The Fairmont State University School of Fine Arts and the Office of Counseling & Disability Services are coming together to sponsor a program observing National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Staged reading performances of Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis” will be presented on Monday, Sept. 12, and Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in Multi-media Room A of the Ruth Ann Musick Library on the Fairmont State campus. The program is free and open to the public. The play contains objectionable language and includes a frank and personal exploration of mental illness, including suicidal ideations. Each performance will be followed by a panel discussion focused on the play’s issues, moderated by Andrea Pammer, Director of Counseling & Disability Services at Fairmont State.
Described by Telegraph theatre critic Charles Spencer as “a deeply personal howl of pain,” “4.48 Psychosis” is an extraordinary work about the playwright’s experience of depression, an embodied depiction of a young woman’s descent into despair. Experiences depicted include the decisions surrounding the chemical treatment of depression and the efficacy of these treatments; the desires of the depressed mind, including self-harm and suicide; and the possible causes of depression. In addition to depression, the play also explores isolation, dependency, relationships and love.
Dr. John O’Connor, Senior Level Professor of Theatre, taught the play last spring in his 20th Century Women Playwrights course.
“When we discussed the play in class, one of the students expressed an interest in seeing the play performed,” O’Connor said. “It occurred to me that a staged reading of the play could be combined with a panel discussion about depression and suicide, so I contacted Andrea Pammer, our Director of Counseling & Disability Services.”
Pammer read the play, which she describes as “a very impressive and realistic piece,” and volunteered to put a panel together and to moderate the post-performance discussion.
“One of the things that really struck me is Kane’s depiction of the failure of the mental health industry and the relative lack of accountability in our profession,” Pammer said. “She shows how easy it is to blame the client for being non-compliant, instead of working harder and differently to really facilitate understanding and healing. In addition, I find the role of pharmaceuticals fascinating, how easy it is to turn these human issues into solely biochemical problems.”
The performances coincide with National Arts in Education Week, designated by Congress in 2010 to begin with the second Sunday in September. During this week, the field of arts education and its supporters join together in communities across the country to tell the story of the transformative power of the arts in education.
“This program exemplifies theatre’s potential to not only entertain, but to educate and edify,” O’Connor said. “Andrea and I hope that anyone who has experienced the pain and anguish of depression or suicide will come to the performance and panel discussion and be transformed in a positive way.”
Three Fairmont State students comprise the cast of the play: English majors Dominic Langdon-Arthur and Theresa Mattatall and History major Juliana Spradling. The director is Dr. John O’Connor. The panelists are Dr. Ann Shaver, Professor of Psychology at Fairmont State; Barry Faucet and Hope Silver, mental health professionals and trainers for Prevent Suicide West Virginia; and two Fairmont State students who have overcome suicidal crises in the past.