Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Amy RohrBerg


Mental illness in literature; Manic-depressive illness in literature; Costume; Kitt, Tom. Next to normal;


Throughout my life my two main interests have been theatre and people. When I came to UNI I found a way to pursue these interests through my education, with a psychology major and a theatre minor. I had the first idea for my thesis when I had the opportunity to take some upper level costume design classes alongside some of my upper level psychology courses, and I noticed how naturally the two areas of study fit together. As I began to choose my play, started to think about the psychological concepts in the shows I was reading, and progressed with my education in psychology, I found another source of inspiration: a desire to educate people about mental illness. It has been my experience that there are a lot of misconceptions about psychology, therapy, and mental illness in our society today, and I find it very disheartening. There are too many people who don’t see mental illness as a real issue, who believe that sufferers should “just get over it”. I believe that theatre can be one of the most powerful educational tools available to the public, and I thought that this thesis would be a great opportunity to foster understanding of bipolar disorder and the difficulties of life with a mental illness.

In our design costumes class we were required to bring factual research into our designs, but in my designs it mainly amounted to research about the fashions and particulars of a profession in a given time. For this project I was inspired to dig deeper into the psychology of the characters in the show. To do this I wanted my research to not only explore the lifestyle of the characters, but to be consistent with current psychological research about mental illnesses. I needed to find a show that dealt with psychological issues so that I could do in depth research on those issues and apply that to my costume design. I wanted my costumes to not only establish the feel of the show, but to portray these psychological concepts honestly. I did some research and found myself drawn to a musical that was relatively new, and dealt frankly and directly with the subject of mental illness. The name of the show was Next to Normal.

Year of Submission



Department of Theatre

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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