A rock musical about bipolar disorder? “Next To Normal” roared into Tucson to the Arizona Theatre Company last night. It’s worth seeing.
For me, which is more compelling — politics and President Obama’s re-election or helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness. They’re both right up there (I’m such a lightweight — taking a break from politics I see a play about mental illness. Oh well. Tonight we’re seeing “Stomp.”)
A few things bothered me about the ATC production. The main character, Diana, often sounded more operatic than rock ‘n rolly. Still, what exuberance, what a topic for a Tony Award-Pulitzer-Prize-winning play! I missed “Next to Normal” on Broadway. I love the title: What is normal?
I recently received a grant from Poets & Writers magazine to run a writing workshop at Cafe 54/Our Place Clubhouse for people with serious mental illness. The idea came from one of the clubhouse members whom I’ve worked with on her writing. Since the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson that seriously wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others, she’s asked, “Does everyone think that if someone has a mental illnesss she may go out and start shooting people at any time?”
“Maybe we should do some writing, put a book together with others,” I replied, “letting people know what it’s like to have a mental illness.”
Hey, aren’t we all on a sanity continuum? There’s a difference between well-functioning people who receive treatment and those who don’t. This fact is often lost on the general public.
As Brian Yorkey, one of the shows creators, put it, “Diana is not exotic and other. She’s one of us.”
“Next to Normal” closes in Tucson just prior to Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 7-13.