A community attends its wounded in 'You Are Not Alone' a new play about addiction and recovery
GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshires native Patrick Toole had written only five scenes when he sat down with nine actors, including himself, to begin work on a new play about addiction and recovery.
Now, more than two months and 100 pages later, Toole's "You Are Not Alone" is up and running at Universalist Unitarian Meeting of Southern Berkshire in Housatonic, where performances begin tonight. Curtain is 7:30 Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings through April 6. Admission is free with a suggested $10 donation.
"You Are Not Alone" is the second offering of Emergent Ensemble, a theater collective founded by Toole and Maizy Broderick Scarpa that made its debut in 2015 with Annie Baker's "The Aliens," staghd in a tunnel alongside the Housatonic railroad tracks.
"You Are Not Alone" brings the audience indoors in what is designed as an up-close-and-personal engagement. Theatergoers will be seated on two tiers on three sides of the playing space in the white-walled community room adjacent to the sanctuary.
The collective's goal, Toole and Broderick Scarpa say in a news release, is "the creation of theater that is accessible to all in our community, both monetarily and in terms of subject matter, that illuminates and bolsters the community as a whole."
"Community" is the operative word. "You Are Not Alone" pivots around two characters, George, played by Gregory Boover, and Sydney, played by Broderick Scarpa — heroin addicts who meet in a program for addicts seeking recovery from a full pantry of addictions and fall in love. Toole's play makes the point that the addiction community is broad and wide; that it takes a community to heal its wounded.
Toole developed "You Are Not Alone" in collaboration with his community of actors, from the "skeleton script," as Broderick Scarpa described it in an interview, that Toole presented his actors the first day of rehearsals. The play evolved through a series of improvisations. "I took what members of the cast offered and developed the play," Toole said during a rehearsal dinner break interview, in which he was joined by various cast members and assistant director Hunter Washburne.
In the news release, Toole says the original inspiration for "You Are Not Alone" came from his own experiences with addiction.
"There's something about a recovery community," he says in the news release. "It's this weird, underground world that I didn't know existed and it's huge. It's in every town in America."
"You Are Not Alone" tells a story that has personal connections for many of the actors, among them Pittsfield actress Brittany Nicholson,
"Working on this play made me realize there are a lot of kids in my school [Pittsfield High School] who have died of overdoses," she said during the rehearsal break
"When we were growing up," she says in the news release, "there were a lot of drug dealers around, and if there's drugs there's people with addiction. That side of the Berkshires isn't shown."
"We are all committed to this play," Boover said at rehearsal, "because some of us are recovered addicts or know or have known someone who has been an addict."
Washburne is one. A close friend died of an overdose the first night of rehearsal.
"It's hard to get sober and stay sober," said cast member Glenn Barrett. "Not everyone makes it,"
"It's very easy to forget the reasons behind the addiction," said cast member Christopher Brophy, who works at Berkshire Medical Center's Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit — Jones 3 — where he's seen the effects of addiction close up. "This play puts the issue in human terms."
To that end, "You Are Not Alone" is suffused with music, dance, humor. "We show the whole picture of addiction," Toole says in the news release.
"[Addiction] is truly an issue that needs to be treated responsibly," Boover said at rehearsal. "(Recognizing that recovery is not easy), we look at what the potential situations are. We want to give this subject the attention it deserves."
"We hope the audience leaves with a strong sense of community," said Broderick Scarpa.
"The issue (is more involved) than we think," Boover said. "There are a lot more people involved. It's all of us."
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