Not only did Sara Benincasa conquer her agoraphobic fear of leaving her apartment — she became a standup comedian, and wrote a whole book about it.
Benincasa will celebrate the release of “Agorafabulous,” a collection of short, humorous stories that chronicles one woman’s struggle with crippling agoraphobia — a panic disorder characterized by fear of public places and open spaces — and how she overcame her demons through therapy and comedy, on Feb. 28 at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint.
“The book deals with my evolution from a pretty bold teenager to someone who was housebound and afraid to leave her room, even go to the bathroom, in college, to someone who eventually becomes a standup comedian,” she said.
Benincasa’s tone is easy and conversational, and her razor-sharp wit is laced with the kind of wise and biting self-deprecation that comes only with the confidence of a seasoned comedian, though things weren’t always so easy for her; in her late teenage years and into her early twenties, Benincasa became plagued by panic attacks, terrified to leave her cramped campus quarters in college. It took years for her to muster the courage to begin a recovery process that involved much medication and therapy — not exactly funny stuff. But through her stories — which originated first as part of an evolving standup act that she honed into a one-woman show, and eventually ended up on the pages of her first book — Benincasa explores and reflects upon her own fears and experiences, and in turning her trauma into comedy, pens a hilarious tribute to her former self.
“Comedy is a place where you can be whoever you want to be onstage, and you have control over your persona,” Benincasa said. “When you’re mentally ill, you don’t have control entirely over your thoughts, sometimes over your behaviors, and certainly the way you appear to the outside world. I felt a great sense of power when I was able to tweak my horrible experiences into funny ones. I felt like I was finally winning.”
Sara Benincasa celebrates “Agorafabulous!” at WORD [126 Franklin St. between Milton and Noble streets in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096]. Feb. 28, 7 pm, free. For info, visit www.wordbrooklyn.com.