Some people are afraid of losing their minds.
Tonight, at the Western Maryland College Alumni Theater, one woman will be terrified of finding hers.
"Sandra is a sexual-abuse victim who has created different personalities within herself to deal with her pain," said Kristine Holland, a WMC senior theater major whose play, "Races Nurtured in the Dark" begins a three-performance run tonight.
"She creates a 'play' in her head where the personalities interact so she can investigate her feelings and finally confront them," Ms. Holland said.
Ms. Holland, 22, who hopes to graduate in May with a writing minor, created Sandra's story in a series of flashbacks and dream sequences.
As director, she uses lights, poetry, dialogue and music to set the tone for a disturbing, yet moving examination of the human spirit.
"This is not an easy play to see. The theme is very serious, and we actually depict a sexual abuse on stage," said Ms. Holland. "The music creates the moods for the characters and the audience and is often very intense."
Ms. Holland said the play was also not easy to rehearse and perform for her three-person cast.
Each of the theater veterans -- Christopher Patrick (also lighting director), Katherine Winkler and Sara Lundberg -- will take on several of the 13 personalities depicted in the play and will be on stage during the two-hour performance.
"Chris is the abuser and Jesus Christ," Ms. Holland said. "Talk about trying to reconcile contrasting feelings."
The cast and crew of the production helped dictate the direction of the play, Ms. Holland said.
"To me, it's the process that matters more than product, so everyone was involved in developing the central idea," Ms. Holland said. "I can't direct what goes on in the actors' minds.
"They are delving deep inside themselves to find their interpretation of the character," she said. "Often what the actor has in mind for the character is better than what I had written. Sometimes a totally different, more important idea emerged."
"Races" is a play about coming to grips with reality, said Ms. Holland, whose work with Grassroots, a program in Columbia that assists the homeless, gave her the chance to deal with sexual-abuse victims with multiple-personality disorder.
"What we eventually do is investigate personality conflicts and try to interpret our findings through the music and the lights," Ms. Holland said. "It's the integration of the different sides of ourselves that helps us get to the heart of conflict."
Because of the serious subject, Ms. Holland warns that the play should not be thought of as weekend entertainment for children under 13.
"This is an adult play, and it deals with adult themes," Ms. Holland said. "I think the material would be a little too much for younger children.
"What the audience must understand is that all of these 'people' are an aspect of the character herself," said Ms. Holland. "It is important to confront the pain in our lives."
"Races Nurtured in the Dark" will be performed at 8 p.m. today, tomorrow and Sunday on the Understage in Alumni Hall. Tickets are $2 for students, $5 for nonstudents and are available by calling the WMC theater department at 857-2599 today between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased at the Alumni Theater Box Office within the half-hour before each performance.