Okay. I like theater. A lot. I like being transported via script and stage to a place that is not my own, but…..I have to admit: I struggle with musical theater. People do not break into song as recicative; they just don't. If they did, I might give 'em the stink-eye. But when musical theater tackles a topic as delicate and difficult as mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, and does so in way that brings me to laughter and tears, I feel as though I may just be a convert.
I dolled myself up a bit and attended the opening night performance of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's production of Next to Normal–a musical about, well, mental illness..and family..and love…and loss…and rock-star psychiatrists..and psychotropic medications, and…and…yeah…I left the theater a bit dazed, a bit shaken, and pretty stunned.
What's nice about this gig is being able to return to the theater at another time and attend the "Talk Back", where audience members have the opportunity to chat with Mark Clements, the Rep's artistic director, the principle actors, and sometimes even a real-live psychiatrist. I spoke with Mark, as well as Tim Young, who played the part of Gabriel in the production. What followed was a pithy discussion about art, creativity, mental illness, the craft of acting, transformation, and the healing process.
(photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater)