Bucks Drama Club Set to Perform “Next to Normal”


Erin Smith, Centurion Staff

Members of the Bucks Drama Club are preparing to perform playwright Brian Yorkey’s rock musical “Next to Normal” at the Zlock Performing Arts Center on the Newtown campus from May 2 -4 at 7 p.m. and it is intended for mature audiences.
“Next to Normal” is a musical that centers on a mother who has multiple mental health issues, including bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, and how it affects the life of her husband and two teenage children. The show being performed in May is fitting, as it is Mental Health Awareness month, and the show has themes that deal with the struggles of having a mental illness and how it affects people’s relationships.
Cali Wagner, a 19-year-old liberal arts major from Philadelphia, has taken on the duty of directing the show. Though she has acted in in multiple productions in the past, including “The Little Mermaid” and “Bye Bye Birdie”, this is her first time directing.
Wagner is tasked with roles like instructing actors on where to stand onstage and helping actors on how deliver lines a certain way.
“Really, I just want to feel like I can help actors be the best that they can be,” said Wagner.
When asked if she preferred acting or directing, she said, “I think directing was a lot more fun for me because I’ve always gone to shows and found myself thinking about how I would set up a certain scene or how I would have a character say a certain line.”
Wagner is very excited that the show is coming up, and shares how she thinks the cast will do great, “I love everyone performing in the show, I’ve gotten very close with them because they try so hard to do so good.”
Vice president of drama club Sofia Carrasquillo, 20 years old and a music major from Langhorne, plays one the main parts of the show. After performing with Neshaminy High School’s Summer Stock program and having played parts in shows like “Pippin” and “Falsettos”, this is her first main role. She plays Dianna Goodman, the mother who deals with multiple mental health disorders.
When asked about what it was like to play a woman with such severe mental health problems, she said, “I feel like I’m not a very emotional person, so playing a character who is so hyper-emotional was hard at first. I had Cali and other credible people helping me with the quirks and feelings that are traditionally associated with bipolar disorder.”
She even helped President Nate Brady pick the show to perform this semester with a diverse cast with numerous male and female parts, so that members of the drama club would have a lot of chances to audition for certain parts.
Forrester Connor is a 19-year-old secondary education major from Yardley who plays Gabe Goodman, Diane’s son. Connor describes his character as the “perfect son”- someone who is smart, charismatic, and most of all, favorited by his mother. Though he seems to be perfect, Connor shares that Gabe is also very self-centered and “feeds on the attention of others”.
When asked how he got into theater, he responded honestly, “My mom basically made me get into theater as something to do. And then, my girlfriend became director of the show and really wanted me to do it too.”
Connor also reveals that he is genuinely very excited to have such a leading role for the first time and looks forward to performing in May.
Emma Sabol is a senior from Council Rock High School North who also takes college courses at Bucks., A film major from Newtown, she plays the part of Natalie Goodman, Dianne’s daughter and Gabe’s sister.
When asked about her character, she describes Natalie as “ A perfectionist who puts a lot of stress on herself. She is always responsible and had to take care of herself due to her mother’s mental illness and dreams of getting out of her house to go to Yale to pursue music.”
Sabol expresses her fondness of the cast and how they all work so well together, “Its fun to be able to joke around with everyone at one moment and then have everyone jump right into character and do a scene.”
All students shared how grateful they are to be a part of this production and favor Bucks’ drama club much higher than high school drama clubs. As Sabol said, “High school drama was so competitive and it was easy to see that teachers had favorite students who would always get picked for big roles.”
With Bucks’ program being mainly student-run, actors feel like the whole process is much more collaborative and inclusive.
Students interested in seeing “Next to Normal” can buy tickets online on the Bucks County Community College Drama Club Facebook page, the box office, or at the door. Tickets are $10 for students who can provide a Bucks ID, and $15 for general admission.