Jakarta Youth for Performing Arts' performance of 'Next to Normal' at Usmar Ismail Hall in Jakarta on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of JYPA)

Youth Theater's Performance Shines Spotlight on Young People With Mental Health Problems

BY : NUR YASMIN

AUGUST 21, 2019

Jakarta. The Jakarta Youth for Performing Arts' performance of the award-winning, mental health-themed musical "Next to Normal" at Usmar Ismail Hall in South Jakarta on Tuesday was a resounding success. 

The play explores issues of mental health seen through the travails of the Goodman family.

The mother, Diana Goodman, suffers from bipolar disorder. Despite her condition, she still has to take care of a depressed husband, a perfectionist son and an attention-seeking daughter.

All the members of the JYPA, who directed and acted all the parts in the play, are 18 years old or even younger.

Kyla Christie was the co-director, Aisya Nabila was a co-director and also played Diana Goodman, Mohammed Nabil Harmoun played the depressed husband Dan Goodman, Divanka Djamalus played Natalie Goodman and Audric Ramos played Gabriel "Gabe" Goodman. Aqsa Suryana played two roles, Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine, and Joseph Parhusip played Henry.

Next to Normal delivered by actors under 18 years old, at Usmar Ismail Hall, Jakarta, on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of JYPA)
Many of the young actors were 18 or even younger. (Photo courtesy of JYPA)

Harmoun, still only 17, said pulling off the role of a father deep in the throes of depression was not an easy act.

"I needed to train my body language and my voice to look and sound older. I ended up copying my dad," he said.

Kyla, who is also the co-founder of JYPA, said the company held an open audition for the roles and carefully selected the cast to suit the sensitive topic of mental illness.

"Because of the heavy content, we chose actors with some experience under their belt," the 16-year-old said.

According to Kyla, 10 percent of all children between the ages of 10 and 13 struggle with mental health problems. The number increases to 30 percent among teenagers between 14 and 18 years old. Sadly, 75 percent of them are still left untreated.

Next to Normal portrays the realities of mental health issue in families, at Usmar Ismail Hall, Jakarta, on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of JYPA)
Mental illness often puts a strain on family life. (Photo courtesy of JYPA)

"We feel we have a duty to use our platform to shine a spotlight on the stigma surrounding mental illness in Indonesia," Kyla said.

She said the company spent an intense three months rehearsing the play.

"We practiced 5-7 hours a day every other day. We felt the end result was incredibly rewarding. The cast said all the work they put in was worth it," Kyla said.

The musical, written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, is licensed from Musical Theatre International. It won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

JYPA's last performance, an original musical titled "Still Life," advocated about disability rights in collaboration with Saraswati Learning Center, a non-profit organization working for children with special needs.

Their next musical, "Carrie," scheduled for January 2020, will be about the thorny subject of sex education.

"We're a collective of young people with a platform and a voice. We can, and should, use our stage to shine a spotlight on difficult topics," Kyla said.

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