Theater has been part of my entire life. It has been the guiding light and companion for me throughout the mental health challenges I’ve faced since I was much younger. I earned my bachelor’s degree in drama therapy because of how theater can help others to explore issues through the art of storytelling.
There are two ways I personally think about theater and arts in relation to mental health.
- The therapeutic model of drama therapy uses drama to explore emotions to help talk through challenging issues. Similar to play therapy with children, drama therapy uses role playing to approach mental health issues, such as trauma, anxiety, family dynamics, and depression just to name a few. Those who participate in drama therapy will learn coping techniques through role play, followed by a therapeutic discussion with a trained Drama Therapist.
- Experiencing art and creativity takes us outside of ourselves. We’re able to watch and listen to the theater, music, and art as it relaxes our body. Theater provides a healthy and meaningful way of escape from some of our own challenges. Hopefully we can take something from the theater experience – maybe it makes us more empathetic or gets us to think more about social issues. Or, maybe it brings tears of joy, or that smile across our face that we so desperately needed. The theater has been my healthy escape, that allowed me to explore some challenging issues in a safe space. It is also one of the best forms of connection. Art, music, and theater, brings us together.
When I was younger, the one way I could get some respite of my own mental health challenges was through acting in musical theater. It helped me to find a life while living daily with panic disorder. Believe it or not, being on stage and creating a character relaxed me. A lot of people who perform also suffer from panic disorder, two of these well know stars are Barbra Streisand and Cher.
When I listened to the musical theater songs, I was able to dream, create, and relax in the moment. It gave me a sense of hope during times when I felt my life was difficult.
In today’s theater world there are shows out there – such as RENT, Next to Normal, and Dear Evan Hansen – that take some of life’s most challenging issues and brings them to life in a vulnerable and real way. They pull the curtain away from the stigma of mental health, and show how real people cope with real challenges. These shows do not skirt around the tough topics, they bring you with them on the journey.
I think that this theater is not only beautiful, it is needed now more than ever.
Let’s Continue the Conversation
On Tuesday, October 6 at 5 pm, I will be joined on Zoom with Tony award-winning producer, Rachel Weinstein. Some of her notable shows include Dear Evan Hansen and Jagged Little Pill.
Together we will have a candid conversation about the theater and the impact it has on mental health and social issues in today’s society. I hope you join JFS, Rise Recovery, and David’s Legacy Foundation for this much needed discussion. This is one conversation that you do not want to miss! REGISTER NOW>