Anxiety, depression addressed in ‘Still Falling’ performance

Lied Center brings play to high schools

By Meredith Chapple and Ian Jones

Still Falling, a play about anxiety and depression, was performed today at school during second and sixth hour for students.

The Lied Center brought the play to Lawrence High and Free State, and students in LHS acting classes also got to work with the performer and stage director. The Budget talked to the actress, stage director and students about the  talk about the performance.

Olivia Hutt, actress and producer

How did you get involved with Still Falling?

“Rachel Aberle, who is the playwright of this show, went to the same theater school as us which is called Studio 58 in Vancouver, B.C. She has been working on this piece for quite some time so it is an original work. It’s never been produced before, so I’m the first person to develop it on the acting side and she had a similar experience to Nina, who is the focal character in high school which was about 10-15 years ago or so. She felt that this was a subject topic that would be important and relevant in terms with what Green Thumb Theatre does as well as important to her.”

How did you decide to come to Lawrence High School?

“We were picked up at a conference at IPAY, which is basically a trade show for young audiences. And that was last year in Montreal, and basically the Lied Center saw this show and thought it would be important and relevant for Lawrence, Kan., and so they put us in two different schools and had a number schools come to those two locations for four shows in total. So we were seen at a conference and then brought here and it became a part of a second tour.”

What message are you hoping to send with Still Falling?

“The message that Green Thumb as well as I hope to send is to make it more comfortable and to get people talking about anxiety and depression in young adults because if this play does anything, it can open up a dialogue. It’s not about fixing it or making it go away with this play. It’s about starting a conversation, hopefully changing the stigmas regarding mental health and illness and taking the idea that it is abnormal off the table because in fact it is quite normal if you look at the statistics.”

Why do you think it is important to perform this play for high school students?

“I think it’s important to perform it for high school students because I think that high school is a place where people are afraid of being different and that makes it difficult for them to talk about things that are going on internally. People are going through major identity shifts and trying to figure out where they stand, and who their people are, and everybody is raised in a different environment. Some people are raised in families where it’s not OK to be different or they can’t have conversations about this. So this play speaks to those people in recognizing that they aren’t alone and hopefully to find another avenue to talk about it so they can feel safe as well.”

How did you get involved with the acting class to speak to them in between shows?

“The manager of Green Thumb theater works back in Vancouver basically contacted us and said the teacher at Lawrence High has requested for her drama class to come in and to speak to them basically about whatever anybody wanted to talk about. So it was kind of a bit of a free-for-all but I think we covered most subject topics so in that case Melissa asked me if I’m comfortable with that and of course the answer with this case in particular is always yes.”

Melissa McCowell, stage director

How did you get involved with Still Falling?

“Green Thumb has been looking to do a show about this for quite some time. They get a lot of feedback from schools about what they want to see and they’ve found that anxiety and depression had been coming up quite a bit and they were looking for a strong voice.”

Why do you think it is important to perform this play for high school students?

“So much in anxiety sometimes too is internal. It’s chemical. When you’re already going through a lot of changes as you are in high school it’s hard to sometimes tell ‘is this normal? Is this what should be happening? Are these feelings something bigger?’ and I think that’s what Rachel noticed when she was going through that situation.”

Aaron Lewis, senior

How was the play?

“It was really moving. It was fantastic. It was great. It’s really personal and relatable.”

Julie Vasquez, junior

What did you think of the play?

“I thought it was really good. I think it’s very relatable. I think it’s very easy to see yourself in the characters and the way that she portrays it is very personable.”