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‘Next to Normal’ brings mental illness into the light

by Maggie Ganley–Morningside’s upcoming musical, Next to Normal, is thrusting topics into the limelight that most people would rather stay left in the dark.

Next to Normal is a musical that follows the family of Diana Goodman, a bipolar, schizophrenic and manic depressive woman. This musical brings to life the impact that mental illness has on a family and the long-lasting repercussions that can come from not seeking help.


Next to Normal will be showing in Klinger-Neal Theatre
Oct. 4-6 at 7 pm and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 pm.


The leads and director of this production believe that although the subject matter of this musical can be dark, it is important to bring this production to Morningside’s campus.

“I think mental illness and depression is a very common and real thing that not only students here at Morningside go through, but people around the world. That’s what’s so awesome about this show. It brings such dark subject matter to life and … it definitely tells a story of someone who has gone through the worst of it and was able to get back on her feet,” Eric Wells said. (Eric will be playing the lead of Gabe Goodman in this production).

Joey Volquartsen, who plays Diana Goodman, is glad that this musical will be starting a conversation about mental health. Joey also struggles from mental health issues and is glad to find a production that portrays mental health disorders “with truth and not a caricature.”

Taylor Clemens, the director of this production, also believes this musical shows the truth about mental health disorders, not just on the individual level, but on the family level. This is part of the reason this musical enticed him.

“This musical shows a family coping with mental illness, not just an individual person, which I feel is important.  A lot of plays that deal with this subject matter focus on the individual person and not the family, and this creates a very unrealistic depiction of mental illness,” Taylor said.

Showing the impact that mental illness has on families as a whole also perpetuates the idea that there is no such thing as a normal and perfect family.

“It’s really about a family and what a normal family is and how that’s not really an obtainable thing; the idea of the nuclear family, the mother-father perfect relationship, the 2.5 kids that’s the American dream standard. This shows that doesn’t really happen and keeping up this need to be ‘normal’ is harmful in many ways,” Joey said.

The cast and crew of this musical devoted many, many hours towards getting this production ready for showing.

Between the casting back in April, the work put in over the summer, and the five-rehearsals a week schedule, this musical has been a challenging labor of love. One that is not only intended to challenge the audience, but one that has challenged the cast and crew of this musical as well.

Engles Perez will be playing the role of Dan Goodman in this production and believes that being a part of this musical has already changed him in many ways.

“It gave me a completely different view of my life. From my parents, dealing with stress, understanding those small and beautiful moments in life, to how my actions affect others. This play is in a way an introspective journey for the whole cast and viewers that will for sure hit you in the right spot,” Engels said.