This past weekend, Elon University’s Renegade Productions presented “Frozen,” Bryony Lavery’s play that follows the lives of three people — a mother, a serial killer and a psychiatrist — who become intertwined after the disappearance of a young girl.
Renegade, an Elon organization for student-written or directed theatrical productions, provides an outlet for all majors to produce, design and perform all forms of theater.
The show’s director, senior Cody Schmidt, brought the play to Renegade’s attention after he read the show a year ago.
“I was looking for something to direct and stumbled upon the script again,” Schmidt said. “We are presenting a pedophile and serial killer here, and as a society, we need to talk about that so we can fix that problem rather than let it be as it is. A lot of inspiration for the show comes from that idea.”
The discussion of serial killers and mental illness is an uncomfortable subject for many. Senior Mercer Lindquist — who plays the mother, Nancy — said theater is a great way for people to explore their feelings about anything they’re unsure about.
“With this kind of show, we deal with a topic that people don’t talk about because it’s uncomfortable,” Lindquist said. “We need to open up the conversation and have those talks and let people express themselves in whatever way they seem fit. Theater is the perfect vessel for those conversations.”
The cast and crew of “Frozen” decided to ease audiences into those conversations by partnering with Elon’s new mental health advocacy organization, Active Minds. The organization’s founder, senior Emilia Azar, said the opportunity to open the conversation to a new audience was too good to pass up.
Azar said she was hooked after reading “Frozen’s” script.
“It presented mental illness in a very unique way, and I was both slightly disturbed but also inspired,” she said. “After meeting Cody, I knew he was extremely kind, funny and passionate about mental health. I knew this was the first opportunity for Active Minds to get its name out as a new organization and be attached to something amazing in the process.”
Schmidt didn’t shy away from the potential discomfort of this show. He wanted audience members to feel out of their element during the performance. So, he braced himself for any and all reactions from the audience. Schmidt said he was pleasantly surprised with the opening night’s reception.
“I had more nerves toward [how the] audience would respond to it,” Schmidt said. “It’s very vulgar, in-your-face content, and we’re presenting it in a very in-your-face way. We’re forcing the audience to feel vulnerable, and that’s nerve-wracking. It’s a great piece of work here, but I didn’t expect the general acceptance it had for everyone.”
In the end, the show was about making people confront the dark side of our society and the things people tend to forget when they live in a “bubble” like Elon.
But, Azar pointed out, plays like “Frozen” and the conversations they ignite are important for us to experience.
“The whole purpose of ‘Frozen’ mirrors Active Minds’ national motto: starting the conversation about mental health,” she said. “The play makes you think about morality, the idea of evil and mental illness. We’re encouraging people to start talking and have a conversation with us about their own perspectives on mental health and illness.”