Theatre Triggers and Heals

It has been an exhausting week and a grueling four months. But I am beginning to feel like myself again, in terms of feeling inspired by art. Particularly, writing and theatre. The two things where I can find genuine solace, because both evoke the need to create and the want to relate. I often talk about how writing is my passion, but theatre is the secret joy that I want to reveal to everyone.

A few hours ago, I watched a two-man show at the community college. Both actors were former and fellow drama players from my high school, each with a unique talent and a beautiful passion for the stage in various forms. They played the parts of a young man and his personified subconscious, battling an internal struggle that has caused friction among the people he should consider as loved ones but cannot. Through solving children’s riddles, unpacking repressed memories, and confronting unresolved trauma, the young man and his subconscious work through the pain that marks the beginning of a journey to healing–and it is never too late to heal.

This is not meant to be a review of the show, but it might count as one, if my reaction is valid enough to give credit to the performance. What gives this show its gripping portrayal and treatment of an individual’s internal struggle are the exchange of words between the characters and the emotions weighted by each exchange. The source of the script definitely comes from deep, dark places that are difficult to live through, but can be translated into something beautiful and meaningful. In other words, if the audience can actually feel the emotion, then both the performers and the audience were never alone in those deep, dark places. They have entered and lived in familiar territory.

For the past four months, I have taken refuge in a deep, dark place. It is where I was confronted with certain memories that I thought were buried deep or forgotten. But they have re-surfaced, and I am trying to understand why I was and still am affected by these things. As a result, I have had difficulty sleeping, eating, and doing anything regularly. There are times when I would cry for no reason (that I am aware of), get angry over minor things, and feel like my breathing will stop at any moment. I know that these are all side effects of grief, but sometimes I feel like it is something else causing these symptoms.

Some parts of the play triggered certain thoughts, emotions, and memories. I found myself pressing on my cuticles, clenching my fists, and clutching onto my leather wristlet to keep from crying or running out of the theatre. I took deep breaths and remained in my seat, because I knew that this was necessary for my healing process. The way the personified subconscious spoke to the young man reminded me of how one would talk to someone they cared about, out of love, because they see the potential for them to grow, so why quit? The reluctance and stubbornness of the young man reminded me of my own pride, when I am faced with a new challenge that requires me to allow room for failure and to own up to that failure, when it happens. Most of all, the feeling of loneliness experienced and vocalized by the young man reminded me of–me, especially in my current circumstances.

There are friends who want to keep me company by taking me out to places or chatting with me. There are family-friends and relatives that check up on me, from time to time, making sure that I am keeping myself nourished and well-rested. There are my parents who want me to be happy and are doing everything they can to make it so. But despite all of that, I still feel lonely. When I try to fall asleep, but then I remember something from long ago that shoots me back up from lying down, and I end up crying–feeling the pressure in my chest become heavy as the thought advances into its darkest point. I feel my body curling inward, even though I try to tell myself to lie back down and go to sleep. But then my chest presses against my knees, my arms hugging my legs because there is no one around for me to hold onto for comfort. The loneliness creeps up like that, cradling me when I just want to sleep and dream.

Despite the triggers, I found it healing to watch the performance. Right in front of me was the stage representation of one’s ongoing depression, regardless of its source or the circumstances. That is the power of theatre–when the creator is able to convey human emotion, during the most tragic moments, and craft it into something honest and true. It made me feel like I was not alone, that what I have been experiencing for the past few months (as well as the past few years) is real. Whatever our circumstances may be, we have at some point reached our lowest point. And somehow, or some day, we will find the courage to get up and walk again.

Watching the performance reminded me of why I continue to pursue the performing arts (and writing). And it was comforting to meet my former/fellow drama mates again, because it felt like visiting family after years of being away. We all found something in theatre that gave us a reason to return and support each other. It is my hope that my own work can bring some joy to the sadness that we are battling with, even if we cannot talk about it out loud. Theatre is what gives us the courage to talk about it.

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