Emotional Catharsis – “Let them come, let them go.”

(Darryl  Webb)

(Darryl  Webb)

Ashley Underwood

I saw a sticker on Facebook today. “Feelings are healthy. You need to feel them all. Don’t suppress them. Sadness, anger, fear, happiness, love. Let them come, let them go.” I love this quote, and I even agree with it; however, we can all agree that there are simply times where we can’t just feel. We may find out something that makes us want to cry, or scream in anger, but we can’t just leave the office. I work at a law firm. My bosses wouldn’t really appreciate me blasting the clients with emotions that translate to “I will cut you!” or if they walk in and I’ve obviously been crying, or even if I’m enjoying some moment and laughing. 

Propriety is king when you’re a paralegal. 

I’m sure almost everyone has the same sort of experience. There are moments when you can’t fully express yourself – maybe around your children, or simply in public. Society today frowns on public displays of emotion. You’re told you have to suppress your feelings, and sometimes, it’s simply being practical. Basically, we all have all kinds of pent up emotions that have nowhere to go. The initial feeling has past, but the remnants of the feeling are there, and the momentum is gone. There’s no release, there’s no relief, it’s just there – hanging out with all of the other frustration, sadness, happiness, stress, or any other emotions that are stuck behind the wall. It’s like the movie “Inside Out” but we’ve got all of those little people in cages. 

Enter theatre. 

We recently produced All My Sons by Arthur Miller. I played Ann Deever. I won’t go into details about the story, but I will recommend this script to anyone who will listen. It’s fantastic. This was the first drama I had ever acted in. I’d been in a few comedies and musicals, nothing overly deep or dramatic at this point, and after I read All My Sons, I knew I needed to be involved with this production. Our director often told us that this show touched on every single possible emotion. Joy, sorrow, love, hate, fear, anger, grief, hope, denial, hysteria, desperation – as you can see the range really sort of leans toward the negative, but I believe that made the positive emotions that much more powerful. Bob Ross always said you can’t have light without shadow. Smart man, Bob Ross. 

With my character, I was able to channel love for my fiancé in the show, Chris. I was able to channel guilt, because of my issues with my father. I was able to channel hope, because of the future I saw with Chris. I was able to channel grief, because my previous boyfriend died in the war, and I was still dealing with his death. I was able to channel desperation and fear, because I was afraid Chris was going to leave me. I was able to channel anger, on and on. It was like therapy – a painful kind maybe. It made me face the things in my life that made me feel all of those emotions in order to give a genuine performance. Every night I ran on the stage for curtain call with ruined makeup and a headache from crying. 

It was amazing. 

Here it was, this opportunity to express your emotions in a safe place. To channel all of those feelings that had nowhere to go, no momentum because the moment has passed. Theatre gave it new momentum, a new purpose, a new reason to feel that wasn’t necessarily connected directly to my personal life, but I still felt them. Every performance was cathartic. It was a release, a storm of emotion tightly controlled and used for the purpose of theatre. Lightning channeled into electricity, and I was the key. Every single one of us on that stage had to give in to that vulnerability, and when we all did at the same time, it really was a storm – a beautiful, sad storm, the kind where you go sit outside on the steps and cry in the rain. People told us after the show that All My Sons made them think about their lives, examine their own hearts, see their own feelings. 

Our director told us, “If we made them think, then we did our jobs.”

I hope that everyone has the opportunity to do a show like All My Sons. A show that captivates you and you become so entrenched in the character, you can’t figure out where one starts and the other begins. A show where you feel safe with every other person on that stage, and where you can let go. Theatre gives such a unique opportunity to explore human emotion, and allows us all to examine ourselves and our lives. 

“Feelings are healthy. You need to feel them all. Don’t suppress them. Sadness, anger, fear, happiness, love. Let them come, let them go.”