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Honour's student Chelsea McRae is excited to have her show 'THERAPY' feature in the 2024 Dunedin Fringe Festival.

It has been said ‘good things take time’ and that’s something playwright Chelsea McRae might agree with.

Chelsea is part way through her honour’s degree in Theatre Studies at Otago. Her show ‘THERAPY’ will debut during the 2024 Dunedin Fringe Festival in March.

“THERAPY is a show that I procrastinated writing for a really long time,” she says.

A lecturer from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts (NASDA), where Chelsea got her undergraduate degree, once advised her to keep a journal of anything she goes through - funny, tragic or embarrassing, to use as fodder for her future work.

Chelsea kept a blog about some of these experiences but it wasn’t until last year that she put its contents to good use as part of a self-directed project for a theatre studies paper.

“It’s about my journey navigating the aftermath of abuse and losing my dad to suicide, balanced by plenty of embarrassing things.”

During the show, Chelsea’s character starts seeing a therapist, hoping to find a “quick fix for dizzy spells”.

She spends a few sessions laughing about intrusive thoughts, discussing the weird side of grief, and attempting to convince her audience she isn’t crazy before finally accepting herself.

Chelsea McRae image

Chelsea's show sees her character dealing with some very traumatic events.

Covering such heavy and personal topics could understandably make a performer feel very vulnerable, but Chelsea has a good friend on stage, right by her side - Mario Sadra-de Jong, who attended NASDA with Chelsea.

Mario shared with her a few “hilarious” comedy songs he had written which Chelsea asked if she could use in her show, and the show evolved to become a “one and half women musical”.

“Words cannot express how his music has made my personal story feel validated and special.”

Putting the show together was hard to do, but also therapeutic, Chelsea  says. She  is an advocate for good mental health and wellbeing among actors. Her research during 2024 will focus on consent and safety in the rehearsal room, and she sees ‘THERAPY’ as her first step towards exploring trauma in a safe way for both actors and the audience.

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Mario Sadra-de-Jong, one of Chelsea's good friends from NASDA, provides music for the show.

THERAPY is the second show Chelsea has written. Her first, ‘Bachelor Party’ centred around things her then-fiancé, and his friends, said during his bachelor party.

“I’ve produced a few other shows, but this is the first time I’ve written, produced and performed my story.”

Chelsea is grateful for the help she received during the writing process from supervisor and playwright-in-residence Amanda Faye Martin and psychology lecturer Dr Marea Colombo.

Chelsea is doing her honours part-time, while working full-time for the University’s International Office. She also teaches singing at the Voice Lab nz.

She’s excited to have her show be a part of the 2024 Dunedin Fringe Festival. Shows will be held at 8pm on 21, 22 and 23 March at New Athenaeum Theatre, and tickets can be purchased online.

THERAPY will also be staged at Little Andromeda in Ōtautahi Christchurch over Kings Birthday this year.

- Korero by internal communications adviser, Koren Allpress

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