Decoding Trauma in Time Stands Still


We chat with Dr. Wendy - a psychologist and playwright - about the complexities of trauma in our upcoming production of  Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still. In our talkback session on June 14th, we will do a deep dive on how trauma manifests in the play, as well as answer any questions you may have.

What *exactly* is trauma?

Trauma is defined as an experience that is extremely frightening, distressing and overwhelms our ability to cope. Traumatic events are often sudden and unexpected. Typically people feel powerless to stop or change the situation. Trauma comes from many sources, including crimes, natural disasters, accidents, war, or other threats to life or safety.

It wasn’t so very long ago that the common belief was that, if a person survived and was not physically hurt during the overwhelming event, he or she would “be alright in time” and would not suffer lasting after-effects of the experience.

The mental health profession has made great strides in recognizing the impact of environmental events that overwhelm our capacity to cope and leave us in a state of ongoing suffering. However, as a society, we still have trouble recognizing that all wounds are not visible. It’s often the people who suffer from unseen trauma who typically receive the least understanding, empathy, and support.

What does life after trauma look like?

The play asks uncomfortable questions about whether a person can ever return to a sense of “normal” when they have been confronted with their own mortality and have had their beliefs that the world is safe and fair shattered in horrifying ways. 

Psychological healing is not about pretending something terrible did not happen, forgetting it or “getting over” it. Trauma and loss must be accepted, understood, and integrated. 

Margulies highlights the dilemma that Sarah and James face; while no one else can truly understand what they have been through, each serves as a constant reminder of the trauma and reactivates it for the other, over and over. We see how they have lost the ability to engage intimately, for fear of incurring even greater loss.


Final thoughts

Margulies provokes us to think about whether it is morally acceptable to seek a happy, safe, comfortable life when there is so much suffering in the world and whether we can even make such a choice consciously. These are challenging questions for actor and audience alike.


About Dr. Wendy: Clinical Psychologist, Actor and Playwright

Wendy Froberg is a registered clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience offering therapy, assessment and consultation services to clients of all ages. She is also a playwright and actor, so understands the demands of these crafts and what it means to be an artist. 

Wendy wrote the solo plays Interruptions and A Woman of a Certain Age®, which were awarded “Outstanding Original Script” at the 2011 and 2013 Calgary One-Act Play Festivals.  A Woman of a Certain Age® won “Best of Fest” at the Calgary International Fringe Festival and enjoyed successful runs at the Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg and Lethbridge Fringes. Her plays, Riches andBest Interests, were produced in 2013 and 2014 by Urban Stories Theatre. She wrote the libretto for the 2015 Cowtown Opera Company production Annie Davidson.

Selected acting credits include The Only Good Boy (Theatre BSMT), Under Milkwood, It’s a Wonderful Life, Death of a Salesman, Skin Flick (Morpheus); The Trojan Women (Urban Curvz); The Savannah Disputation (Fire Exit); A Midsummer Night’s Dream,Romeo and Juliet (Full Circle); Julius CaesarLove’s Labour’s Lost (Prime Stock); Summer on Fire (Scorpio).