By Mary Therese Biebel - mbiebel@timesleader.com

Misfit Players’ presentation of ‘Next to Normal’ in Taylor will benefit cause of mental health

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From left, actors Benjamin Steltz, Alice Y. Lyons, Ericka Law, Dane Bower II and Willie Demyan appear in ‘Next To Normal’ at the Act Out Theatre in Taylor.
Alice Y. Lyons and Dane Bower II portray Diana and her husband, Dan, in ‘Next to Normal.’

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    TAYLOR — Swordplay? Fist fights? Jumping from a moving car? Falling from a great height?

    As a professional stunt woman, Kingston native Heidi Germaine Schnappauf has experienced all those thrills and knows getting hurt can come with the territory.

    “It was nobody’s fault” she said of a “little neck boo-boo” from which she is recovering.

    While she’s on light duty, Schnappauf has devoted herself to producing and directing “Next To Normal,” a rock musical that focuses on the ways mental illness affects a family.

    The play, which the Misfit Players will present Oct. 2-4 at the Act Out Theatre in Taylor, introduces audiences to Diana, a woman suffering from anxiety, depression, misdiagnosis and some obsessive behavior.

    “She’s making sandwiches,” Schnappauf said, describing one scene. “There’s not enough room on the table so she starts putting them on the chairs. When there’s no more room on the chairs, she’s making sandwiches on the floor. And, we decided to have her use the cheese slices still wrapped, to make it look like she’s ‘crazy.’”

    After the show’s opening performances last weekend, Schnappauf said, audience members sought out cast members to talk individually about ways the story resonated with them. “They really related to a lot of things,” she said. “This piece of theater shows you’re not wrong and not bad and not ‘crazy’” if you struggle with mental disorders or mental illness.

    “It’s not just a matter of playing a great role,” said Alice Y. Lyons, who portrays Diana. “It’s a matter of bringing to the forefront things that need to be discussed.

    “After this first weekend I can’t tell you the amount of people I know and people I didn’t know who told me how this show connects to them or to a family member,” Lyons said. “Mental illness is a huge killer in our society today, and they thanked us for being strong enough and brave enough to bring the subject to the forefront, because it’s taboo and usually pushed aside.”

    “No one’s going to walk away from this untouched,” Schnappauf said. “It will leave you with hope, and maybe relieve a little of the stigma.”

    Show proceeds will benefit the Children’s Service Center of Wilkes-Barre, which is running a capital campaign to fund a new outpatient clinic, and the The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention for its “Out of the Darkness’ campaign.

    The show is 90 percent music, Schnappauf said, waxing enthusiastic about the cast’s “perfect blend of singer/actors” as well as the “boy-genius lighting director,” James Jones from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

    With book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, the musical won three Tony Awards in 2009, including Best Musical Score.

    IF YOU GO

    What: ‘Next to Normal’

    Who: The Misfit Players, in conjunction with Act Out Theatre

    Where: Act Out Theatre, 408 N. Main St., Taylor

    When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2-3 and 3 p.m. Oct. 4

    Tickets: $20, $15

    Reservations: 570-881-4206

    Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT

    By Mary Therese Biebel

    mbiebel@timesleader.com

    From left, actors Benjamin Steltz, Alice Y. Lyons, Ericka Law, Dane Bower II and Willie Demyan appear in ‘Next To Normal’ at the Act Out Theatre in Taylor.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_nearly.normal.jpgFrom left, actors Benjamin Steltz, Alice Y. Lyons, Ericka Law, Dane Bower II and Willie Demyan appear in ‘Next To Normal’ at the Act Out Theatre in Taylor.

    Alice Y. Lyons and Dane Bower II portray Diana and her husband, Dan, in ‘Next to Normal.’
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_nearly.normal2.jpgAlice Y. Lyons and Dane Bower II portray Diana and her husband, Dan, in ‘Next to Normal.’

    Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT

    IF YOU GO

    What: ‘Next to Normal’

    Who: The Misfit Players, in conjunction with Act Out Theatre

    Where: Act Out Theatre, 408 N. Main St., Taylor

    When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2-3 and 3 p.m. Oct. 4

    Tickets: $20, $15

    Reservations: 570-881-4206