PORT ANGELES — For one quarter each year, students in Peninsula College’s drama program collaborate to write and produce their own play.
This year’s production will focus on the opioid crisis, and how the community might find hope and empathy within it.
The production, titled “Opioids,” opens at 7 tonight in the Peninsula College Little Theatre, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
The production is free and open to the public.
Additional performances will follow Saturday and March 15 and 16 at 7 p.m., and Wednesday at noon.
“I have had family members affected deeply by the opioid crisis and wanted to shine a light on how this problem affects families and communities, and what solutions may be out there that we haven’t yet discovered,” said the play’s director Kelly Doran.
“When making devised theater with students, we research, interview and delve deeply into the subject matter.”
The students’ work addresses the issue and offers hope in a crisis that can feel overwhelming.
“Not only does theater transform its audience, it also transforms the actors, directors, writers and technicians in the process,” she said.
Doran’s brother, Dave Doran, worked as a public health nurse at the Clallam County Health Department and was one of the guests invited to speak in class, organizers said.
He helped to make overdoses a notifiable condition in Clallam County, a policy that has since spread nationwide.
He has also worked to increase the availability of naloxone — which helps block the effects of an opioid overdose — in Clallam County.
Over half of the participating student cast has had exposure to the opioid crisis. After initial research and discussion, students began creating characters and forming the arc of the play by examining these characters’ situations and relationships.
“Many of the details for the students’ characters we gleaned directly from the people whose stories we heard in class,” said instructor Pete Griffin.
“Some very powerful stuff came up, from individual anecdotes to entire themes that the class felt needed to be heard.”
“These stories are based off of real people, and that’s been really strong for me,” said Caitlin Balser, a student who created the struggling couple of Josh and Maria, and who plays Maria.
“I feel like Maria is someone who a lot of people can identify with in this community … the person that stood by someone they loved for years and tried to give them everything they could, and at the end it’s sometimes not enough.”
Students began by creating their own characters and writing their own scenes, but were soon working together as the play started to unfold.
“I’ve just seen Bri and David become their characters,” said Brad Alemao, “and it makes for a great collaboration. It’s more realistic when we actually have the actors portraying the characters writing as well.”
Students want audiences to walk away from the play with a better understanding of the opioid crisis in their own community and, above all, hope.
“I want them to feel that drug-addicted people are still people,” said Christian Curtis. “They’re not going to infect you with addiction. But it is a disease, and people need to know that. They need to know that [addicts] can be helped and that we shouldn’t just throw them aside.”
For more information, contact Doran at [email protected]