The harrowing story of addiction may not seem like an appropriate theme for a play geared toward middle- and high-school students, but one theater group is on a mission to bring it to Cleveland as a way to raise awareness about the epidemic.  

Improbable Players, based in Watertown, Mass., near Boston, sets the stage for prevention by educating the public about addiction and recovery through dramatic performances and theater workshops with actors who are in long-term recovery from addictions. 

The group is in the process of establishing a Cleveland chapter but first needs to introduce its work to the community, which will happen Oct. 23 at Dante Next Door in Cleveland. The event serves as a fundraiser and actors will perform segments from four of its plays for attendees.

When the group does public performances, its programs are broken into three parts beginning with a skit that satirizes and highlights the misconceptions and consequences of substance misuse, followed by a workshop series and concludes with a play, according to the group’s website. The plays follow topics like how substance use disorder is a family disease, how casual use of drugs can lead to opioid use and the pressures that lead to addiction and how to resist it.  

Dennis Hirsh of Lyndhurst, who is on the advisory board for the Cleveland chapter, said the performances can show viewers that they are not alone when they are faced with the problem of alcohol or drug abuse. 

His daughter, Melissa Koppel, died of a heroin overdose five years ago after developing an addiction to prescription painkillers. While he’s since been involved in raising awareness of the opioid epidemic through other programs, this will be the first time Hirsh will be involved in one geared specifically to educating kids and young adults.

“It’s a very unique way to educate our youth,” said Hirsh, a member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood. “A lot of the time when people think of opioid abuse, they don’t think of middle-school students, they think it’s too young. Well, it’s not too young. A lot of people, no matter what age, are exposed to friends, brothers, sisters, relatives who are directly or indirectly effected by opioids.”  

Auditions for the Cleveland troupe are planned for February 2019.

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Staff Reporter

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