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Dionysus: Addiction takes center stage

Two free theatrical performances and town hall discussions on crucial issues related to substance abuse and addiction will be held on Thursday, May 3, in Manchester and Hazard.

“The Dionysus Project: Addiction Takes Center Stage” is an innovative public health collaboration between The Partnership at Drugfree.org, Outside the Wire, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and Operation UNITE.

At both locations, acclaimed film, television and Broadway actors will perform dramatic readings from the ancient Greek play, Euripides’ Bacchae, about the destructive power of intoxication.

Cast members include:

• Kathleen Chalfant, who received a Tony nomination for “Angels in America” and an OBIE Award for “Wit.”

• Adam Driver, recently seen in the feature film “J. Edgar” and the HBO series “Girls.”

• Jesse Eisenberg, who received an Oscar nomination for “The Social Network.”

• Peter Frances James, a Broadway actor most recently seen in “The Merchant of Venice.”

The theatrical presentation serves as a catalyst for a panel discussion and town hall meeting focusing on the impact substance abuse and addiction has on individuals, families and communities.

Supported by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the readings will be translated, directed and facilitated by Bryan Doerries and produced by Phyllis Kaufman of Outside the Wire. The presentations will focus heavily on abuse of prescription medicine, an issue that prominently affects the Appalachia area.

The performance will be followed by a panel discussion featuring community experts and affected parties, and will culminate in a facilitated town hall discussion of the complex challenges posed by addiction.

Manchester panelists include: Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, Southeast Community and Technical College President Dr. Bruce Ayers, Behavior Health Coordinator Deborah Anderson of Baptist Health Systems, and Clay Countians UNITED Co-Chair Melanda Adams of Manchester.

Hazard event panelists include Perry Circuit Court Judge Bill Engle, Director of Safe and Drug Free Schools (Pike County Public Schools) Marionette Little, Pikeville Medical Center Pharmacist Cassee Jones, and Josh Huffman of Pikeville.

A town hall discussion to elicit community opinion will conclude the event.

The Manchester program begins at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Stivers Building at Eastern Kentucky University’s Manchester Regional Campus, 50 University Drive, in downtown Manchester. The Hazard program begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Perry County Public Library, 289 Black Gold Blvd.

Although these events are free, those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by Friday, April 27, due to limited seating. Reservations can be made by contacting Koula Oakley at 1-606-330-1400 or by e-mail to koakley@centertech.com.

“The goal of ‘The Dionysus Project’ is to educate and engage participants so that they can examine their own attitudes, or even biases, toward young people struggling with addiction,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “We are confident that this event, part of our community education efforts, will facilitate much-needed conversation around the myths and misunderstanding that surround substance abuse, particularly in Appalachia as it has been profoundly impacted by this issue.”

The reading/discussion format is designed to help break down the stigma associated with substance abuse and addiction and to promote healthy dialogue to foster compassion, cooperation and understanding.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Outside the Wire chose Euripides’ Bacchae, a 2,500-year-old tragedy, to engage audiences in crucial discussions about the timelessness of the human struggle with substance abuse and addiction. The play explores the allure and the destructive power of drugs and alcohol through the tragic downfall of a single family over the course of one day, revealing how family members play a critical role in modeling attitudes and behaviors for children regarding alcohol and drugs, and exposing how the introduction of a new drug can annihilate a community.

To learn more about “The Dionysus Project,” contact events@drugfree.org or call 212-973-3546 or visit the “Events” page at drugfree.org.


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