Next to Normal

Kaitlyn Tom – School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Jenya Patel – Ross School of Business; Caleb Middleton, Victoria Vourkoutiotis, Cole Carrico, Alex Li, Tanner Rodriguez – School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Alexandra Lee, LSA & School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Lewis Jackson, Mik Deitz –  LSA; Elaine Cho, Naomi Rodriguez – InterArts

NEXT TO NORMAL is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that centers on a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effects that managing her illness has on her family. The show has historically been all-white, but we are recentering the narrative around an Asian family, exploring the mental health stigmatization in the AAPI community. Through our production, we seek to give opportunities to a traditionally underrepresented community and explore complex identity.

A core value of our production is breaking away from traditional theatre and pushing the boundaries of a historically Western art form. We seek to involve students from disciplines across campus to help us achieve this goal. Two key elements in our production that require interdisciplinary collaboration are our use of puppetry and projection animation. Both these art forms are not typically used in theatre, so we will be collaborating with STAMPS students who are knowledgeable about both art forms.

The impact of NEXT TO NORMAL will be twofold. First, we will create opportunities for non-performance majors. With the return to live theatre, student theatre organizations are incredibly saturated with performance majors who have not had the opportunity to perform in the past couple of years. This has left non-performance majors with very few opportunities, and we are excited to step in and provide a creative outlet for those not studying the arts. Second, we’re excited about providing AAPI students with a performing opportunity that highlights their unique experience in relation to mental health struggles.