Old and New Moundbuilders Lead in Production of 'Next to Normal'

The Southwestern College Summer Theatre Festival will present the musical “Next to Normal” Thursday through Saturday, July 24-26.  The show will be presented in Messenger Recital Hall located in the Darbeth Fine Arts Center on the campus of Southwestern College.  The show will be performed as an optional dinner theatre, and ticket options for show only or shows with dinner are available. 

“Next to Normal” is a Tony Award winning rock musical that chronicles a family’s struggle with mental illness.  Craig Fisher, a 2000 Southwestern College graduate, is returning to direct the show.

“It is a revolutionary and groundbreaking musical about a family suffering and dealing with mental illness,” Fisher says.  “It tackles a very serious and universal topic in the musical theatre form. It speaks to issues that every family deals with. It tells the story of Diana and Dan who have been dealing with Diana's depression, bi-polar, and other mental illnesses. This has also been affecting her daughter Natalie and son Gabe. Diana must confront her issues head on or risk losing her family and support structure.”

Along with graduating from Southwestern College, Fisher graduated from Western Illinois University in 2011 with his master of fine arts in directing. He currently serves as the artistic director and board president of the Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble in Topeka. The Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble won a 2012 Arty Award for Emerging Artist and is considered one of the most progressive theatre companies in Topeka. Fisher has been nominated for Topeka's Top 20 Under 40 twice, and was nominated again this year. He has directed productions ranging from “Angels in America” to “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Music director for the production is Brian Winnie, director of choral activities and voice at Southwestern College.  Prior to this appointment, he served as lecturer at the University of Washington-Tacoma where he helped create and establish a choral component to the interdisciplinary arts program.  He was also the artistic director of the community-based choirs ChoralSounds and VocalSounds Northwest for the past three years. Winnie has music directed shows ranging from Disney's “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aida” to “Guys and Dolls” and “Les Misérables.”  

Dinner times for the shows will be at 6 p.m., with the shows at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for dinner and show are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $20 for students, and $18 for youth. Show-only tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth. 

For tickets and information, call the SC box office at (620) 221-7720 or (620) 229-6171.