Miners Alley Playhouse’s newest production is a local favorite, and a seminal play that was created, written and workshopped specifically for the theater.
Based on actual experiences, this story takes the audiences back to the 1940s, puts them in the psychiatrist’s chair along with a young girl who is dealing with schizophrenia.
“I Never Promised You A Rose Garden,” written by Walter Newton, based on Joanne Greenberg’s semi-autobiographical novel, will play at the theater, 1224 Washington Ave. in Golden, until Oct. 27.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays.
“Greenberg lives in Evergreen and is a friend of the theater, and we worked with her and Newton on creating this play especially for our theater from 2002 through 2003, and it was finally produced in 2004,” said director Rick Bernstein. “‘Rose Garden’ was a huge experience for us, and it’s great to revisit.”
The story follows Debra Klein (Ellie Schwartz) and Dr. Fried (Lori Hansen) as they work to try to help Debra defeat the demons she is battling.
Debra created the Kingdom of Yr as a form of self-defense from her reality. In childhood, she suffered frequent abuse from her anti-Semitic peers while at the same time being sheltered by her over-protected family. At first Yr was a safe-haven for her, but eventually the gods of Yr became tyrannical dictators who ruled Debra’s every word and action. At the age of 16, Debra was committed to a psychiatric hospital diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Dr. Fried is a revolutionary doctor, according to Bernstein, because instead of treating schizophrenia with electroshock, surgery or drugs, she approaches her patients with psychotherapy. This was an extremely controversial choice at the time.
Dr. Fried is based on Greenberg’s real psychiatrist, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who helped her deal with her issues, Bernstein said.
“We decided that instead of the way we did the first production — which was a bit sensationalist, and very dramatic — and focused on Debra’s side of things, we would try to focus on Dr. Fried’s side,” Bernstein said. “We wanted the play to have more human form and be more movement driven.”
Schwartz, who is only 17-years-old, took on the challenging task of bringing Debra to life, and Bernstein said she does a fantastic job.
“I really had no idea going in what it was going to be like,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of common misconceptions about mental health that I had to get rid of, and the we started building the character layer by layer.”
Schwartz said she had a lot of help from Bernstein and the rest of the cast in creating Debara.
“This show is amazing because none of us can autopilot on it,” she said. “It is so far removed from what is familiar to us, that we really have to focus and never snap out of it.”
“Rose Garden” is really about the people at the heart of this situation, and that was something that Schwartz never wanted to forget.
“She’s stuck in this world that she created for herself, and it’s so interesting because she both hates and loves it at the same time,” she said. “This show does a great job of bringing multiple view points to the struggle for mental health, and looks at what is underneath the surface.”