Performance brings reality of addiction to the stage

The issue of addiction came to the stage on Sept. 12, as “I’m Going to Do This For the Rest of My Life” was presented for the first time in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The play was the combined effort of Assistant Professor of the School of Occupational Therapy and project director Sally Wasmuth and local playwright Tom Horan. It was also featured as part of the University of Indianapolis’ ongoing university series “Flipping the Script.”

The play follows the lives of five people with varying addictions: food, alcohol, and drugs. The audience meets the characters before they begin their descent and follows them through the trials their addictions present.

Wasmuth explained her interest and experience in studying various types of addiction in graduate school and at the Indianapolis Veteran Affairs Medical Center. After interviewing four recovering addicts in Indianapolis, she entrusted her work to Horan, the award-winning playwright-in-residence of the downtown Phoenix Theatre. Lauren Briggeman then signed on to direct, upon the work’s completion, and join the effort of bringing the piece to life on the Christel DeHaan stage.

“We thought that, considering the opioid epidemic that is going on right now, it would be important to provide a voice for people going through that kind of situation in the community and people at the university, so that we could really start to have conversations about it and increase awareness of the experience, as opposed to just hearing about it on the news or hearing horror stories of it,” Wasmuth said. “We wanted to make it more human and personal.”

A question-and-answer panel featuring Horan, actors Josh Coomer, Sarah Hoffman, Daniel Martin, Ryan Ruckman, and Georgeanna Smith-Wade, and guest panelists Justin Wade, Nathan Rush, and Brad Trollson followed the one-time performance. Wasmuth moderated the panel, taking questions and comments from the audience related to the performance or their own experiences, both first- and second-hand, with addiction.

Panelist Justin Wade explained that programs such as “I’m Going to Do This For the Rest of My Life” are especially important in cities such as Indianapolis, where he said that the topic of drug addiction is one that must be addressed.

“Programs like this are absolutely key in the city of Indianapolis because they get the discussion going. I think people get nervous that it ends up being like preaching [to] the choir, but everybody is connected to an addict in one way, shape, or another,” Wade said. “And I think things like this allow for people to admit what is prevalent everywhere. So it can’t be done enough. . . .You never know what kind of kid, who is struggling, could hear something like this and change their life.”

Wade’s point was echoed by Wasmuth, who emphasized the prevalence of addiction, not only within the Indianapolis community, but UIndy itself. Wasmuth explained that by being empathetic to those struggling with addiction—whether food, drug, alcohol, or any other —the university can further serve the community it calls home.

“One of our big mottos [at UIndy] is ‘education for service.’ And I think a big part of service is going out into the community and being of service to people in need or being part of the community,” Wasmuth said. “I think drug addiction in the community is really prevalent, and more prevalent than we necessarily realize, and I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of people…might be struggling with an addiction. And if they are not [personally] struggling with an addiction themselves, a lot of people come from families with people who have devastating addictions. So I think if all of us are more aware that addiction is happening and how it happens and what it looks like, then we can be more compassionate with each other as UIndy students and as faculty.”