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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘Anxious People!’ gives exposure therapy for anxiety

Nick Glover
The door of the Sally Stevens Players Theatre sits closed after a weekend full of performances. NIU’s most recent play “Anxious People!” opened this week. (Nick Glover | Northern Star)

Anxiety, at its core, is a deeply human condition. As social creatures, people are prone to intense feelings when outside pressures hinder and interrupt their own experiences.  

Audiences were treated to stories and experiences of people dealing with anxiety in the School of Theatre and Dance’s latest performance of “Anxious People!” in the Sally Stevens Players Theatre. 

Written by writer and artist Carol Lee and directed by Alys Dickerson, “Anxious People!” provides an intimate view of people’s deeply emotional minds via a lens of their interactions and relationships.  

Dickerson is an NIU graduate of the SOTD and told the department on Instagram she enjoyed working on the play. 

“The students have made me laugh, cry and see things differently,” Dickerson said.  

The play gives its actors a chance to be raw and vulnerable as they share deeply personal feelings. 

This level of vulnerability does come with some level of caution though as at times the reaction of anxiety-inducing events can itself bring on anxiety.  

“For me anxiety is a constant state of being,” said Ryn Aston, a sophomore acting student. 

This experience being deeply personal can be either good or bad. At times I too felt this overwhelming sense of pressure from these performances.  

The stage felt a bit claustrophobic at times as if the audience itself was part of the storytelling. The chalkboards and colorful wooden blocks used to set each scene brought back painful memories to some of my most anxiety-ridden experiences in grade school. 

I can still hear the echoes of the audience’s laughter ringing in my head, reminding me of old classmates. 

It’s a powerful visceral experience that at its core lets the actors of “Anxious People!” strike at the heart of the human condition.  

At times the play felt disconcerting, with each scene lacking little connection or cohesiveness outside a common theme of anxiety, fears and heartbreak.  

While some scenes seemed impactful, such as a dying mother and her children, other scenes felt sort of superfluous and tedious; one such scene seemed to be mindless babbling and seemed more like a scene about deranged kindergarteners. 

Despite dragging a bit at the end, the play finished strong with thunderous applause. 

For one actor, Gabby Gozdecki, a third year acting student, the play was a cathartic experience that helped her deal with her own feelings of anxiety. 

“I think it’s a really relatable play, that the whole audience can see themselves in,” Gozdecki said. “Some of them (the audience) can be like ‘oh that’s my friend up there.’”

Gozdecki also said she recommends everyone go see the show because everyone deals with anxiety and the play helps to show people that they’re not alone in their struggles. 

Repeat showings will be taking place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets must be purchased online at the SOTD website. NIU students’ tickets are free and general public tickets are $9.

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