There is a societal stigma that villainizes or degrades anyone diagnosed or associated with any mental illness. While many different forms of media have attempted to destroy this stigma through psycho-centric narratives, I wanted to argue that musical theatre has the greatest potential as a live entertainment source to deconstruct and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. For my research, I theorized that musical theatre can most effectively change societal stigma about mental illness by communicating a clear understanding of the disease through music, and achieving popularity in the public eye longer than other live forms of theatre. I chose to focus on four of those musicals: Lady in the Dark by Moss Hart, Kurt Weill, and Ira Gershwin which talks about depression and anxiety in the 1940s; Spring Awakening, adapted from Frank Wedekind's original play by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, which discusses depression and suicidal tendencies, specifically in students; Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt which revolves around bipolar disorder; and Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul which talks about the prevalence of anxiety disorders in society.

With this thesis I wanted to further the progression of destigmatizating mental illnesses through the medium of musical theatre. Through an analysis of these well-known musicals that focus on mental illnesses and the psychological research that follows, I proposed a short song cycle that continues this evolution of mental illness musicals. Through this process, I theorized that musical theatre will decrease the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and will promote treatment and care when dealing with mental illnesses.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Weaver, Earl


Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

Musical Theatre


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date