Steven Brown isn't so dramatic as to say that discovering theater saved his life.
He will admit, however, that it saved him from the life he was living.
"I saw no future for myself except death or jail," the 23-year-old from Sunnyvale says.
Steven, who struggled deeply with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder as a teenager, says it was at the urging of a friend that he tried out for a play when he was 17. The welcoming, supporting atmosphere he discovered, he says, gave him the strength and support to conquer his inner demons.
"I knew right away this was the right thing for me," Steven says.
Steven says starting with that first show, Pride and Prejudice, he has been acting and directing non-stop. With each production, Steven says, his self-confidence and well-being grew.
The whole experience was so revelatory for Steven, he decided to dedicate himself to helping other troubled young people overcome whatever issues they were facing. So, at the age of 20, Steven started the Chrysalis Youth Theater.
He was convinced there were many others, particularly kids growing up in the high-pressure atmosphere of Silicon Valley, who needed what he found. "It's a scary place to be in those teenage years," Steven says, "so to have a place where you can come and be around people your own age who work on those developmental skills in a really really safe environment is crucial."
In just three years, Steven has directed seven productions for Chrysalis, featuring close to 150 young actors.
Steven says, above all else, Chrysalis is a "safe" place for kids. "No cliques, no back-stabbing," Steven says. "Everyone working together and supporting each other."
The fact that he is the one in charge of the program, and all the children, amazes Steven. At the depth of his depression, just a few years ago, Steven says he had trouble getting off the couch of his family's home. That children now look to him for direction, advice, and encouragement is evidence, Steven says, there is hope for everyone, regardless of their problems.
"No matter how badly you have messed your life up, or somebody else has messed your life up, you can recover from that and do something very special. Something way beyond you."