The Clarke University Drama Department has received a grant that will help the school partner with a mental health association to produce the musical, “Next to Normal.”The $6,375 grant is provided by the Iowa Arts Council. Clarke is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to present four performances from Oct. 3-6, with one of the performances followed by an audience discussion led by mental health professionals.“Next to Normal” is a rock musical that explores the story of a mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder and the ethics in modern psychiatry. It is only the eighth musical in history to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is one of the first major productions to explore mental illness and society’s increased use of psychiatric drugs. “Next to Normal” won Tony Awards in 2009 for Best Original Score and Best Orchestration.”The Clarke Drama Department is very excited to be partnering with NAMI to bring awareness to such an important and broadly felt topic as mental illness,” said Joe Klinebriel, Clarke associate professor of drama. “Theatre, at its best, can catalyze dialogue and even spark change in communities. Taking on such a challenging and topical musical as ‘Next to Normal,’ assisted generously by a grant provided by the Iowa Arts Council, the Clarke Drama Department aims to produce a professional level experience for its campus and community audiences, giving a voice to the issue of mental illness.”“Next to Normal” is part of the 2013-14 Arts at Clarke focus on overcoming challenges. Additionally, Clarke’s Mackin-Mailander Endowed Lectures will feature the founder of a national movement to de-stigmatize mental illness, a Paralympic athlete who is a recovering addict, and a traveling visual art exhibit from The Awakenings Project, whose mission is to assist artists with psychiatric illness.Tickets will be available at the door 45 minutes prior to curtain. No reservations are necessary and all seats are general admission. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for non-Clarke students.The Iowa Arts Council is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.For more information, contact the Clarke University Marketing and Communication Office at (563)588-6318.