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Reframing Normalcy

next to normal,

Photo by A. Pierce Bounds '71.

Rock musical invites conversation around mental illness

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Everything seemed perfectly normal in this suburban family home, until the morning when the mother, Diana, woke up with an innocuous-seeming idea: to make the family’s lunches in advance. By the time the rest of the family came to the kitchen for breakfast, she had covered every surface with sandwiches and sandwich fixings. It was, she later learned, a manic episode, and it marked the start of her journey with bipolar depression. As with all families touched by mental illness, every family member was, in some way, along for the ride.

Dickinson’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical Next to Normal tells that story with compassion, humor and heart. It also opens up an opportunity for a community-wide conversation about mental illness, says the show’s star, Sarah Zimmer ’17 (history, theatre arts), who developed a video collection around that theme for her senior theatre-arts thesis, in collaboration with the student group Don’t Conceal to Heal and its president, Claire Maloney ’19 (educational studies, religion). Lecturer in Psychology  Michele Ford, Associate Director of Counseling and Psychiatric Services Donald Domenici, Professor of Theatre Karen Kirkham and the Next to Normal cast will take part in a panel discussion immediately after the Sunday matinee. Don't Conceal to Heal will collect funds to benefit a local mental-health organization.

"I think the main thing I want people to take away from the show and the videos is that it's OK to reach out for help, and that if you are struggling through a mental illness, or if you have a friend or family member struggling with mental illness, you are not alone," said Zimmer. "There is hope."

The show runs Feb. 24-25 and Feb. 27-28 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m. in Mathers Theatre, Holland Union Building. Tickets are $7 regular admission, or $5 with student I.D.  

Click photo to view photo gallery of the spring 2017 musical.


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Published February 23, 2017