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Theatre: Bringing The Voice Back

Stuttering was what my childhood was all about. My brain zoomed about like a pinball and my mouth struggled with all its might to keep up. Conversating became an impossibility. I often didn’t speak at all. This hushed lifestyle landed me in special education for a year or two. They couldn’t figure out what was causing my quiet demeanor. I forced myself to speak in order to earn my place in regular classes, but the stutter remained.

In the third grade, I was selected to read aloud from a story. One of the characters was an elderly woman. I put on a weathered voice and changed my body shape to match. There was no hint of a stutter. Intrigued by this phenomenon, the teacher suggested to the director of the school’s Christmas pageant that I be the leading lady. The stutter faded away while I was performing.

I caught the acting bug and started taking classes at Waukesha Civic Theatre. That led to other classes in the community. I had the time of my life and the effects were visible at school. I became a social butterfly. I dressed in elaborate outfits and stopped caring about what people thought. If I could speak in front of people, what was keeping me from bantering with people in real life?

Then middle school arrived. I challenge you to find one person who considers middle school their glory years. I personally was bullied, which led to my first bout of undiagnosed depression. I halted my acting. I didn’t want anybody to make fun of me for something I loved so deeply.

When I got to high school, I came back out of my shell. I put on the character of the clown. That’s what propelled me through the first three years of high school. The year that changed the trajectory of my life was that third year. I didn’t know I had Bipolar Disorder yet, but the signs were surfacing more than ever. I spent the first few months of that school year manic. I didn’t eat regularly and sometimes didn’t eat altogether. I spent my school days putting forth obscene amounts of energy trying to please and entertain everybody. There was this overwhelming mission to never let anybody feel the pain like the kind I was pushing down inside myself.

I soon ran myself down to the point of falling ill with pneumonia. This sent me into another deep depression. I laid in bed everyday playing solitaire on the computer, lonely and miserable. When I got back to school, I threw myself into the arts, and felt better. It was the only element of my life keeping me afloat. In addition to painting, I acted through the school’s Forensics team and Waukesha Civic Theatre’s A.C.T. Live!

Although the arts helped me during that year, I couldn’t keep the mania at bay. I was sent to a psychiatric hospital on May 25, 2011. This was the beginning of the most arduous summer of my life. As they experimented with the meds, I crashed into a deep and dark depression. It takes forever to get patients on the right medications. The brain chemistry of people with my condition is unique to each patient, so it takes time to find the right medicine regimen. The highlight of the summer of 2011 was working with Dynamite Comedy, which was comprised of kids that had met in A.C.T. Live! I wrote a skit for the sketch comedy show. Unfortunately, my anxiety kept me from performing with them. I still went to the show and they pulled me onstage. I felt welcomed. I also took an improv class at the end of that hellish summer. It felt rewarding to actually complete something.

Shortly after the showcase, I was put on Prozac and nothing else. My new doctor was considering changing my diagnosis to a mood disorder, which is less extreme than Bipolar Disorder. This medicine change sent me into psychosis. I spent the last week of summer break in the hospital. The school counselor suggested I refrain from coming back to school. She said that maybe I should take online classes. I refused. I didn’t want to be afraid of facing everybody.

Thank God I went back. Yes, the first few weeks were difficult. Then the school’s resident drama king came into my life – Ryan Albrechtson, who now runs Outskirts Theatre Co. One day after school, he pulled me into his car and told me to try out for the school play – The Hobbit. He was student directing and thought it would be beneficial for me. I was cast as Gollum. It wasn’t the limelight that made my senior year the best of my high school experience. It was being part of a group of kids who didn’t see me as being any crazier than them.

When I graduated high school, I didn’t know what to do with myself. After I realized I wasn’t ready for college, I dropped out and wrote my first novel – Hey, Joey Journal. It’s a story about a senior in high school simultaneously dealing with mental illness and high school theatre. The book was released in September 2015. I wrote the first few chapters in Waukesha Civic Theatre’s dressing room while performing Our Town.

Without my experience with mental illness and theatre, my book wouldn’t have happened.

Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong disease. There is no cure for it. As I write this, I am fresh out of another hospital stay, this time for depression. One of the things I had to look forward to when I was in the hospital was my weekly Adult Improv class taught by Doug Jarecki at Waukesha Civic Theatre. I was scared to go the day I was released for obvious reasons, but I’m so glad I went. Being given the chance to act and play with other silly adults was the brightest part of an otherwise taxing week.

My voice has come back because of acting multiple times in my life, and I feel incredibly grateful.

This is why we need to keep the arts alive. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health. Being involved in theatre has taught me that everybody has a little bit of crazy in them, but that’s what makes us so damn entertaining.





Colleen June Glatzel

Green Ribbon Campaign: Lessons From Theatre

Theatre – a culture where emotion, struggle, and connection are the messages that are brought to life from the depths of every wonderful storyteller. Thespians put their heart and soul into delivering raw human experiences in such a pure form uninhibited by society’s standards. Laying these bits of humanity at the audience’s feet allows individuals to connect, empathize, and struggle right along with the characters. Here, emotion and struggle is accepted, but once we step foot out of the theater…

Why is it no longer ok?

Why do we have to hide or water down our experiences?

Why can’t we sit with someone in their struggle as we do with the characters?

When does it become too real?

There are many lessons we can learn from the epic stories that are shared with us in the theater.

Most characters will encounter a great struggle. In the depths of their journey they too may feel there is no end in sight, no rest for the wicked, and no one who truly understands. We don’t see them hiding their emotions and burying their hardships. Instead we see them meeting them head on and doing whatever needs to be done to honor their struggle but never get stuck in it.

If we can learn to take care of ourselves in the midst of struggle, we will build our resilience to cope during these difficult journeys and we are able to better handle the adversity in front of us.

Moments of despair can feel never ending at times, and even though we may enjoy belting out our favorite heartbroken ballads, it somehow doesn’t feel as graceful as that in real life. People speak about perseverance as though it is always driven by strength, passion, and the unwavering drive forward. In reality, it’s not always that bold.

Sometimes it’s just quietly refusing to give up, or ensuring that you have the support needed to help you through this difficult journey.

Great stories expand our horizons and show us that support, love, and acceptance can be found in some of the most unlikely of places. It is simple to look right in front of us for what we feel is right and comfortable, but that’s not always where we find our best supporters. Sometimes our biggest support can be a loyal animal, an inspiring stranger, or a misunderstood enemy.

It is when we reach deep into our souls that we can start to see what and who we really need in our lives to help us become the best versions of ourselves.

Along with struggle, theater also celebrates strength. A human experience that doesn’t always come easily and takes some effort, passion, and hope. Think back on some of your favorite plays and musicals. When thinking about the character’s struggles, can you place your finger on at least one thing that kept them hopeful? Touchstones they come back to in times of need, giving them strength to continue moving forward in their journey.

Our feelings of hope have so much connection to our strength. Whether it be an item, a place, or a person, just the thought, sight, or touch of them can center you and remind you of the immense strength you hold inside of you. Keep these touchstones close.

So many struggles come about from not feeling “normal,” accepted, and like “them”, but as the characters find out at some pivotal point along their journey, isn’t our individuality what makes us all interesting and original? We all celebrate with them at the end of the story as they stop hiding who they are and start using their uniqueness and individuality to help others and enjoy life to the fullest. We see them thriving, loving, happy, and connected. It gives us a sense of calm and contentedness so we can feel good letting that chapter close.

What if we didn’t have to wait until “the end” to realize that we have something special to offer the world and we will do it in our own time and with our own flare? It would not end all of our struggles, but it has the opportunity to make it a much more enjoyable journey.

Don’t ignore or be afraid of your individual signs of struggle. Instead, choose to stare them in the face and …

  • Connect with your support system, they are the rocks we need to learn to lean on during difficult journeys and someday, they may need our help too.
  • Don’t be ashamed to seek help when you need it. It’s not always easy to ask for help, so actively seeking it is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Be mindful of any self-medication (alcohol, drugs, excessive or lack of eating, excessive exercising, risky behaviors, gambling, excessive spending, etc.)
  • Remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass. As much as we may feel drawn to helping others, we need to care for ourselves first so we are rejuvenated enough to care for others responsibly. Find your self care outlet(s) and stick to them!
  • Know that you are the only one who can make the changes necessary to become the best version of you. Don’t let this fact be a burden but rather a badge of strength as you slowly gain control of your actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Seek supports who will help you wear your badge proudly!


Kiri Meyer MS, LPC, NCC

WCT Joins The Green Ribbon Campaign

To recognize May as Mental Health Month, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is running an awareness campaign. The Green Ribbon Campaign piloted in 2013, in New York, as an anti-stigma initiative designed to facilitate open and honest dialogue about the topic of mental health in our communities. NAMI | Waukesha has many resources and events for those struggling with mental illness and those who wish to know more and support friends and family with mental illness. It is a nonprofit organization that provides free education, support, and advocacy to community members affected by mental health conditions.

WCT is partnering with NAMI | Waukesha by putting up green ribbons, and posting flyers about mental health for the month. We will also be running a series of articles on our blog about mental health and the arts, as well as using the hashtag #mentalhealthmatters in our social media posts. Stay tuned!

We are involved in this campaign as a way to be active in our community and to promote the well-being of all our community members. The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of the prevalence of mental illness, work to erase the stigma associated with mental illness, and start conversations that could, ultimately, save lives.



Katie Danner

Marketing Director