Actors raring to perform trailblazing musical

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 12:58 14/05/2014
Warwick King
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

LONG LINEUP: Tami Mansfield, right, is hoping to put on a play dealing with the mental health of teenagers and including local student actors.

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A group of young Nelson actors are "desperate" to put on a musical that looks at the impact of mental illness on families, but need to raise $4500 to stage the show.

Off Broadway Performing Arts School director Tami Mansfield and her pupils want to put on the Broadway musical, Next to Normal, by Kitt and Yorkey, at the Suter Theatre from July 4-6.

The production received attention, including winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2010, because it was the first musical to look at the effects of mental health on the family, Mansfield said.

"It can be so detrimental, dangerous and damaging to the family," she said.

The former New York actress first introduced the play to her pupils by giving them symbolic props, such as pills and sandwiches, and asked them to write their thoughts about mental illness on a giant poster.

There were surprising results, with pupils putting down words such as eating disorders, the idea of perfection, failed expectations and drug and alcohol abuse, Mansfield said.

"And these kids are cared for in the sense that these are the kids that can afford to come to classes.

"We are not even talking about kids off the grid."

There was a real stigma around mental health even despite its prevalence in society.

"Which begs the question, if everyone experiences these things, where is the conversation to reduce the stigma?

"Why is there still such an element of shame?" asked Mansfield.

There was an unrealistic expectation in society of perfection or otherwise defeat.

There was no in between, she said.

That was why this musical was so important and the members of Off Broadway were desperate to bring it to Nelson, she said.

Despite the shortfall of over $4500 to pay for scripts and the venue, Mansfield said she and her pupils were going to do whatever they could to raise the funds.

Mansfield said she was willing to dance on the street, if that was necessary.

"It is such raw but equally important work that needs to be shown. I feel I have a real purpose to this."

To make a donation or for more information contact Mansfield by email offbroadwaytami@aol.com or phone 021 260-6189.

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- The Nelson Mail

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