'Next to Normal' Production to Feature Dinner and Mental Illness Talk Back Session

The Tony Award winning rock musical “Next to Normal,” which chronicles a family’s struggle with mental illness, will be performed in Winfield Thursday through Saturday, July 24-26, at 7:30 p.m.  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 castThe theme for the meal is a birthday dinner with the Goodmans.  It will include a fresh garden salad with lots of fresh vegetables, homemade croutons, and a freshly-made zesty Italian dressing.   Accompanying the salad are freshly baked garlic butter knots.  The main course features roast beef, homemade mashed red potatoes and gravy.  Vegetables include whole green beans cooked in bacon, corn on the cob, and freshly baked white and wheat bread braids.  Dessert features Gabe’s birthday funfetti cake and vanilla bean ice cream.  

“Next to Normal” tackles a serious and universal topic through the musical theatre form. 

“It speaks to issues that many families deal with,” says director Craig Fisher.  “It tells the story of Diana and Dan who have been dealing with Diana's depression, bi-polar disease, 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.”

At the conclusion of each performance, a talk-back session will be held to discuss the topic of mental illness that is at the core of the main character’s conflict.  The talk-backs will include conversations with the cast and creative teams who will discuss their experience with the show, the subject matter, and their own personal experiences with mental illness. All audience members will be invited to stay and be in conversation with the cast and production team.  A mental health professional will also join the sessions each night to provide the expert’s perspective and support.

“The talk-backs will be a way for audiences to ask questions about the process, about the nature of the show, the creation of the show, this production, questions for actors, or directors and then questions about the issues that the show tackles,” Fisher says.

Dinner times for the shows will be 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.