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On September 7th, we discussed Stage Door Productions’ upcoming play, Proof. Stage Door Stories is very privileged to present a narrative from Dr. Roy Jarnecke, who plays the role of Robert in Proof. Because the play centers on the topic of mental illness, we wanted to obtain Dr. Jarnecke’s thoughts on the production and how it deals with the topic, as he is a Clinical Psychologist in his day job.

My purpose in writing this evening is to encourage you to attend Stage Door Production’s presentation of the Pulitzer prize-winning play, Proof. If you were on of my children or family members, it would perhaps be enough for me to tell you that I am performing in the role of Robert, a gifted mathematician who also has a mental illness. Then I could argue that we are all Children of God and, therefore, cousins and, therefore, you should come. Some of you will resist this logic; to you, I offer a different bait…it is a well-written, realistic portrayal of mental health issues and the impact of these issues on family members.

My daytime job is as a Clinical Psychologist. I am familiar with the manifestations of mental health problems. Some authors don’t get them right, but David Auburn’s play provides a presentation of Robert’s disorder in a way that is realistic without being overly dramatic or sugar-coated. Many plays take on the impact of mental illness on individuals, and on their friends and loved ones. The good ones take the time to understand what they are writing about and provide an honest representation of the symptoms and the impact of the disorder. Auburn does this very well. An actor does not really need expertise in the manifestations of Robert’s disorder to approach this role, as the writing is good enough to provide all of the needed guidance.

Robert’s diagnosis is never specified, though the pattern of symptoms most resembles a schizophrenic disorder. These disorders (there are different subtypes of schizophrenia) have traditionally been found to exist in about 1% of the population in the United States. Contrary to what is often believed, a schizophrenic disorder is not a “split personality”, but instead is typified by a split with reality. Symptoms such as loose associations, flattened affect, disordered logic and hallucinations are often present. While the play does not address treatment per se, the disorder is optimally treated with a combination of medication, psychotherapy and social supports, such as case management. There is an inherited component to these disorders, but as Robert points out in the play “…there are many factors involved. This is not simply something that you inherit…”

Come to see Proof to experience a well-written play that will provide you with a picture of the effects of a mental disorder on a family that is realistic but optimistic in the end. You don’t have to be a member of my family to come.

Thank you Dr. Jarnecke! This is a very interesting perspective on a production you won’t want to miss.  We will look forward to your portrayal as Robert.

Show dates are the following. To order tickets for each of the respective production dates, simply click on the time which will bring up a link to purchase tickets within a new tab.

September 12th at 7:30 PM

September 13th at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM

September 19th at 7:30 PM

September 20th at 7:30 PM

All shows will be held at the Kitt Creative Studios at 810 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hope to see you there!

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