Broken Box Premieres Emotional Drama

On Thursday, February 4, Broken Box Theatre Company will premiere its latest drama, “The Mental State,” in the Eagle Theater at 7 p.m. The play, written by Josh Adell, follows the story of Andy, a mentally ill teenager living in rural Kentucky, and explores the ways that mental illness is often misunderstood and left untreated. It is recommended that viewers are of middle school age or older.

The play explores Andrew’s situation both on an internal level and a familial one.

“One of his main delusions is he sees his dead uncle, [who] talks to him throughout the show, but his dead uncle is a bad influence,” senior Emma Ambler said. “He was a soldier, and so now he wants him to do violent things. So that’s a big part of the show. And his mom’s an alcoholic, and they’re very poor… there’s a lot of issues.”

The depth and intensity of these topics prompted rumors that the school administration had requested Broken Box to amend the scenes in the play. Both director Ms. Moran and the school administration were quick to dispel these rumors when asked; Moran noted that she had communicated with the administration about her decision to use blackouts during moments of extreme violence.

“I think the decision serves an important purpose in that it leaves this event to the audience’s imagination without taking away from the dramatic moment, and it does not play to gratuitous violence, but rather focuses on the loss of life and the lives changed by it,” Moran said.

Ms. Satterwhite, Ms. Pasallo and Mr. Rosenberg all recalled discussions about providing viewers with relevant mental-health related resources around and after the show.

“Mrs. Satterwhite, the administration team and I were concerned that the heavy issues in ‘The Mental State’ could be overwhelming for some students,” Moran said. “In order to get ahead of any concerns, we decided to have a mental health professional available after each show in case audience members have questions and information will be posted around school and in the program regarding resources available if a person needs help.”

Emma believed that the events and themes of “The Mental State” may be more relatable for Los Altos audiences than those of last year’s “The Laramie Project,” which displayed actions and attitudes that are not commonly encountered in the Bay Area.

“[The Mental State] doesn’t just involve mental illness, but a lot of other social issues [including] healthcare issues, gun control [and] stuff like that,” Emma said. “There’s a ton of different things that are very current right now all coming into the show, which is kind of heavy for everyone… everyone knows somebody who’s affected by mental illness or affected by [other] issues in the show.”

Actors noted that the four-week window to organize and rehearse the play had presented an enormous challenge. They emphasized, however, that the true challenge had been an emotional one.

“For the leads it’s definitely been a big weight on them,” Emma said. “People get pretty emotional… some people were crying yesterday a little bit during rehearsal. Our teacher started crying at the end of the show… it’s definitely a wrenching show.”

Ultimately, both Emma and Jessica believe that “The Mental State” will have a positive impact on viewers.

“[We also hope] for the general people to have more empathy for people who are dealing with this issue, especially because a lot of times it is kept secret from people because people are worried about the stigma,” Emma said. “[We hope] for people to feel comfortable to be open and [for] people who have friends or relatives dealing with these issues to be more empathetic.”

The show runs from Thursday to Saturday, February 6.