‘Grief on Stage’ to offer healing through theater

Thursday night, people who have lost loved ones will have the opportunity to see their memories commemorated on stage.

Earlier in the day, students majoring in social work, theater, Christian studies, nursing, education and others in or wanting to be in helping professions can participate in a workshop to learn how Playback Memphis uses improvisational theater to heal.

“Playback Memphis is coming to teach us to learn to listen richly and deeply to the stories of pain and traumatic loss in the lives of real people,” said Terry Blakley, professor of social work.

The two free events are a collaboration between Union University Theatre and the Department of Social Work. They brought the group from Memphis after having received the Lyceum Grant.

At the evening performance, families who have dealt with traumatic loss will attend, Blakley said. All members of the Union community are also invited.

Those who have dealt with loss will have the opportunity to tell “living memories” of their loved one, including what they were like, what made them laugh and what their legacy is. Then, members of Playback Memphis will retell those stories on stage.

Blakley and Nita Mehr, professor of social work and acting director of the Master of Social Work, saw the group perform several years ago.

“When we witnessed this in Memphis at the Homicide Loss Survivors Retreat… they laughed so hard that they cried, then they cried so hard that they laughed,” Blakley said. “It’s very emotional, but everyone felt uplifted. … There is healing in crying and in laughter.”

Blakley said the performance is a restorative process that helps survivors of loss focus on the living memories of their loved one, rather than focusing on the death.

“I hope that people find healing, people find skill, knowledge, understanding and find community, that they are not the only ones in the world, because sometimes it feels like that to be suffering a broken heart over the loss of a loved one,” Blakley said. “That’s a pretty tall order, but I think God can do that.”

The workshop will be held at 2:30 Sept. 18 in the W.D. Powell Theatre. The performance will be at 6:30 in the same location. To reserve a seat, email Blakley at tblakley@uu.edu.

About Katherine Burgess 70 Articles
Katherine Burgess, a class of 2015 journalism alumna, is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal & Cream. Her journalism has taken her from a United Nations Tribunal to the largest maximum security prison in the United States to Capitol Hill. She is now the Education Reporter for the Jackson Sun. Follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess