POSTED ON JULY 7, 2010:
Over the Hump
Wide-Eyed Wonderland reveals battle with depression
All in Your Head. Karen Lacy performs as herself, a woman struggling with clinical depression in Wide-Eyed Wonderland. She utilizes other actors to portray the negative voices one suffering from a mental illness often hears and succumbs to.
"If someone you love suffers from depression, please take them seriously and take the time to listen. It may save a life."
Those are the closing lines of the author's note in the program for Wide-Eyed Wonderland, an original production written and performed by Karen Lacy July 8-10 in the Liddy Doenges Theatre of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St.
Those few lines sum up the message of Lacy's show, which explores the debilitating effects of clinical depression and how it's possible to turn them into something positive.
Lacy has suffered from depression for more than two decades, and she's used poetry, creative writing and performance art to address and cope with her illness. But Wide-Eyed Wonderland is the first time she's explicitly dealt with her illness onstage. It's also the first time she's performed with the PAC's SummerStage festival.
"Getting to do my show at the PAC feels like having access to a much larger audience than I have had before," Lacy said. "So this time, I wanted to make a definitive statement about this. It's an opportunity to bring this to a much larger audience and say something that's important to me and important to other people, too."
The show, though mostly comprised of Lacy's original work, has a multimedia aspect, with music written for the show by John Van de Wege and artwork by Juliana Lynn.
Lacy performs pretty much as herself, a woman struggling with clinical depression. She utilizes other actors -- Ted Daugherty, Lindsey Doakes and Ryan Dannar -- to portray the negative voices one suffering from a mental illness often hears and succumbs to.
Daugherty is self-doubt, Doakes is shame and guilt and Dannar is fear turned to anger.
"I feel like clinical depression and mental illness are very misunderstood by the general public," Lacy said.
She said people often wonder, "Why can't you just cheer up? Why can't you just feel better?"
"I wanted to embody the voices in (my) head so people understand, here's what (people who suffer from mental illness are) going through. Here's what they're dealing with. Here's why it's so debilitating," Lacy said.
"There's an interesting contrast between their voices and my voice in the show," she said. "What I'm doing is poetry, spoken word. It's full of metaphor and lots of vivid imagery. Their language is very plain and straightforward. So it's this struggle between my artistic voice struggling to do great art and the other two straightforward voices."
It could also represent, for those sufferers who aren't artists, the struggle to simply know their own voices, their own identities, separate from their illness.
"A lot of times, people go through depression and other illnesses and kind of lose their voice," Lacy said. "I know, for me, when I was at my worst, it was hard for me just to communicate with people, just to put sentences together and talk. In some ways, by giving a voice to this, I can help other people to voice their experiences.
"One of the things I really want to bring out in the show is a lot of time people think of depression as, 'Oh you're sad all the time,'" Lacy said. "The emotion is so much more complex than that. It's not black; it's many shades of grey and blue and red."
Although her show involves some pretty heady material, it does involve elements of humor, and the ending is "redemptive and hopeful," Lacy said.
After all, it's not just about suffering from depression; it's about rising above an illness.
Lacy is a former teacher (in fact, two of the actors and the visual artist involved in the show are former students from the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences) who's left teaching to pursue a master's degree in counseling psychology.
"I had some bad therapists and I had some good therapists," Lacy said. "I did finally have one wonderful therapist who said to me, 'I think you can get better. You don't have to spend your life identifying yourself as a depressed person. Yes, it's part of who you are, but it's not your major identity.'
"That's a theme in the show. If I let go of this identity, who am I? It's about going through the process of letting go. One identity I discovered is, I am a teacher. When I was teaching in classroom, I was teaching in a very traditional style. I feel, when I'm doing art, I'm teaching people that we all have stories to tell, and you can find your voice to tell those stories.
"As a therapist, I'll teach people more effective ways to live their lives, to take ownership of themselves."
Wendy Wilkerson, Lacy's partner in the production company Lipstick Librarians, under which Wide-Eyed Wonderland is performed, directs the show, which begins at 8pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15, and they're available at tulsapac.com.
Also on SummerStage
On Thursday, July 8, local Irish six-piece band Cairde na Gael performs in the Tulsa PAC's Charles E. Norman Theatre at 8pm. The group's repertoire includes traditional Irish folk songs, as well as contemporary pop music and ballads. Tickets to the show are $12 and $15.
July 9-10 at 7:30pm, local jazz legend Janet Rutland performs "Pure Country: Songs of Dolly, Hank, Patsy and more."
"I've always been sentimental about anything vintage," said the singer, often noted for her repeat performance of "Always...Patsy Cline." "And the good stuff never gets old."
Rutland is accompanied by a six-piece band led by her husband, Shelby Eicher.
Tickets to the show are $15.50 and $21.50.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A31099