Next to Normal
By Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
My best friend was diagnosed with manic-depressive bi-polar disorder when I was fifteen and temporarily checked into a psychiatric institute on my sixteenth birthday. Another close friend cut long lines into his arms and lied for months saying, “a tree fell on him.” A third friend struggled with serious grief surrounding the loss of a loved one and finding some sort of hope to continue living. For a while, I began to consider that I’ve known too many people who have struggled with mental illness, and that maybe it was something about me. But then I began to realize that it wasn’t about me. This is something that affects an enormous range of people. Everyone knows someone that suffers from depression, mania, bi-polar disorder, delusional episodes, feelings of worthlessness and apathy. They are not rare things, and yet it’s so rare that we openly talk about them.
That’s why Next to Normal is such an important show. It depicts real people struggling with real issues, real disabilities, real tragedies, and real life. I have an enormously personal relationship with this show and it has been one of my favorites since it premiered in 2009. This relationship is part of why I sought to direct it. I wanted to share this story with as many people as I could, because it is so important that we talk about mental illness, grief, love, and hope. People shouldn’t feel afraid or alone when they find themselves confronting challenges similar to those found in this story. Next to Normal provides a light in the dark for everyone in the world that feels lost. No matter what you feel today, “There will be light.”