Helium pours into a balloon, stretching and filling the rubber until it bursts. It pops loudly, echoing in our ears. We deal with our emotions in the same way. They fill us up until, just like the balloon, we break.
Chad Henwood, a senior theater major from Tooele, UT, explains a way to deal with these emotions. So what’s his trick? It’s simple. The most therapeutic and healthy way Henwood has found to deal with his emotions is to channel them on stage.
Theater has been a part of Henwood’s life since high school. After graduating high school, he was involved with theater for two years at Snow College before transferring to SUU where he continued to stay involved.
Henwood is currently studying arts administration with the hopes of pursuing theater for his career.
“I care about the arts and I want to be involved in any capacity, whether that is acting or directing,” he said.
Not only is theater his career plan, but it is something he loves and helps him to stay healthy mentally and emotionally.
The production “The Cripple of Inishmaan” originally written by Martin McDonagh, is an example of a time in his life when he used theater as an emotional release.
At that time, Henwood was attending Snow College. His mother had gotten sick and was put on hospice. They were selling his childhood home, and Henwood couldn’t even go back to pack up his room himself.
“It was a highly emotional show. I think that something about acting that a lot of people don’t realize is that, as you’re acting, you feel those emotions. You really feel them. While all this was going on in my life, the show functioned as a way of emotional release. I think, at that time if I didn’t have that show, I would have failed all of my classes.”
The most important part is to leave the emotions on stage afterwards.
Although acting can function as a healthy form of catharsis, the theater student explained that he’s had many professors warn against it. The use of emotional recall, or the recalling of something sad that happened in the past in order to be sad on stage, “It can be dangerous,” said Henwood.
Finding a way to express emotions in a healthy way through acting while also gaining the emotions and empathy that come along with acting (and becoming, in a way) the character you are portraying is a fine line. Without recognizing this, feeling all those emotions on stage can often lead to more harm than good.
Henwood has experienced this firsthand.
“I remember I didn’t do a cool-down after one of the shows, and I felt true emotions of betrayal and hurt for one of the students acting with me, even after the show…It can be a great form of therapy. But actors need to understand that they need to leave those emotions on stage.”
Melinda Pfundstien, who previously taught theater at SUU, helped her students understand this while she was a professor. According to Henwood, she really pushed students to form those connections on stage with other actors.
Theater is beneficial to dealing with stress and anxiety in other ways as well.
Henwood participated in a Cultural Exchange for his EDGE project. He and six other SUU students traveled to Romania for ten days. They performed for Romanian students, and the Romanian students performed for them.
Although they didn’t speak each others’ language, Henwood recalls both audiences laughing and crying.
He explained that after participating in the cultural exchange in Romania, he noticed how close the Romanian actors were with each other. He took this connection into consideration.
“Theater really is a form of therapy,” said Henwood. “Along with the emotional release, you’re with a lot of people, and you’re forming these strong emotional connections that are hard to find anywhere else.”
Henwood plans to continue to use theater to help him in his personal life. Although he is graduating this year, he already has plans to direct a production with his wife. “The Last Five Years” will be shown in Tooele, Utah over Valentine’s Day weekend.
For more information on Henwood and his acting experiences, visit chadhenwood.com.
Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Chad Henwood