Students Perform Play About Drug Abuse

A local theatre group premiered a new play Tuesday Night that sheds light on the growing heroin and prescription pill epidemic on Staten Island. NY1's Natalie Duddridge filed the following report.

Tackling tough topics through theater, students at Susan Wagner High School teamed up with IlluminArt Productions to put on a play called "Prescription for Addiction."

Exploring the dark world of prescription drug and heroin abuse that's deeply affecting Staten Island, actors performed for an audience at the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island Tuesday Night.

"There's a lot of really intense stories. Some of the things that go on, it's crazy. A lot of death, injuries, families torn apart, lives ruined," said student actor Jared Polanco.

Students wrote the play along with help from IlluminArt, a nonprofit group whose goal is to empower people through performance.

The play shows how easily teens can be peer pressured or fall into dangerous drug abuse.

“There's one scene where I'm walking with my friends and I see pill party on Facebook. I have pills because my doctor prescribed them to me. I end up passing out at the party,” said Rosemary Manzo, a student actor.

Educators say for many students, it's easier to act out the issues than to talk about them with their parents.

“When they're writing, they can create a character that can say all the things that they can't say for themselves,” said Alice Bishop, member of the board of IlluminART productions.

The play's executive director says all of the content was reviewed and edited by addiction specialists to make sure both the messages and solutions were accurate.

"We brought in people from the tackling youth substance abuse initiative to really talk to them give them the facts," said Arlene Sorkin, the Executive Director of IlluminART Productions.

The production’s goal is to provide teens and adults with the tools to prevent them from going down the wrong path.

“I’m a parent, and the most important thing young people can do is to be talking. Because as we say in our play, it doesn't just happen in one area, in a low-income area or high-income area. It happens everywhere,” said Randy Topper, Artistic Director of IlluminART Productions.

In the coming months, students and IlluminART will offer customized performances of the play to different schools and community groups,  

“If anybody is unfortunately in one of these situations, it will help them know what to do,” said student actor Jared Polanco.

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