SUU theater students advocate for mental health issues in play that begins Thursday

2021 Southern Utah University theater student, Cedar City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University students will be presenting a play that broaches mental health issues, which can be accessed online or watched on a big screen at the university in accordance to COVID-19 restrictions. 

According to a press release issued by the university, SUU’s theatre, dance and arts administration department presents Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis to broach the topic of mental health, depression and suicide through the eyes of a young woman as she struggles to make sense of her own depression through poetry, love, religion and family.

SUU theatre students will present this play in two different forms this Thursday (Realism), Friday (Avant-Garde) and Saturday (Realism) at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday (Avant-Garde) at 2 p.m.

To participate in this live streamed event online, visit the virtual theater website.  

There will also be a live audience option with a masked, social distant audience in the auditorium to watch the performance on a big screen. Pre-registration is encouraged at least 15 minutes before the show.

Photo by benjavisa/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

This production contains themes centered around suicide and depression and could be triggering to some audience members. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dr. Scott C. Knowles, director of 4.48 Psychosis, discussed his concept for this piece.

“This show is a unique experience in that we are doing the show in two different ways: as a realistic piece of theatre and as a more avant-garde exploration of the themes of the performance,” he said in the release. “The actors are the same for both productions and it is fascinating to work in two modes simultaneously.”

He said the play 4.48 Psychosis is one that, according to Sarah Kane’s long time director, James MacDonald, was meant to be “an experiential picture of what depression is like […] to allow them [an audience] to experience that.”

“For me, this is at the heart of the play,” he said. “We are trying to explore the nature of depression and suicide in order to open up about depression and suicide within our community and provide a chance to empathize with and understand the struggles of our peers, our siblings, our parents, and our children.

Audiences are encouraged to see the show twice to experience the realistic and avant-garde versions of the play.

2021 Southern Utah University theater student, Cedar City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

The production team is working on this project as a piece of practice as research in which they are exploring emotion within the theatre and how it operates for actors as well as audiences. Actors are required to journal about their daily emotional experience in rehearsals. Audiences will have a similar opportunity after viewing the show.

Olivia Sham, a senior musical theatre major from Cedar City, said in the release that working on the play has been both inspiring and challenging.

“Every day I fall more in love with Kane’s writing and the endless possibilities for storytelling and emotion that the text holds,” she said. “This show is very heavy and may be challenging for many audience members to view so definitely read about it beforehand and use your discretion!”

Beyond that, she said she thinks it’s important for audiences to know that this show isn’t just about the dark side of mental illness.

“It is full of so much color and life and depth of emotion that I feel capture and encompass the experience of living with mental illness.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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