Podcast Theatre Thoughts

Theatre and Mental Health

Sometimes you see a show that reminds you of why you love theatre. This happens to me at all kinds of productions. I felt this feeling sitting in the audience of the touring production of Waitress. The magic of the choreography and the artistry in the set design had my artistic heart all aflutter. This feeling came over me as I watched my daughter in her first play last year. My love for theatre grew as I watched confidence bloom within my child as she said her lines in front of a packed house. Most recently, I felt this feeling in a back room of an organic grocery store.

“If you live a long life and get to the end of it without ever once having felt crushingly depressed, then you probably haven’t been paying attention.”

Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing is a one-man show that tackles the subjects of suicide and depression. A man stands in front of you and tells you how his mom attempted suicide three times over the course of his life and how he created a list of all the “brilliant” things he could think of in order to remind her of the good around her. 

As a mother who deals with mental illness in the form of generalized anxiety disorder and depression, this show hit me right in the gut. I have never thought about or attempted suicide, but this show made me think about how my own mental health affects my daughter. I have wrestled with anxiety and depression for most of my adult life. I take medication and I see a therapist. I also do theatre, and I have found that over the years I feel best when I am busy with a show. 

Besides being an excellent distraction, theatre has taught me some very legitimate ways of coping with my anxiety: breaking down large tasks to make them manageable, active listening, and meditation are just a few. My theatre community is also a safe place for me to come and just be my silly-creative-weirdo-self.

A few years back, Kayla heard of a workshop put on by mutual friend, Kyle Golden. It was called Improv for Anxiety, and Kyle would walk his students through improv exercises that seemed like fun ice breakers, but were really tools that students could use in their every day lives to combat their anxieties. “Improv was something that really helped my anxiety and I wanted to share that with people,” Kyle explained when we talked to him on our podcast (oh yeah, we have a podcast and you should listen to it). “Yes, and…” is one of the greatest exercises in improv – you just have to agree with whatever the scenario is and go along with it. You and your partner have each others’ backs and you just get to have fun for a little while. That can be very freeing for a person who is riddled with anxiety. 

Besides being an excellent distraction, theatre has taught me some very legitimate ways of coping with my anxiety: breaking down large tasks to make them manageable, active listening, and meditation are just a few. My theatre community is also a safe place for me to come and just be my silly-creative-weirdo-self.

Kyle Golden performing Every Brilliant Thing.

This brings us back to Every Brilliant Thing. Kyle and Durrell Bennet took turns playing the Narrator of the story, and it was Kyle’s turn the night the Stage Moms attended. And this is where we brag about our talented friends. Kyle’s performance was flawless. This show can be incredibly sad and the weight of the subject matter can bury you in your own thoughts, but Kyle uses his incredible sense of comedic timing to pull you out exactly when you need a breath of fresh air.  You see the ups and downs of a childhood haunted by depression in his face as he speaks to audience members who serve as the other characters. 

Durrell Bennett and Kyle Golden during rehearsal

The show sparked conversation between Kayla and I for days after (that’s how you know it’s good). We discussed our shared fears as mothers with mental illness and bonded over our hope to do better. Theatre is our outlet, our mirror, and our encouragement in the hard times and that is why we love it.  

If you would like to hear more about our thoughts on theatre and mental illness check out our podcast!