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One act plays explore the implications of mental health issues

| Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Student Players, one of Notre Dame’s student-run acting groups, are presenting their fall production, consisting of three short, one-act plays. The show, “Even in Pieces: A One-Act Festival,” will focus on the issue of mental health, with the goal of increasing awareness of these issues at Notre Dame.

Junior Alex Daugherty is the director of “Asylum,” a play that chronicles the stories of patients in a state-run mental institution. Though all the patients are in the same physical space, Daugherty said there is very little actual interaction between the characters. (Editor’s Note: Alex Daugherty is a Scene writer for The Observer)

Photo courtesy of Albert Olzsewski

Members of the performance group The Student Players rehearse for their upcoming performance in ‘Even in Pieces’: A One Act Play Festival.’ All of the one act plays deal with issues of mental health.

“There are clear connections between the stories, echoes between different characters,” Daugherty said. “I did try to incorporate some non-verbal interactions, but they don’t have conversations the way that you would expect from a show.”

Daugherty said he hoped “Asylum” would help dispel stereotypes about mental illness.

“It is easier to think that mental illness is a sign of weakness than simply an illness,” Daugherty said. ”These people are strong people that are just sick.”

Graduate student Al Olszewski is the director of “4 A.M.,” which takes a look at the lives of people, specifically young adults, who are all awake at 4 a.m. The show addresses themes of depression, anxiety and loneliness.

“It’s got this overall theme of loneliness and how empty the world is at 4 a.m., but it also provides a light at the end of the tunnel for everybody who feels lonely,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski said “4 A.M.” is especially relatable to the audience, because the themes are universal.

“With regards to mental health, not all of it has to be diagnosed,” Olszewski said. “I think everyone can relate with feeling alone and isolated. I hope people see that in the characters, empathize with it and feel okay with being alone every once in a while, and reach out to other people especially.”

Samuel Jackson, a sophomore, is directing “The Other Room,” in which two classmates, Lily and Austin, meet and develop a relationship. It is quickly revealed that Austin has autism. However, the show is unique in that it gives insight into the inner workings of Austin’s mind.

“The audience has access to the ‘other room,’ located upstage, in which there are four characters who represent the internal dialogue of Austin’s mind,” Jackson said. “You have the audience understanding why Austin makes his choices, while also understanding why Lily makes her choices, as Lily usually represents the person who is ‘mentally stable.’”

Jackson said that the insight that the audience has into Austin’s choices can increase understanding and empathy for people who have autism and other mental health issues.

“You don’t really know what people are going through,” Jackson said. “There are many cases of untreated mental illness in America, and I think this show does a nice job of developing that empathy … by showing the interaction between two people who don’t really understand each other but get to know each other through communication.”

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