Friday, April 1, 2016

Mental 4/1/16

The Towle Youth Theater Ensemble (TYTE) is made of 6th to 12th grade students. Its purpose is to educate students in theater. Building artists and leaders. I have to say, I have seen exemplary conduct from these students when they represent the Towle Theater outside the theater, and of course when they are within the theater, whether in a production or there for support. For more information, click here and you will be taken to their website.

Now for the production and world premiere of, “Mental”. This play is brilliant! This was written by a TYTE member, Isabel (Isy) Zuniga. (Isy is a senior at Munster High School.) It is a very powerful play about teen depression and suicide, from the teens point of view. Who else can best deliver such an accurate emotion, but a teen.

As an actor you can be called upon to play both young and old of the same character. I think this is easier as an adult actor to pull off. How about the other way around? A teen acting as a child then a teen, or just an adult in a profession. This play does ask these youngs actor to be younger than their age then a young adult. Some were also required to play the mother, psychiatrist, teacher. To pull that off you do not necessarily have the emotional experience. They have to "act". That is what set the TYTE ensemble apart in this play. They did a superb job playing all the roles in life.  Note, the TYTE membership requirement is 6th grade to 12th grade. You would never know that by this performance.

Here is your cast, starting with the character name . . .

Jo - Claire LeMonnier
Mother - Lilly Lamberg

X - Noah River-Jansky

Warren - Adam Varela

Lea - Kelly Collins

Dr. Reisling / Dr. Norris - Lauren Florek

Dr. Chinton - Alexandria Shinkan

Teacher / Medical Doctor - Connor Khoury
Lexi - Carmen De La Torre
Chrissa / Gen - Lilly Musgraves
Megan Ellen - Paige Lichnerowicz
Paramedic - Alex Traina
Kelsea - Jacie Shumaker
Attendant - Eddi Jania

Here are some photos of the play. Enjoy!

I have to apologize for not getting everyone in this next photo. I did not realize until this lineup, how large this cast is.

Ensemble Staff

Stage Manager - Megan Eickleberry-Montalbano
Costume Assistant - Danielle Allen
Box Office Manager - Logan Kulinski

Production Staff

Director - Dan Brennan
Lighting Design - Jeff Casey
Costume Coordination - Kevin Bellamy

Inner speech vs. someone talking in your head, hearing voices. When you read to yourself, you are talking to yourself with inner speech. When you do something like grocery shop and you need milk, you think with an inner speech “I need to get milk”. So we take it as normal that we talk to ourselves. When in our life that started I surely do not remember. Perhaps it was from reading to myself. Perhaps from dreaming as a kid having fun and playing with my friends, hearing their voices as I imagined us at play.

Now, how about when you suffer from depression, and that voice takes on a persona. What do you do? What do you believe? “Mental” brought all these questions to mind. This well thought out play reflects what real life is for some people, and how it weights heavily on teenagers. What I found interesting in this play, was how the voices seem to portrait real life bullies.

As with most disorders there is medication therapy. You stop taking your meds, you revert back. Sometimes a patient wants to revert back. In the case of Warren, it appears he purposely wants to stay in treatment, because he somehow knows it is safer than being out in the world. Jo, when told her treatment seemed to have improved her, stopped the treatment. We can only speculate why. (Was it to stay with Warren, or was X strong enough to make her, and to later commit suicide.)  It is a difficult path at best, to understand the pressures on teens and the methods to deal with those pressures all by yourself. Even when we were teens ourselves, and now adult, we cannot fully understand. Each experience is unique because of surroundings. Though we may generalize and categorize and pigeon hole an experience with a label so we can talk about it, we are not dealing with individual experience, which is unique.

If you walk away with anything from this play, know that “Mental”, teen depression and suicide is real. Please take the time to understand your teenager. Seek treatment. Help them develop to be strong. Do not let our fragile young people do it on their own.

I rarely do this, because all actors are deserving. However, I need to take this time to give a spotlight on Claire LeMonnier who plays Jo. She is a brilliant actress in lines and emotion. She puts you at ease with her acting, and draws you in with belief. Cheers Claire, for acting well done!!!

Towle Theater
5205 Hohman Ave.
Hammond, IN 46320
(219) 937-8780

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