“It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience,” proclaimed Heather Wainscott. “It certainly was an eye-opener.”
Wainscott, branch manager for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), was reacting to the inaugural performances of “The Dionysus Project: Addiction Takes Center Stage” in Manchester and Hazard on May 3.
Featuring four acclaimed New York actors, the dramatic reading from the ancient Greek play, Euripides’ Bacchae, and accompanying town hall meetings were part of a new innovative collaboration between The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Outside the Wire. The event was co-sponsored locally by Operation UNITE and ODCP.
More than 469 people attended the two programs.
“That was an amazing program, probably on of the best days I’ve had in ODCP. What was so awesome were the moving stories that came after the performance,” Wainscott said. “I was blown away by (the blending of Greek tragedy with Eastern Kentucky. You could hear a pin drop when that was going on.”
“This play is a warning. We have the same things happening right now,” said one audience member during a question and comment session. “It’s everybody’s responsibility.”
Cast members performing at both locations included:
• Kathleen Chalfant, who received a Tony nomination for “Angels in America” and an OBIE Award for “Wit.”
• Adam Driver, recently seen in the film “J. Edgar” and currently staring in the HBO series “Girls.”
• Jesse Eisenberg, who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and played Columbus in the horror comedy “Zombieland.”
• Peter Frances James, a Broadway actor most recently seen in “the Merchant of Venice” but best known for playing Rosa Parks’ husband in “The Rosa Parks Story” and Jahfree Neema in the HBO series “Oz.”
The theatrical presentation – “a timeless human struggle” about addiction, noted artistic director Brian Doerries – served a catalyst for a panel discussion and town hall meeting at each location.
Panel members in Manchester were Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, Behavior Health Coordinator Deborah Anderson from Baptist Health Systems, Clay Countians UNITED Co-Chair and recovering addict Melanda Adams of Manchester, and Kentucky Senator Robert Stivers.
The true tragedy of substance abuse, Rogers stated, is “the collateral damage to our kids.”
His point was illustrated by emotional comments made by several high school students attending the Hazard presentation.
“You see this every day. It really alters the way you think,” stated one young lady. Lots of students want to fit in and “get caught up in this deception. You see so many beautiful and talented people fall.”
“I am more of an adult than my parents,” added another student.
Panel members in Hazard were Perry Circuit Court Judge Bill Engle, Director of Safe and Drug Free Schools (Pike County) Marionette Little, Pikeville Medical Center Pharmacist Cassee Jones, and motivational speaker and recovering addict Josh Huffman of Pikeville.
“Addiction does not discriminate. It affects every family,” said Jones. “It’s really destroyed so many different lives.”
Huffman said he has seen “the tragedy of death so close at hand. … It brings such shame to us as a people.”
“If we focus on the problem it’s going to get bigger. We have to focus on the solutions,” said Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “This is an ancient play, written 2,400 years ago, so this isn’t a new problem. In the two hours we’ll spend here today we’ll lose 8 people (to prescription drugs).”
Producing Director Phyllis Kaufman said the collaboration was a success, and they would use a lot of what they learned in Kentucky when The Dionysus Project is performed next in Los Angeles.