Healthier Connections: ‘Next to Normal’ at Theatreworks

HARTFORD -- Raising awareness about mental health issues through the arts is the goal of an important new production at Theatreworks.

“Next to Normal" is now playing at Theatreworks in Hartford and this unique Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical tackles a difficult issue. The main character, Diana, has bipolar disorder and experiences delusional episodes.

"It has been 16 years that she’s tried to medicate and her husband is there alongside her and her daughter," said actor J.D. Daw, who plays her psychotherapist.

To prepare for the role, he consulted with experts from Hartford HealthCare's Behavioral Network, a sponsor of the show.

"They helped me with the details," said Daw. "They helped me in a lot of different ways. I think using the arts and using a play to talk about this issue is just incredibly innovative."

Pat Rehmer, president of the Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Network, thinks this approach is a creative way to normalize mental health issues.

"If we think about 1-4 to 5 people experiencing mental health or substance use disorder, I think there’s going to be a lot of people in the audience who understand and feel less alone," said Rehmer.

Panel discussions that include doctors, cast members, and real people, are taking place every Tuesday in April after the show. Topics range from "Challenging Stigma" to "The Opioid Crisis."

Daw is proud to be involved in such an innovative and important production. He hopes folks leave the theater with more understanding, more empathy, and more inspiration to create change.

"I think the end goal is that we sit around and one day we can talk about these illnesses like we talk about other illnesses," Daw said.

Next to Normal” runs at Theatreworks through May 14.

"Talk Back Tuesday," the discussions about mental health topics take place every Tuesday in April after the show.