Tinfoil Dinosaur – when anxiety isn’t a disorder, it’s a superpower, just undesirable

I don’t know how many people actually read this blog in Toronto, and further how many of them would go to Fringe. I Love Fringe. Fringe is a hash mash of (literally) hat-drawn plays, going on about 12 hours a day for 12 days. 155 plays. Amazing.

Given the lottery nature of Fringe festivals, you don’t always see good things, or you see things that are fantastic, or you see things that are entertaining that you forget the next day. I’ve already seen examples of all of these in the last 48 hours.

I saw Tinfoil Dinosaur today. I barely made it in time. I went because the actor’s blurb in the guide mentions that he has an anxiety disorder, and the play touches on that: naturally, I was interested.

It’s a one-man show by a man named Sam Mullins, who hails from British Columbia. If all people in BC are as earnest and engaging as Sam, I want to go there.

The story consists of Sam’s life (forgive me for not calling him “Mullins” – while there might be some missing respect in the last name honorific, his story and his acting made him “Sam” to me) just after he graduates from acting school, and attempts to move into being a professional, and the, well, adventures, disasters and confusion that follow.

I say “story” as the show is storytelling. It is Sam speaking to us, animated, endearing, heart-rendingly raw and open. My major criticism of the show was frequent ums and uhs spattering his speech, leaving it feeling a bit less practiced or professional – less staged at least. But on the other hand, I believe that a solidly scripted version of this work would lack the same feeling of being in the room with a long unseen friend.

I cried. I cried not at the moments of despair (which were brief, well spoken and brave), but the times following, the rebirth into a chance at life again. I cried because it was so clear how he felt, felt, felt what had happened and how it had changed him and helped him live. I cried because he related with perfect clarity the feeling of happiness, after long stretches of misunderstanding and clouds – an alien happiness, a surprise, a myth, a sparkler, and most certainly a butterfly, quietly landing with soft feet, and tickling you to the point of helpless giggles and tears.

I lurked after the show to shake his hand, and just to say thank you (I hope that didn’t come across as creepy, I really do, I just – well, crying and trying not to cry, and knowing I was late, I still just had to say, You touched me, and – and I know this feeling, these feelings, and thank you for knowing it too.).

I obviously have an emotional connection to this show, but here is a list of those who would really, really like it:

Recent graduates, particularly those turned waiter/ess, wondering how to get out of the only job keeping you fed.

Family. Parents. Long lost lovers.

Anyone who has lost their connection, to others, to themselves, to what they wanted. Anyone who has lost sight of the How and the Why.

Theatre lovers, and theatre workers, who have horror stories of their own.

And anyone who loves genuine laughter.

His Blog, currently writing about his Fringe tour.

Fringe listing, for dates and times. (Or if you’re lazy, the Solo Room, @ Tarragon Theatre, at various times July 4th-15th, 2012. $10 tickets – no seriously, $10. Cheaper than Brave. Cheaper than the Avengers. Cheaper than the TTC return trip for you and your date.)


6 thoughts on “Tinfoil Dinosaur – when anxiety isn’t a disorder, it’s a superpower, just undesirable

  1. Honey

    I’m glad that this show made you feel better, but as someone who has lived with diagnosed depression and anxiety since I was seven, I think that shows like this aren’t particularly healthy – mainly because, for depression/anxiety/panic, navel gazing is one of the worst things you can do. I think this is why there’s so much perceived stigma around mental illness, or at least one of the many reasons. People don’t want to talk about their illness because talking about it makes it worse. We don’t pretend it’s not there, we just deal with it privately.
    I’m glad your blog helps you – if it helps you. Because of your unique circumstances (your upbringing in a white middle-class household, the age of the internet confessional, all of your nurture and nature, etc.) it might help you. I just think that, as someone who is very familiar with living with this, it might do the opposite. That’s just me though. Different therapy works for different people. I just see people doing one-man shows about their depression, and it makes me sad because something about it is so narcissistic, and also… exploitative of the illness, almost. exploitative of people going through it, too. I don’t know. I’ve lived with this for fourteen years, and when people go on about their mental problems, I can’t help but be skeptical – especially if it’s a one-man show.
    I feel best with my illness when I’m helping other people, or at least thinking of them instead of myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up poorer, in a different culture, where we weren’t taught, as children are today, to focus on themselves so much.
    Please don’t take this as criticism, because you genuinely seem to be trying to reach out and help people, and give yourself some therapy. Just make sure, when it comes to your brain and its various malfunctions, you don’t start drinking your own Kool Aid.

    1. ardentmarbles Post author

      Thanks for your comment!
      The show made me feel better because I felt less alone – and I think that’s why he wrote and performed it, and why I write on the blog (although, I must add, you are one of the few people who’ve come across it who aren’t my mom). When a (brave) friend asks how my brain is doing, my responses seem inevitably to alienate them from me, because it’s foreign to them.
      When that foreign and helpless stare came from my parents, I got angry at the whole thing, and started to write it down. I don’t know if it helps me sort anything out, but it’s certainly helped my mom and my boyfriend understand and deal with me better.
      I agree about rumination and introspection. Ruminating breeds more ruminating, and it you run your wheels in place, getting deeper and deeper. Keeping away from going over the details again and again does keep you healthier, without question. It’s a core tenet of mindfulness therapy and it’s brilliant.
      I also agree that everyone travels their own path. No two people have the same exact experiences, and everyone heals in a different way.
      While I’m not sure about the whiteness comment (as, a. being white doesn’t mean I’m self-indulging in sickness, or that I have any less reason to have problems, b. colour is pretty tangential to the issue; I mean, WASPs are a fairly mediocre sized minority where I grew up. I do understand that different cultures view mental health very differently, which can be a problem for a lot of people, but me writing can only help not hinder) I really do appreciate that you sent me your thoughts and opinions; I’m really happy you wrote. Thanks.

      1. Honey

        Naw, I just meant that you being white is another way you’re different from me, ie, culturally. I’m not saying that necessarily means you’re privileged. I’m just saying because of this inherent difference in the way we were brought up, it would be presumptuous of me to judge you because I can’t properly empathize with you. It’s all good! I’m not racist I promise

      2. ardentmarbles Post author

        Hehehe, oh good, thank you. Then I most definitely agree. It’s no wonder treatments are hard to find. Everyone has so many different interpretations and situations affecting things.
        P.S. Your email is kind of very awesome.

      3. Honey

        Thanks! It’s a reference to ‘Solomon Gursky Was Here’ by Mordecai Richler. If you haven’t already you should read it. I have no idea what your literary tastes are but I recommend that book to everyone because it’s great.

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