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  • Angela Allyn

Bringing Mental Health out of the Closet

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

You only have a few more days left to see Nikki Lynette’s groundbreaking musical Get Out Alive at The Den Theatre, 1331 N Milwaukee in Chicago’s Wicker Park,(it closes Saturday, August 6) but you are going to want to snag one of the few remaining seats because this social action Afro Goth autobiographical work is an important game changer. The show is written and stars Lynette and it is out loud and proud about complex PTSD and depression.

Lynette believes that she stayed alive to make this piece and to hear her speak about her process is to hear a woman who has found a calling, a mission, and a way to move through unbearable pain into a life she could not imagine in the depth of her despair. And the show will not extend because Lynette is honest that she needs to rest. The show has been selected as the only Chicago offering to be featured at the prestigious Festival for New Musicals in New York this fall, and Lynette will be staying on the writer's side of the table, casting someone else to play herself to gift herself with the opportunity to witness in another way.

This iteration of the play (her very first play– she previously tackled the subject of mental illness with a film that has been touring the festival circuit) is produced by Haven and features a loosely based funeral celebration of life format, a ceremony both for a version of the protagonist and for her mother who becomes ill dies as this story unfolds. The evening is intensely personal and moving, but it will not take you down. You will laugh, you will groove along with the music. The singing and dancing are powerful but ultimately it is the overall representation of a black woman struggling with a pernicious debilitating illness that our culture has a hard time talking about that really makes this show something special and new.

Lynette has dedicated her craft for now to being a mental health activist, and this work is a landmark in that realm. It opens a conversation about a topic that has lived amongst communities, destroyed people, and been taboo to speak about, let alone turn into a musical.

She has been surprised by how many audience members come up to her at the end of the show having found a representation of themselves and their struggle– a validation they have not been offered before in a theatrical experience. She finds the ability to help people and contribute to be motivating and inspiring. And she is going to go on talking about and making art about mental illness: her next project is a docuseries on mental illness because while she loves the energy of live theatre, she finds that the film medium allows her to be very specific and reach many people in many places all at once. This is an artist and a conversation I will follow.

For now, call 773-697-3830 or go to to get one of the few remaining seats this Thursday through Saturday this weekend at the Den.

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