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Throughline Theatre Production Aims To Bring Awareness To Mental Health Issues

Throughline Theatre Company’s adaptation of "'night, Mother,” premieres Friday. It's a dark play that was selected by the company to bring awareness to the stigmatization of mental health issues and advocate for prevention. It is the second production of their summer season.

The Pulitzer prize-winning play, written in 1981 by Marsha Norma, looks at unfortunate circumstances, depression and helplessness. The company has issued a content warning for the production, as “the plot involves suicide and extensive discussion of the decision to do so.”

The play has just two staged characters, a daughter planning to end her life and a mother in hopeless disbelief of her daughter’s plan. This selection is deliberate, says Throughline’s Michael McBurney, calling it “a story that is very much of people in the United States,” and hopes that people leave thinking “more consciously about how we interact with those around us.”

Director Sarah McPartland said she pulled from her upbringing in the Mon Valley for inspiration. Mental health issues are stigmatized in more rural areas, she says, and presenting works like this help de-stigmatize them and “open the dialogue of awareness and prevention.”  

Between the last two performances of “‘night, Mother,” Throughline will host an event called “Between the Throughlines” with licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Patrick J. McElfresh, where attendees can discuss the contents of the play and how they play into the larger context of mental health issues. 

The company’s theme for the current season is “Staging the Nation,” which aims to show how American theatre distinguishes itself from other regions and styles. Previously, the company did a production of “André,” written in 1798 by William Dunlap, which served as an early example of American drama. Later this summer, the company will present a new work by Christopher Barlow titled “How to Die Alone.”

Throughline’s marketing director is also an employee of Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation. WESA is a media sponsor of Throughline Theatre Company.