Too many people see theater as just a vapid form of entertainment with big, in-your-face musical numbers and no real point.
Too many people think that an actor is just playing pretend, without any real skill or smarts.
Too many people don’t know how stepping into someone else’s world can change your life.
This past weekend, I had the honor of helping to premiere Vanishing Point, a new play with music adapted for the stage by Leslie Jacobson from a verse novel by Australian poet Jeri Kroll. The story follows Diana, a college-aged girl grappling with control, self-image, and the attempt at inhabiting her world—the implosion of which leads her to develop a severe eating disorder, personified in the play as an entire character: a matching, menacing extension of herself. I was fortunate enough to play the role of Diana and be granted access into her extremely complex psychology.
This is a real, living, breathing problem of which so many people feel the intense weight and shame.
Diana’s eating disorder surfaces as a result of a lot of environmental factors—women in magazines, her brother’s Down’s syndrome, her parents’ pressure and guilt, her self-blame, her “obsession with control.” The audience watches as Diana struggles to be the best daughter, friend, granddaughter, sister, student, and self she can be, suffering seemingly endless ups and downs, all while Ana (the personification of her disorder) relentlessly stalks and steals her. Ana becomes anything and everything from a refuge to a means of spiritual elevation, encompassing a dangerous spectrum of inciting factors for the disorder’s parasitic hold.
Both for Diana as a character and me as an actor, this show is heart-breaking in so many ways, especially in the parts where she can’t help but spiral into this oblivion. Yet, some positive forces exist in the forms of her love of horses, her Gran, and the people she meets at the hospital and from school. However, the entire time, everyone inside and outside of the show can’t help but wonder if she’ll vanish at any second.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, including those traditionally accompanied by suicidal tendencies.
After the Saturday show, our dramaturg organized a panel discussion led by an eating disorder treatment expert and a GW student who has herself battled an eating disorder. The panel was more than insightful—it was almost frightening, in that the show echoed such accurate portrayals of reasons, incidents, characteristics, and maneuvers associated with eating disorders.
We also learned that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, including those traditionally accompanied by suicidal tendencies. In the rehearsal process, my director reminded me time and time again, “Diana is constantly fighting in a battle of life or death.” When I was fully able to immerse myself in Diana’s world, it became the most emotionally demanding experience of my life—often, on my walk home or on my couch once I got there, I would just crumple and cry.
It’s about learning to fully embrace and inhabit our bodies, as well as learning to support each other as we all try to do that same thing.
Why? Because this isn’t just a show. This isn’t just some theatrical ploy at a gripping plot. This is a real, living, breathing problem of which so many people feel the intense weight and shame. Diana isn’t just a fictional character. She’s tangible. She’s visible. Most frighteningly of all, she’s relatable.
Vanishing Point is such an important show because it forces us to look at the pressures we put on ourselves and on each other without the option of craning our necks away from what we might cause or see. It grabs us by the shoulders, puts us in front of a mirror, and gives us the chance to, as the final song says, “reclaim the living [us].” It’s about learning to fully embrace and inhabit our bodies, as well as learning to support each other as we all try to do that same thing. In our hyper-surficial, superficial society, women drowning in self-doubt are crying out for a show like Vanishing Point—and I couldn’t be prouder to help bring it to the world.
Share your thoughts: Are you coping with an eating disorder, or know someone who is? What are you doing to help and how is it affecting you?FROM THE WEB: