Just in time for World Suicide Awareness Day, “A Day for Grace,” a mixed musical/monologue performance targeted the harsh reality of suicide that affects many. Whether a family member or friend of someone who has committed suicide, someone who has had suicidal thoughts or attempts— or even someone that has no connection to suicide, it was clear that all participants and spectators in the performance were deeply moved by this emotional experience at the Oconomowoc Arts Center.
Sam Llanas, formerly of the BoDeans, performed original music on his guitar and sang powerful lyrics inspired by his personal encounter with suicide as a young child. Llanas shared the stage with playwright and lead actor: Doug Vincent. Vincent skillfully played many characters throughout the performance which showed how the effects of alcoholism, depression, abuse and suicide affect all of a person’s relationships and can cause problems later in life if not addressed. Vincent’s main character, which portrayed his own life story, bravely revealed his struggles with becoming a new father, which stemmed mostly from his personal story involving suicide.
After the stirring monologue and musical accompaniment, four mental health-related professionals participated in a panel and offered their own comments on the performance and addressed the audience’s questions and personal stories. Chad Wetterneck, PhD, clinical supervisor, said, “What really struck me about the performance was that I found myself wanting to distract myself during the emotional portions by multitasking. My impulse was to grab my phone to avoid getting emotional during the intense moments of the performance. But then I realized that I wasn’t following my own advice to my patients. I ask them to be able to express and honor their own emotions, not mask them like my initial reaction. For many people, there never seems to be an ideal time to let emotions come out, so they get bottled up and become problematic.”
After hearing Dr. Wetterneck’s input on the monologue, an audience member responded, “I’ve notice that a lot of men feel that aren’t able to cry or express their emotions out of fear of being seen as a weak person. But from my own experience, I found incredible strength in my tears and realized that they’re actually a powerful catalyst for healing.”
“A Day for Grace” was a special event for all who were involved in the production and all who were a part of the audience. Thanks to the artistic talents of the production team, the entire group shared a common experience in the performance and found a mutual place of understanding after the show. Even though each person has seen a different face of suicide, each person understood one another’s incredible pain and strength to carry on though life’s struggles. Ending on a hopeful note, Vincent’s main character said, “It hurts… and we move to the next moment…as we should.”