Theater helps one family get through tragedy
Jan 29, 2019 09:45AM
● By Heather Sky
By Heather Sky | [email protected]
The macabre misadventures of a fictional household became a therapeutic tool for one South Jordan household after tragedy struck unexpectedly.
“Theater is a place where you can find community when you feel lost,” said Tammy Ross, owner of the Midvale Main Street Theatre.
Lily Featherstone, 11, is in sixth grade at Eastlake Elementary. She loves dogs and wants to be a veterinarian when she gets older. Lily and her older sister are just 21 months apart. Autumn Featherstone, 13, is in seventh grade at Copper Mountain Middle School. Autumn loves to draw and is considering a career in animation. As for now, she is looking forward to taking a theater class in the next academic term.
“I like performing,” Autumn said. “I’ve done little plays with Up With Kids and Yellow Stage Door.”
“We came and saw ‘Mary Poppins’ and Autumn wanted to do [a production at Midvale Main Street Theatre],” added Jen Folkman, Autumn and Lily’s mom.
“It was good and I wanted to be in something that was [bigger than what I had done before],” Autumn said. She decided to audition for the final youth theatre production of the 2018 season at the Midvale Main Street Theatre's Children's Program, “The Addams Family [email protected]”
“She was auditioning, so I wanted to [audition too],” Lily added in a sing-song voice.
“We had already gotten in,” Autumn said, referring to their status in the production when they lost their dad to suicide on Oct. 16, 2018.
“It was unexpected and a shock,” Jen said.
The last time Autumn and Lily saw him, he had dropped them off at theater practice. “At the time, he didn’t show any outward signs. He was not crying out for help at all. He had in the past, but in hindsight he was definitely struggling with bipolar disorder and I wish we would have gotten him help. In his right mind, he would never have chosen to do this to them,” said Jen. “After his mother took her life [4 years ago], things were not the same. That impacted him.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also reports suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
According to Tammy Ross, owner of the Midvale Main Street Theatre, “I asked if they need to leave the show and come back and audition for another production, but Jen said they feel like they need this.”
“The first day back they [the cast and staff] gave us a Build-A-Bear,” said Autumn.
“After that, they felt happy to keep coming back,” added Jen.
“Theater is a place where you can find community when you feel lost,” said Ross.
The girls were cast in “The Addams Family [email protected]” as ancestors of the unconventional family, who open the show by educating the audience about what it means to be a member of their household in “When You’re an Addams.” Lily is dressed as a deceased hippie, complete with flower crown made by her mom. Autumn plays a waitress who died after taking a fall at work, and wears one of her mom’s old name tags.
The princess of darkness herself, Wednesday Addams, has found love and is about to introduce her “normal” boyfriend and his respectable family to her decidedly “different” clan. And if that weren't enough, Wednesday confesses her love to her father—admitting their intention to marry—and begs him not to tell her mother. Desperate to maintain his daughter’s trust, Gomez Addams is faced with a nearly impossible task—keeping a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Hilarity ensues as the family prepares for one normal night inside the walls of their ghoulish mansion.
“The girls have worked so hard to keep this show going the way it should,” said Ross. “Obviously, you can tell when they’re sad or having a rough day, but it’s like they didn’t want to let the show down. They just got through it. I am so proud of them.”
“I’m blown away by my kids’ courage. To watch your kids go through this is devastating. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. Being able to be there and support them is everything,” Jen said. “I love my girls. It’s nice to be needed.”
Although they will miss singing, dancing, and seeing the new friends they made among the “The Addams Family [email protected]” cast members, the girls are ready to move forward.
Lily is looking forward to learning to snowboard with her mom, since being involved in the production has kept them too busy to enjoy their favorite winter activities. Autumn will continue to ski.
“We started out by getting through this minute by minute, then hour by hour, then day by day, and week by week. Next year will be better than this year,” said Jen. “Positive things will happen in our lives, and we’ll get to spend time more together.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.