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Where theater and psychology intersect. Blog, interviews & insight from a psychologist, about the shows YOU love.

Burn All Night and Collective Trauma: Shall We Dance?

Burn All Night and Collective Trauma: Shall We Dance?

Burn All Night is a gritty immersive musical making its world premier at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. It follows young Bobby, freshly arrived in New York City, as he runs into his old friend, Holly and then tries to settle into his adulthood. The show asks of it’s protagonists and it’s audience: What would you do on the last night of the world? The musical plants seeds of doom with dialogue at the outset of the show referencing devastating earthquakes. By intermission, those words have become actual rumbles that shake the internal organs of the audience members.

They face their pasts, their futures and themselves. People deal with trauma, in this case the possible end of the world, in a multitude of ways. Some isolate, some reach out to connect, some dance as if their lives depended on it.

Cast members (from L to R) Aurie Ceylon, Marquis Johnson, Ashley LaLonde and AJ Rafael in Burn All Night (Evgenia Eliseeva)

For those of us older than the millennials represented on stage (and dancing out into the dance right next to you), this apocalyptic premise was more than an echo of 9/11. Perhaps half of the audience on the night I saw the show lived through that trauma and could feel the taste of fear at the back of our throats. Collective traumatization, such as that day back in 2001, draw people together. When you’ve lived through something with others, our human nature causes us to feel closer to our fellow passengers. Remember how the entire country felt on 9/12, a united nation who were connected in our fear and our hope? We are social creatures, so even with all of our current climate of disconnection and socializing through our phones, we still look to each other when threatened as a group.

Burn All Night achieves a sample of that feeling of connection and oneness in inviting the audience to dance at the end of the world with the actors, and it is a blissful, joyful party.

Burn All Night runs through September 8th. You can purchase tickets at


Dr. Broadway