Most of us have been affected in some way by bipolar disorder.
At least that’s what Clarkston’s Amy Baker Stout has found. As she has talked with people in the community, it seems everyone has known someone with the illness or struggled with it themselves, she said. She too has lost people to it.
Stout is heading up a production of “Next to Normal,” a Tony- and Pulitzer prize-winning musical that takes on this issue and how it can affect family dynamics. The show opens Thursday, May 17, in Lewiston.
The story centers around a mother with worsening bipolar disorder and how her suburban family copes with the crisis. Along the way, the storyline examines the issues of suicide, drug abuse, grief, treatment and other difficult topics. The show is rated PG-13 for mature language.
Stout, who plays the role of the mother, decided to produce the show after several people in the community expressed interest in doing it. She was in a production of the show in California years ago and agreed it was a subject that needed attention. She had seen firsthand how it resonated with audiences and provided hope to those seeking help. Stout believed it could have the same effect in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
“Next to Normal” isn’t a feel-good musical. The New York Times described it as “a feel everything musical,” she said. Tissues will be available for those who need them, she said, but the show ends on a positive note with a song called “There Will Be Light.”
Taking the message further, the show is a fundraiser for First Step 4 Life, a Lewiston nonprofit that helps people in recovery from substance use disorders and/or mental health illness. The program serves 1,400 people each month, Stout said, with very little funding.
In addition, matinee productions will be followed by a discussion led by cast and professionals from Quality Behavioral Health and First Step 4 Life. This is to allow audiences to ask questions and connect with people and information that may be helpful.
“When we care for these people in our community, we’re all better off,” Stout said.
Ampersand Oil & Vinegar Tap House will hold the opening night reception, and the photographic work of Lewiston’s Brad Nordin will be on display at the show. Nordin has schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and uses photography as a tool for coping with that, Stout said. In addition to Quality Behavioral Health and First Step 4 Life, other partners include Beautiful Downtown Lewiston, The Roxy and the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History.
This is the first production by Small Town Big Dreams Productions, led by Stout, which seeks to use theater as a vehicle to raise both awareness and money for other causes.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Next to Normal”
WHEN: Opening night reception 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 17.
Other shows are 7:30 p.m. May 18-19 and 2:30 p.m. May 19-20
WHERE: The Roxy, 714 Main St., Lewiston
COST: $20 general admission, $35 VIP opening night reception and show (must be purchased in advance). Advance tickets are available at beautifuldowntownlewiston.com or through Courtney Kramer at (208) 790-1148.
OF NOTE: The reception is at Ampersand Oil & Vinegar Tap House, with the show at 8 at The Roxy. Those interested in attending the show only on opening night may do so.
A “talk back” session with cast members and professionals from Quality Behavioral Health and First Step 4 Life will follow both matinee performances.