Mill Mountain Theatre's Fringe Series tackles mental illness

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - You can watch important themes of mental health and family struggles come to life this summer in Mill Mountain Theater's Black Box. It's all part of their Fringe Series.

"It's really relatable," Briar Boggs, who plays Doctor Fine in Mill Mountain Theatre's new production 'Next to Normal,' said.

It's an American Rock Musical about a mother's Bipolar Disorder and how it affects her family.

"It brings up conversation, and sometimes it can be really controversial, and I think that's fine," Boggs said.

Conversations around topics like mental health. That's this year's theme of Mill Mountain's Fringe Series for their shows 'Next to Normal' and 'Every Brilliant Thing'

"We actually didn't necessarily choose the two plays because of their mental health themes but once those two plays were chosen in the season we realized what a cool connection they both had to mental awareness and mental health," Travis Kendrick, Director of 'Next to Normal,' said.

The series gives Mill Mountain Theatre a chance use their Black Box and open up the dialogue on under-discussed and difficult topics.

"A place where we could present more daring, contemporary, thought-provoking subject matters, both plays and musicals, a place where an audience comes perhaps to engage in conversation afterwards and really get the juices flowing," Kendrick said.

This time about how mental health presents itself in 'Next to Normal.'

"I believe that school and society doesn't teach a lot about mental illness, and I think as theatre people it's important for us to bring this message to people to tell them hey, you're not alone, and there's other people that they can relate to," Leonela Hernandez, Assistant Director of 'Next to Normal,' said.

"It's about bringing up subjects and topics that we might be scared talking about in everyday life," Boggs added.

The show is running from June 20th to the 29th and select performances will have talkbacks.