Emerson play examines theme of mental illness

by Jake Brodsky

Despite its prevalence in today’s world, mental illness is an issue that continues to carry a stigma. Writer and director senior Noa Goihberg plans to change this in the upcoming Emerson play, which she said strives to both educate and entertain audiences.

The Emerson play is a student-directed production taking place at a festival hosted by Emerson College in downtown Boston every year. This year, the play will run from Jan. 30 to Jan. 31. Goihberg said she plans on incorporating the ideas of all of the actors to get as many different perspectives possible on the topic of mental illness.

According to senior Kaitlynd Collins, a lead actress in the show, the story is about how a family responds after the main character returns home to discover his father’s suicide.

“I think it’s a really important thing to explore,” Collins said. “The way this family deals with it is the way a lot of families would, and it’s not necessarily a great way. I think thatopens up a lot of discussion.”

Junior Trevor LaSalvia, one of the main actors in the show, said the play features analysis of how people treat those whom they do not fully understand, and provides the audience with a lense that reflects our own behaviors.

Photo by Hannah Lowenstein. Junior Trevor LaSalvia and freshman Sarah Grousta block a scene from the play. Writer and director senior Noa Goihberg said she tries to include the other actors’ opinions so that the play can approach the topic of mental illness from all angles.
Photo by Hannah Lowenstein.
Junior Trevor LaSalvia and freshman Sarah Groustra block a scene from the play. Writer and director senior Noa Goihberg said she tries to include the other actors’ opinions so that the play can approach the topic of mental illness from all angles.

“A lot of times we can’t really step back and see how we’re treating people,” LaSalvia said. “The play allows you to take almost a third person perspective and see how you might be treating people when you don’t even know how you’re treating them. It’s a really interesting analysis on that, and kind of an eye-opener.”

Goihberg said student-directed plays are often more flexible in terms of what direction the story takes, but can fall prey to only showing the writer’s perspective. In order to approach the discussion of mental illness from more than one side, Goihberg readily incorporates her cast and crew in the decisions behind the play.

“I want their opinions and their points of view to be as integrated into this play as possible,” Goihberg said. “I don’t want to it to be just what I think. I don’t think that would help anyone.”

LaSalvia said that immersing himself into his character and thinking the way someone rationally would in the same situation is the best way to share the story with the audience.

“I think you have to open yourself up a little more,” LaSalvia said. “In comedies you can remain somewhat distanced from the actual material you’re doing. But with things like this, serious topics, you have to get really involved in how you think they would react, and how you would actually react.”

Collins said she draws on real life experiences and imagines how she might behave in a similar circumstance, while still acknowledging the importance of versatility in acting.

“I know people who have mental illnesses and many people know someone with mental illness. It’s about learning how to navigate it and imagine it,” Collins said. “I don’t have the character that I’m playing 100 percent down, and I probably never will. But it’s about exploring emotions and how to control them.”

Jake Brodsky can be contacted at [email protected]