Next to Normal: Dig Deeper

April 2022
« BACK TO NEXT TO NORMAL

More insights. More fun.

Meet the experts and enhance your theater experience.  We’ve invited experts in the community to delve into the themes of the show in informal conversations with audience members.

All are welcome to join — no ticket to the performance is necessary! For post-show events, please arrive at the Playhouse approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes after curtain time; we will begin immediately after the show. Please note that ALL ATTENDEES will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and wear a mask while indoors at the Playhouse. View our complete COVID-19 protocols here.


These free programs are made possible thanks to a grant from CT Humanities.

Post-Play Dialogue

Thursday, April 7 (8PM curtain)
Playhouse Assistant Artistic Director Liam Lonegan and Director of Education and Community Engagement Jenny Nelson, will lead the audience in a conversation about the unique music of Next to Normal.

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Liam Lonegan (Assistant Artistic Director) Before founding Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective in 2017, Liam (he/him) received his BFA from Syracuse University, where he was the Managing Director of Black Box Players while directing and assisting on numerous productions. Most recently he co-directed The Rats and directed The Killer for Egg & Spoon’s second season. Other assisting credits include Fiorello! (Off-Broadway, dir. Bob Moss); In the Heights (dir. Marcos Santana); Man of La Mancha (dir. Mark Lamos); and Thousand Pines (dir. Austin Pendleton). He is currently the Assistant Artistic Director at Westport Country Playhouse, and an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Jenny Nelson (Roz and Bud Siegel Director of Education & Community Engagement) Jenny Nelson is originally from Tucson, Arizona. She received her bachelor’s degree in theater, a master’s degree in theater from the University of Arizona, and a second master’s degree in education from Fairfield University. Jenny is the Associate Artistic Director of Collective Consciousness, a social justice theater company in New Haven, CT. She has taught at several universities, including City College of New York in the Graduate Program for Theatre Professionals and Educators. She has also worked as an artist and educator at several theaters, including Long Wharf Theatre, The Shubert Theatre, and Yale Repertory. Recently, Jenny was a nominee for The Tony Teaching Award of Excellence. Jenny is also an accomplished pianist and songwriter as well as a professional director. Selected past directing credits include Pass Over, The Royale, Sunset Baby, Milk Like Sugar, We Are Proud to Present…, and Gidion’s Knot.

Post-Play Dialogue

Tuesday, April 12 (7PM curtain)

Playhouse Assistant Artistic Director Liam Lonegan will lead the discussion with Reverend Dr. Bernard R. Wilson, Senior Minister of Norfield Congregational Church, in Weston, Connecticut, about pastoral counseling services and spiritual wellbeing.

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The Rev. Dr. Bernard R. Wilson is the 35th Senior Minister of Norfield Congregational Church. Dr. Wilson is a retired Navy Chaplain who received numerous awards, medals and citations for his stellar military career of 22 years. Rev. Wilson served as the Executive Minister of The Riverside Church in the City of New York, and as the Interim Minister of the Briarcliff Manor Congregational Church in New York.

Dr. Wilson served as an Adjunct Preaching Professor at The New Brunswick Theological Seminary and at the Howard University School of Divinity for Continuing Education. He serves on the Board of Directors of the David and Dovetta Wilson Scholarship Fund (DDWSF), a non-profit 501 © organization with his eight brothers and sisters (www.WilsonFund.org). DDWSF has awarded nine scholarships annually, since its inception in 1990. The Wilson Family was named “Family of the Year” by USA Today, “Heroes for America” by Reader’s Digest and the Wilsons were featured in the NBC/AT&T special: Images and Realities the African-American Family. Three of his siblings are in full-time ministry; his sister, The Rev. Dr. Ruby Wilson, pastors the Safe Haven United Church of Christ in Queens, his brother, Commander Charles E. Wilson is a retired Navy chaplain and his sister Carolyn Blair is an Associate Minister serving a congregation in Maryland.

Dr. Wilson also served as the first Chair of the United Church of Christ Board, the first unified governing body of the United Church of Christ. And he serves as the Police Chaplain for the Town of Weston.

Dr. Wilson holds degrees in Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College, Masters of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center; Masters of Sacred Theology from Union Theological Seminary; Masters in Business Administration from Salve Regina University; and Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Post-Play Dialogue

Tuesday, April 19 (7PM curtain)

Playhouse Assistant Artistic Director Liam Lonegan will lead the discussion with Dr. Jeff Borenstein, from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, about how to live with and help folks who are living with mental illness. Dr. Borenstein will also share some exciting new research that will help folks live full, happy and productive lives. No ticket necessary – free and open to all following the show.

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Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the Emmy-nominated public television program “Healthy Minds,” and serves as host and executive producer of the series. The program, broadcast nationwide, is available online, and focuses on topics in psychiatry in order to educate the public, reduce stigma and offer a message of hope. Dr. Borenstein also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Borenstein is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and serves as the Chair of the Section of Psychiatry at the Academy. He also serves as the President of the New York State Psychiatric Association. Dr. Borenstein earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his medical degree at New York University.

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Post-Play Dialogue

Friday, April 22 (8PM curtain)

Liam Lonegan will speak onstage with Linda Autore from Laurel House, a Connecticut nonprofit that provides resources to those community members living with mental illness.

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Linda Autore is President and CEO of Laurel House, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Stamford, CT that helps individuals and families in Fairfield County achieve and sustain mental health to lead fulfilling lives. Under her leadership two innovative programs, Thinking Well (Cognitive Remediation) and www.rtor.org, a gateway to expert mental health services were developed and implemented to fill voids in community mental health services. Linda is a member of the Silver Hill Hospital Board of Directors. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Coordinating Council of Opening Doors Fairfield County, collaborating with other agencies to prevent and end homelessness. An operating executive in the healthcare and technology industries, Linda translated 15 years of experience with IBM to roles leading transformation and growth in public and private companies. Among Linda’s past leadership roles are President and CEO of Moore Medical in New Britain, CT (acquired by McKesson) and President and General Manager of PDI, the Healthcare Division of Nice-Pak Products,
Orangeburg, NY. Linda received her B.A. and M.A. from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Linda resides in Norwalk, CT with her husband and has three adult children and three grandchildren.

Laurel House provides mental health resources to people coping with mental illness, and their families, across numerous communities in and around Connecticut. Resources to Recover is a robust array of integrated services and expertise helping people along the path of mental health recovery. Although more than 80% of our program participants are living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, research supports that people can and do recover from the worst effects of serious mental illness.

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With a pop/rock musical that pushes boundaries in structure and story, we want to invite the audience and our community into a dialogue as well as provide resources. This group of guests, curated by Jenny Nelson, will help connect the show to issues of mental health, community, and song. 

Liam Lonegan
Playhouse Assistant Artistic Director

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