Rehearsal on a Saturday, we originally had it scheduled for 2pm but some of us had conflicts so we had changed it to 4pm about a week prior. It was a warm and sunny day. We arrived and all seemed normal…some of us were finishing up a late lunch or early dinner. There were warm greetings and laughter. Everyone was there except Troney but Brenda told us to gather around because she had some things to tell us. It was evident that she was stressed but that wasn’t too far from ordinary; as the creator and director of the play we have all seen the enormous weight of responsibility she carries.
The room fell silent as she began speaking and slowly we all became aware that what she had to say was going to be unlike anything in the past. Nothing could prepare us for the news that she had to tell us. “This morning, Troney’s younger brother has taken his own life in a park near Troney’s home…”
As a family of individuals who stand together against mental illness it was a shock to hear that one of our own had fallen into the arms of suicide. Brenda explained that she had spoken with Troney and that he was on his way but that if he couldn’t perform his part Kentrell would be his alternate. There were tears, so many tears…
Troney arrived and was greeted with the usual hugs. We formed our usual circle and joined hands to pray. Brenda looked up at Troney and asked one question “Are you here to watch or here to work?” and Troney raised his chin and replied, “I’m here to work.” We went into prayer and more tears fell, it was a prayer of comfort and strength and understanding.
As we began rehearsing there was not a dry eye in the building, the heaviness on our hearts was nearly suffocating and yet just a fraction of what Troney must have felt. He delivered his monologue with emotion, passion, and expression and he would go on to perform it in front of his brother’s closed casket at the funeral a week and two days later.
As we waited for our cues some of us paced in the hall, listened to music through headphones, or sat still with arms around each other just quietly letting the tears roll down our faces…we truly are a family and when one of us hurts we all feel it.
The weight of our message seemed to bear down on us with a crushing strength, and yet we continued. Even as we danced the last and final piece there were more tears. Suicide may have had it’s way in one life, one of our own, one close to us but we will carry on and we will continue to spread our message. After the rehearsal we gathered in our circle and joined hands to pray again…the heaviness lifted a little. We decided to all go to Miss Katie’s together to push the heaviness back further. We had some food, and shared some laughter.
Finally we all hugged Troney and agreed when he said ” This is why we do this.” We do this for people like his brother, who did not give up. When a soldier falls in a bleak battle we do not say he “gave up the fight” we recognize that the foe was too great for him to battle any longer. In the same way when someone commits suicide we need to realize that maybe they made their last stand, and maybe we just couldn’t see what they were up against.
We dedicated our performances at UWM on February 15th to the memory of Justin Small. He is why we do this, and he is why we will continue to do this.