Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tigers Be Still brings a lighthearted tone to loss, mental illness and recovery at SET

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 9:36 AM

click to enlarge Tigers Be Still, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, 4 p.m., through Aug. 5, Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., $15, springsensembletheatre.org. - MATT RADCLIFFE
  • Matt Radcliffe
  • Tigers Be Still, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, 4 p.m., through Aug. 5, Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., $15, springsensembletheatre.org.
A comedy about depression may seem counterintuitive or incongruent, but Tigers Be Still, a comedy by TV writer Kim Rosenstock (New Girl, GLOW) tackles the subject of loss, mental illness and recovery with a hopeful and lighthearted tone that just kind of works. The story follows Sherry, a recently graduated art therapist who has finally (after a long depressive slump) gotten her first job, teaching art at a middle school and taking on the principal’s son as her first art therapy client. But his personal problems aren’t the only ones Sherry has to deal with. Her sister Grace got dumped by a cheating fiancé, her mother hasn’t left her room in months, the school principal is dealing poorly with the loss of his wife, and meanwhile, a tiger has escaped from the zoo. Everyone’s understandably a little on edge.

Jodi Papproth, director of Springs Ensemble Theatre’s upcoming production of Tigers Be Still, says the tiger functions as a metaphor for the characters’ various troubles. “It’s that feeling of at any moment you’re dealing with this mental illness and things are going well, and then it just comes out and pounces, and you don’t know sometimes why, or what’s going to trigger it, or when,” she says.

Using curtains designed to look like pages of Sherry’s journal to separate the play’s many settings, SET’s staging frames the events of the play in a sort of retrospect. It’s meant to feel like Sherry’s reflection on what happened, rather than a straight telling of what is happening. It’s this reflective element that helps the play maintain its light tone, as it’s obvious from Sherry’s fourth-wall-breaking asides that, spoiler alert, everyone does make it through the ordeal okay.

Though depression is a tough topic to treat delicately, one cast member who has suffered from mental illness says the format and tone of Tigers Be Still mirrors the experience well. “She says that the whole play kind of feels like one of those rides,” Papproth says, “where you have up days and down.” According to Papproth, the cast and crew had many discussions about mental illness throughout the production process, with each of them bringing their own experiences to the story, and therefore the characters they play. “You can’t really go through theater without walking in someone else’s shoes and thinking about their experiences,” Papproth says, adding that the show itself is a form of art therapy, like its main character’s profession.

And, hopefully, it will provide a little art therapy for audiences. “[Rosenstock] is not trying to solve the world’s problems or anything like that,” Papproth says. “She’s just showing one tiny little story about this family, two families actually, and how they overlap and help each other.”

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