surgeries, I was miraculously reconnected with the intestines I had left. To persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength – strength I didn’t know I was capable of until I was tested.
I learned that the human spirit feeds off of hope, and hope is fuel we can cultivate ourselves. Ultimately, I learned that with resourcefulness, creativity, and unwavering curiosity, we can transform any adversity into personal growth and a resilience that is uniquely ours.
Everything became possible once I was willing to intentionally wander from the life I planned and embrace this “detour” as an opportunity for discovery. This is not the life that I planned for myself – but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?
So many gifts came out of this. I discovered painting in hospitals and flourished as a mixed media artist with solo art shows, merchandise and creativity workshops. I wrote a one-woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, which I’ve performed in theatres across the country for three years and now take it to college campuses, conferences and support groups as a mental health awareness and sexual assault prevention program. After never having a boyfriend in my life, I tried online dating, got married, did a TEDx Talk about it, and then, when suddenly faced with divorce, I realized strength I never knew I had. And I finally started college…at 25 years old.
I was not able to fully appreciate the beauty of my detours until I was able to share them. As a performer, all I’ve wanted to do was give back to the world. But now I have an even greater gift to give: a story to tell.
Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, award-winning actress, and playwright. As a survivor and “thriver” of multiple traumas, Amy eagerly shares the gifts of life’s “beautiful detours” her educational programming, writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking. Amy has headlined international conferences on leadership, entrepreneurship, women’s rights, mental health, disability, creativity, and domestic violence prevention. She is a SheSource Expert, a “Top Mental Health” writer for Medium, and a regular lifestyle, wellness, and arts contributor for over 70 notable online and print publications, and and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, MSNBC, among others.
To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events. Her passion for inclusion, equity and amplifying marginalized voices has earned her various honors, including a scholarship from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Professionals, the first annual SHERocks Herstory National Performing Artist Honoree, a United Way Community Helper award, and a National Sexual Education Grant honor. To creatively engage student advocacy efforts, Amy developed a trauma-informed program combining mental health education, sexual assault prevention, and Broadway Theatre for college campuses, organizations and conferences. She has designed a creative curriculum for “Detourist Resiliency,” an outreach program taken to schools, hospitals and at-risk youth. She also has launched Detourist peer-led chapters on college campuses, Detourist creative arts workshops, and an online community to creatively fight stigma in society through storytelling. “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx Talk and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.
As the 2014 Eastern Regional Recipient of Convatec’s Great Comebacks Award and WEGO Health 2016 “Health Activist Hero” Finalist, and WeGO Health Expert, Amy is a passionate voice in the ostomy community, founding the online community Fearless Ostomates, speaking for National and Regional WOCN conferences, and writing for the official print publication of the UOAA. Her presentations on alternative medicine, and patient advocacy and healthcare have also been accepted to international conferences on patient care, internal medicine, medical trauma and therapeutic humor in hospitals. She has devised workshops for the Transformative Language Arts Network National Conference, the Eating Recovery Foundation, the 40th Anniversary New England Educational Opportunity Association Milestones Conference, the Annual National Mental Health America Conference,2016 American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress, and others. She was the 2016 keynote speaker for the Hawaii Pacific Rim International Conference on Diversity and Disability. and will be the featured keynote speaker at the 2018 International School of Social Work Conference in Ohio.
As a playwright, Amy has received awards and accolades for engaging her audiences in dynamic conversation on trauma’s effects on society, including Women Around Town’s “Women to Celebrate” 2014, BroadwayWorld “Best Theatre Debut,” Bistro Awards “New York Top Pick, and the “Singular Award” at the Sarasolo Theatre Festival, presented annually for a “performance that is exceptionally uncommon, groundbreaking, original and inventive.” Amy has written, directed and starred in a one-woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, touring theatres, schools, festivals, conventions and organizations since it’s 2012 New York debut. Gutless & Grateful is currently being licensed to students across the country for academic projects and competitions. Amy spent Fall of 2015 participating as a playwright and performance artist in the National Musical Theatre Institute at the world-renowned Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, where she helped to develop the full-length multimedia ensemble piece, The Greeks Are Trying to Tell Us Something, and was a writer, actress, composer and set designer for “Playwrights and Librettists” – a festival of 27 30-minute plays in five days. Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, exploring the physical and psychological impact of trauma, premiered at the Producer’s Club in 2016, and is currently in development for a full New York production as Flicker and a Firestarter. Her short plays have been published by the Eddy Theatre Company and finalists in Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Short Play Festival, as well as NYC Playwright’s Women in the Age of Trump.
Amy’s collaboration with Beechwood Arts on the immersion salon, “Resilience and the Power of the Human Spirit”, has traveled around the world to health and arts facilities as a public installation, incorporating her monologues, art, writing and recipes to express the life-altering detours and ultimately the invaluable gifts of her resilient journey. Amy is also an active artist and teacher in the Jewish community, being honored by United Way in 2005 for her music programs at Hollander House, completing artist residencies at Art Kibbutz, and delivering “Hope, Resilience & Biblical Women” keynotes for synagogues and religious schools. After studying Theatre of the Oppressed in her studies at Hampshire College, she helped to train ACTSmart, a Playback Theatre troupe in Amherst, MA. She is also a passionate arts education advocate, a successful mixed media visual artist, a continuing education studio arts teacher, and an active member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, League for Advancement of New England Storytellers, Fairfield County Cultural Alliance, Alliance for Jewish Theatre, Theatre Artist Workshop, and several art guilds throughout Connecticut and New York.
Amy is currently developing a multimedia performance project incorporate her original music compositions with the oral histories of her grandmother, a holocaust survivor with musical director David Brunetti. She is also working on a full-length play with music, LEFTOVERS with director and dramaturge Susan Einhorn, based on her life after the surgical ICU. She is leading mixed media creativity workshops to promote creativity as a mindset, an essential survival skill. Amy also offers creative coaching and consulting services help others navigate their own “life detours,” and prides herself most on ending each night with a gratitude list.
Interests: Peacebuilding, Social Engagement, Empowerment