In hopes of starting a conversation about today’s perception of mental illnesses, junior theatre production major Lauren Aldaba submitted the play “Sunday, Sunday” by Sandra Fenichel Asher as a possible performance for the Department of Theatre and Dance last year.
“When I talk to people [about “Sunday, Sunday,”] I mention that it’s about three women in a psychiatric ward of a general hospital, and they’re like ‘Oh, it’s crazy town in there, like American Horror Story,’” Aldaba said. “But, that’s not what it is.”
Now scheduled to run in the Cave Studio Theatre with Aldaba directing, the one-act play focuses on the connection formed between the three women over the course of a day.
Because “Sunday, Sunday” has been performed various times throughout the last 30 years, Aldaba said she decided to use a script that had no real time period as its setting. Although there are some aspects of the play that allude to a few specific points in history, Aldaba said they show how mental illnesses are timeless.
“People are going to come in with the stigma of a bunch of crazy people doing crazy things,” said Kristin Thomas, sophomore acting major who plays Ana. “But [the play] forces them to picture themselves in it. Then they’re going to be reminded that it’s about mental patients.”
On the slow, Sunday morning, the three women are forced to bask in the company of one another, and their relationship is supposed to seem almost dangerous to the audience. Throughout the course of the story, Ana and Mildred, the two characters who have the only speaking roles in the play, act as if their disorders lock them in a closet, but they soon discover the keys to unlock their inner truths.
“There is screaming and loud noises, but it’s genuinely about looking at personality and perspective,” Aldaba said.
Throughout the play, Ana and Mildred also have breakdowns, moments of complete melancholy and experience nostalgia of the lives they lived before being admitted into the hospital. In order to embody the true form of these characters, both actresses said they had to do their research.
“Mental disorders are tricky,” said Maya Vagle, freshman acting major who plays Mildred. “The biggest challenge is toeing the line between playing an actual, complex human being and playing a caricature of someone.”
Because their characters have anxiety and bipolar disorders, both Thomas and Vagle spoke with professors and therapists to learn more about what their characters are dealing with. The two actresses also watched a wide variety of videos to model the everyday lives of people who struggle with these mental illnesses.
“I was initially really excited about [the play] because I really like the idea of showcasing mental illness in a way that doesn’t stigmatize it,” Thomas said. “I hope that it will allow people to see what it’s like to have a mental illness and to understand how normal it is.
“But, this is definitely the hardest role I’ve ever done because it forces me to go to this very real emotional place. This one has definitely been a big challenge to me.”
Initially, Aldaba said she was nervous about producing the play, but she said she realized her vision was bound to be successful because of the support her actors and coworkers have given her.
Serving as an opportunity for audience members to experience mental disorders firsthand and understand their detrimental effects, Aldaba said she hopes the audience leaves knowing that a diagnosis doesn’t define someone, and first impressions should not create barriers to prevent getting to know who someone truly is.
“I hope they leave the theater feeling like they saw a little bit of themselves onstage,” Vagle said. “I think that is one of the most powerful things — to see a little bit of yourself.”
Contact Tierra Harris with comments at email@example.com.