'Tigers Be Still' puts the power of art therapy on display

The play, put on by ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre, aims to show the healing power of the arts

ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre will open its doors to "Tigers Be Still," a play that demonstrates the transformative effect art therapy can have on people.

“Tigers Be Still,” a play by Kim Rosenstock, is a comedy that centers around Sherry, a 25-year-old recent graduate with a master’s degree in art therapy who struggles to find a job and to pull herself, and those around her, out of depression.

The play highlights the importance of art therapy through its strong female lead, who uses the methods on her patients and loved ones. The therapy not only helps others, but also helps her through her difficult time.

Using the methods of art therapy is an effective way to work through difficult feelings, said Lorraine Festa, an ASU psychology lecturer who uses some of the techniques in her own career.

While Festa is not a licensed art therapist, she said she has taken classes and practiced many art therapy sessions with patients, particularly with children not immediately open to talking about their feelings. 

“It’s about the self-expression," Festa said. "About giving the person the freedom to feel safe in an environment where they don’t necessarily have to articulate how they’re feeling."

Art therapy is a faction of psychology that uses art and creativity to work through difficult feelings or situations, according to the American Art Therapy Association.

Festa has seen the powerful impact of art therapy firsthand while working with patients earlier in her career. 

“You may give them a very brief direction, but you allow them to flow with whatever is coming up,” Festa said, adding that the process "can really transpose a person."

Angelica Cabral, a senior studying journalism, plays Sherry and said the struggle that her character goes through in finding herself is something many college students can relate to.

"I think a lot of students are at this time in their lives where they’re not sure exactly what they want to do and they’re not sure where their life is going to go," Cabral said. "That’s something that Sherry, my character, really goes through."

The play follows Sherry as she returns home and lands a job as a substitute art teacher. There, she takes on her first one-on-one client using the art therapy methods she learned in school, which becomes a launching point for her to start turning her life around.

“It’s a way to get them to further open up and then it becomes more,” Cabral said. “A lot of things start off as a therapy session but then lead into something far different.” 

Brian Foley, “Tigers Be Still" director and a faculty associate in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said the play provides a good medium to explore these ideas.

“The arts, at least especially theatre in my experience, provides an opportunity to rehearse the best version of life and then practice it eight times a week in front of an audience,” Foley said. “It’s something that might be able to get you out of bed when nothing else can.”

Foley said the play leans into an art therapy aesthetic for its performances, referencing the practice of drawing that is common in art therapy sessions.

The play’s physical set will not change from scene to scene and instead use drawings to create the background. Foley said the drawings will help bring the audience into the world the characters live and struggle in.

Additionally, members of the show's cast and crew drew pictures of tigers to be displayed in the lobby, and audience members will be encouraged to contribute their own drawings too. 

“The tiger is a metaphor for something that’s lurking over your shoulder, that’s dangerous and keeping you from taking action,” Foley said. 

However, the play isn't actually about tigers. Cabral said the play provides audiences a refreshing example of realistic characters experiencing real-life issues in an oversaturated media landscape. 

“This is a simple play about an everyday woman and I think there’s a beauty in that,” she said. 

"Tigers be Still" will run Feb. 15 to 17 and Feb. 24. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and can be bought here.

Editor's note: Angelica Cabral is a former State Press reporter. 

Reach the reporter at Lindsay.A.Walker@asu.edu or follow @walker_writes on Twitter. 

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