SUU Student Directs Play About Grief

Published: October 26, 2021 | Author: Savannah Byers | Read Time: 4 minutes

Student director, Lyndsey NelsonThis semester, Southern Utah University student Lyndsey Nelson is thrilled to be directing Rabbit Hole, written by David Lindsay-Abraire, presented through Dramatists Play Service Inc. Second Studio, a student-run organization, is producing the play. Rabbit Hole will run for four performances October 28-30 at the SUU Auditorium.

Nelson is a senior interdisciplinary studies major focusing her studies on creative writing and directing. She is graduating in December of 2021. Rabbit Hole will be the first full-length play Nelson has directed.

“Lyndsey Nelson’s directing style is communal and responsive to the work of her actors,” said Scott Knowles, assistant professor of theatre history. “She is dealing with a difficult topic that requires nuance and special attention and it has been a delight watching her engage with the material at a high level and in a collaborative manner. As a culmination of her directing focus here at SUU, I think it represents her great capacity to impact whatever the future has in store.”

Growing up scribbling in journals and rewriting Disney channel shows, Nelson discovered her passion for storytelling at a young age. She had her first experience directing as a high school student. Enjoying the control over the narrative of a body of work, she shortly fell in love with directing as another avenue for storytelling.

She was offered the opportunity to direct near the end of Spring semester 2021. She was given the choice between directing Rabbit Hole and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a self-proclaimed Shakespeare nerd, she was surprised that she didn’t select the latter. However, going through the harsh realities of grief and mental illness at the time the offer was made, she felt a stronger pull toward Rabbit Hole.

“Something I love about Rabbit Hole is that it doesn’t romanticize mental illness,” said Nelson. “I grew up with poorly neglected mental health, and for a long time I didn’t think that I was mentally ill because my anxiety and depression didn’t match what I saw on TV and in movies. It stopped me from asking for help, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone.”

Especially because of her past and present struggles with mental illness, Nelson is intentional about taking the content of the play seriously and taking care of her cast. The entire production is collaborating with SUU’s Psychology Club to ensure accuracy in the various mental illness depictions and scenarios throughout the play and to debrief certain scenes and topics.

“Telling the story safely is my top priority,” Nelson said. “One of the biggest things I am trying to do in my rehearsals is to make it clear that actors’ mental health comes first because they are people and not characters. I don’t want this play to hurt anyone.”

Nelson is taking care of her cast through implementing daily mental health check-ins and exit strategies, which are exercises designed for the actors to transition from their characters to themselves at the end of rehearsal. She also has an open-door policy and has made it a routine for actors to only consent to scenes and exercises that they are comfortable with.

Debriefing will also extend to after the Friday night performance when the Psychology Club, the cast, and Nelson will answer questions about the play, the characters, the process, the themes of grief and mental health, and anything else that the audience is curious about.

“I want people to walk out of the play realizing that we are not responsible for the bad things that happen to us,” said Nelson. “Especially because we are going through such a big time of loss and grief in the world, I want people to see that healing begins with one step at a time. Hopefully it will help us get out of the ‘rabbit holes’ we get stuck in.”

Rabbit Hole follows a group of five characters as they navigate the grief and guilt associated with a sudden death in the family. Rabbit Hole earned the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Possible trigger warnings include the death of a child, driving under the influence, and themes of depression and anxiety.

Rabbit Hole will run October 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. and October 30 at 2:00 p.m. Performances will be held at the SUU Auditorium. The audience will be at half capacity, and Second Studio encourages audiences and actors to wear masks and practice social distancing. The cast and crew for Rabbit Hole is tested for COVID-19 every week. For more information about Rabbit Hole, visit Second Studio’s Instagram.

Tags: College of Humanities and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies College of Performing and Visual Arts

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