“Unforgettable Invisibles” gave depression, a common topic left undiscussed, a new voice last weekend through the words of students and poets.
Brianna Roth, a double major in theater and music, presented “Unforgettable Invisibles” as her senior performance and writing thesis.
The play, which began as a project for Roth’s script writing class last spring, featured poetry by Sylvia Plath that was delicately smoothed into the framework of her own words.
Brianna Roth, who wrote “Unforgettable Invisibles” for her senior writing and performance thesis said: “I felt it is more effective to show depression in a physical sense.” In this scene, Victoria, played by Roth, recalls a dream where she was visited by Depression, played by Tanya Wilkins. Paige, played by Rhiannon Cuddy, engages in her poetry assignment while Emily, played by Melody Rahbari, cares more about her looks.
The result: naked poetry from women with something to say.
“The worst thing about depression is that you feel like you’re the only one,” Roth said. “It’s just not true.”
This message proved true as each character’s weaknesses were exposed throughout the play.
Paige, played by Rhiannon Cuddy, was an overzealous student who demanded perfection in all aspects of life. Emily, played by sophomore Melody Rahbari, turned to her boyfriend to make herself feel stronger and secure. Victoria, Roth’s character, was the most different of the bunch and turned to her world of vampires, fantasy and books to escape her intense loneliness.
All the women succumb to their weaknesses in the presence of Depression, a beautiful and ghastly character played by Tanya Wilkins.
David Baldizon, director of Roth’s play and ULV theater alumnus, gave Roth’s words the life it needed to be artistically represented on stage. Each scene had a definite feeling and presence.
For example, an odd air undoubtedly surrounded the three friends as they sat around a table fighting over English homework. In a rage, Victoria stomped off. The scene felt empty but full of tension. What was missing? Genuineness.
Each character hid their own depression, their own weakness, afraid to let the others know their true feelings, desires and struggles.
It is not easy to sensitively and effectively treat depression in a theatrical setting. Crying may be the outpour of such a feeling, but it does not necessarily communicate the intense pain that depression brings.
Depression, in “Unforgettable Invisibles,” was successfully presented through the use of poetry. These words were real; they were raw. They were exactly what the audience needed to connect with the characters and with themselves.
The lighting was simple, but effective. The costumes were nothing out of ordinary teenage wear.
The simplicity of the set, costumes and lighting allowed the truth in the poetry and emotions in the characters to prevail on stage. Even Depression, who wore a simple black, strapless dress and wrapped in a crimson cloth, emulated simplicity. This wrap was more than a costume accessory; it served to taunt each character in their weakest, darkest and most personal moments throughout the play.
Ultimately, the element that made the story feel so personal was Roth’s writing. The play was based on her own encounters with depression.
Roth discussed her writing challenges in the Entr’Acte for “Unforgettable Invisibles.”
“The process of writing this play has been more difficult than anything I’ve done because it is so personal, but it has been the most rewarding experience because it is so personal,” Roth wrote.
The play reaches out to all people who deal with depression through their own experience or through the experiences of another. In either case, it reaches out to “the ordinary ones who feel so much.”
This message is clearly stated in Roth’s final monologue, addressed directly to the audience. She boldly stated no one is alone and “in each other, we have everything.”
The play ends on a lighter note. The group of friends are back around the table, talking, with the same awkwardness as in the first scene.
But this time, something has changed.
The girls, instead of closing off to one another, stubbornly decide they will not let Vicki madly stomp away after being teased. They reach out to her. They offer a compassionate hand. They pull through the moment together.
“It was great writing and really good imagery,” said Kristin Van Tillburg, senior English major. “The visual with the acting and where the director took the show was great.”
A large part of the play’s success was due largely to Baldizon.
“It was really great to have someone else direct it,” said Shelly Roth, Brianna’s mother. “He had so many great ideas and they really collaborated well. She works well with David.”
The future of “Unforgettable Invisibles” is undecided, but Roth hopes to submit her works to theaters that produce original work.
“The response from everyone has been so much more than I expected,” Roth said. “It’s unbelievable to have what you want to say be understood by people.”
Roth hopes that the play will inspire people to resist depression and understand that no one is alone.
The feelings never disappear, but talking and being around compassion is a source of healing, Roth said.
Stephanie Duarte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.