Mental health is a topic that not many people want to talk about. In our society, it can be seen as taboo to have a mental illness or disability or to even speak about it. However, Fairfield University’s Performing For Change decided to tackle this stigma in their latest show, “Triggered,” which was performed at the Black Box Theatre at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts and co-directed by Meaghan Hamilton ‘17 and Kaadiana Barnes ‘17. The performers decided to dedicate the show to a supporter, the late Fairfield professor of communications, Dr. Gisela Gil-Egui.
The show opens showcasing three separate apartments, one with Mara (Hamilton) and Mae (Kayla Craig ‘19), Max (Katie Barrera ‘18) and Silve (Erin Nordgren ‘19), and Violet (Raven Malave ‘17) and Ronnie (Catherine Pezzella ‘17), with the different pairs revealing pieces of the struggles they deal with in their morning activities like waking up and getting out of bed. The various roommates all decide separately to go to an open mic night at a local café. They all become visibly upset when the hosts begin to make very inappropriate jokes, culminating in a jest about “the R-word.”
Meeting up outside the building, they all come to an agreement to boycott this café and do their own open mic night. The plot then follows the lives of the characters between the open mic nights and further explores the struggles each have.
There were many emotional moments throughout the show and for the extremely intense scenes, the performers included a trigger warning in the program. Two of the most emotionally draining scenes were when Silve spoke about her experience with her illness and hospitalization and Violet’s panic attack at school. Silve and her roommate Max were arguing about whether Silve should go get help for her illness and Silve began to breakdown. She was reliving the horrible times she had when the hospital orderlies forced drugs down her throat and watched all the sedated patients wander the hospital as zombies. Violet experiences a panic attack at school when she learns that her dog has died. Her roommate, who doubts she has any real problems, watches in fear as she doesn’t know what to do as another student calls Violet’s therapist to help her during the attack.
One of the most powerful parts of the whole performance was after the conclusion, where the actors came to the foreground and read off the different mental illnesses and disabilities portrayed in the performance, asking people to raise their hands if they struggled with one of them. The cast members raised their hands when reading out the names of various mental illnesses, signifying that they have that illness or know someone dealing with that illness.
One flaw that the performance had was that it lacked the develop of a few of the minor characters. Some of the scenes lasted at most a minute and didn’t give some of the characters time to shine in the spotlight. Some of the characters were introduced only in the last scene of the open mic night, so it was hard to have an emotional connection to them. The newer characters, such as Antonia (Molly “Anton” Martin ‘18) and Rob (Robert Padilla ‘17), didn’t have a strong enough connection with the audience. They just read their poems and left the stage.
The message was hard hitting and real because all members of the cast were writing from their own experiences. “Triggered” was a visceral performance that tried to eliminate some of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and other disabilities that millions of people suffer from.