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The Black History Month performance at the Little Rock Theatre addresses mental health issues



Little Rock, Arkansas – The local theater company took the opportunity presented by Black History Month to confront the stigmas that exist within the Black community in regard to mental health.

The Studio Theatre in Downtown Little Rock has been actively working to improve the quality of life in Central Arkansas through the medium of theatre since 2014. They made the decision earlier this month to cast an all-black cast for a production that traditionally casts only white actors and actresses.

According to the director, it was crucial to make this option not just for the sake of necessary representation but also to address mental health issues in the black community, which are often disregarded. This choice was important for both of these reasons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that while suicide rates as a whole dropped by 3 percent, the number of suicides committed by black people rose, with black men being three times more likely to take their own lives than black women.

The ensemble hopes to elicit feelings and kick-off debates that are urgently needed among African Americans in today’s society.

“It’s not talked about and watching Next to Normal you cannot see the show and not have a conversation. If that conversation is happening while you’re watching this show… the intermission or even before a lot of people don’t even know what Next to Normal is about… So when they come here and that conversation was presented to them. They get to make that choice to start a conversation,” Director, Taijee Bunch said.

Due to the show’s double cast, more African Americans were given the opportunity to express themselves creatively and to be a part of something extraordinary.

According to Director Bunch, this was first conceived as an idea months ago for Black History Month and has now developed into what it is today. He stated that he believes it is his responsibility as a Black performer and director to be the change that he wants to see and to use his platform to spread awareness and create a viewing experience that is inclusive. He said that he believes it is his responsibility to be the change that he wants to see.

Dariane Mull, an actor who was a part of their silver cast, recently gave a talk in which she discussed the significance of being able to see others who look like them on stage and in the movies. She states that we have recently seen this in the media with the representation of parts like the Little Mermaid, and she is happy to see it duplicated on the stage in Little Rock. She says that we have seen this with recent portrayals of roles like the Little Mermaid.

According to Mull, it is critical to encourage individuals of color to pursue careers in the arts, particularly in fields like as theater, music, design, production, art, and so on.

They are of the opinion that it is critical to provide Black Americans and Arkansans with chances for creative expression as well as outlets that are helpful.

Providing the opportunity to develop, achieve achievement, and even alleviate some of the mental health challenges, as well as acknowledging, through all available channels, that it is acceptable to talk about these issues;

“Now in this day and age, it’s time for us to really embrace reaching out for help, whether that’s in therapy, or whether that is medication or whatever it might be and just having the willingness and the courage to open up and talk about it and seek help when it’s needed,” Mull said.

The exhibition will be open till February 19th.

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