Bringing a New Form of Art to the Community

By Amanda Joerdnt

A Youngstown State University graduate and Kent State students brought the latest production of “(IN)Dependent: The Heroin Project” to the Youngstown Playhouse to put a new perspective on and powerful message about the opioid epidemic.

“(IN)Dependent: The Heroin Project” was performed at the Youngstown Playhouse Aug. 9 through 11 for the Youngstown community to watch and learn about a serious epidemic.

YSU graduate Sarah Demetruk, and Kent State students Emelia Sherin and Zach Manthey came together to tell tragic stories.

Demetruk said the audience is exposed to 50 true stories about the opioid epidemic in the area.

“Emelia, co-writer, lived in the Howland area where a lot of people close to home had overdosed,” Demetruk said. “She collected 50 interviews of addicts, current users, family members and policemen, and took their stories and compiled them into a script and plot.”

The show was performed at the Akron Civic Center for the first time in 2017. After people started following the show, media outlets such as The New York Times began buzzing about the show and the powerful message behind it.

The play follows the two lives of Emily and Ryan who are both struggling with heroin addiction. The only difference between the two characters is that Ryan has a loving and compassionate support system from his mother whom he relies on for help while Emily does not.

Emily is new to the area and has no family or friends to help her get through the difficult times. The show follows their two journeys. Their outcomes are completely different.

Brian Suchora, who plays the stepfather, said he wants the audience to understand how this show can open the eyes of many individuals.

“It’s obviously a problem and we need to quit being so [politically correct],” Suchora said. “Let’s start a good conversation about it and take the labels off. Let’s stop the judgment.”

The play not only shows how having a support system is essential for addicts, but also how ending the discrimination of the judgment and labels towards addicts can have a huge impact on helping them make a change in their life.

Demetruk said there’s more to addiction than people realize. She said people are too closed off to look at the person instead of the actual presence when stigmas and stereotypes aren’t surrounding them.

Liz Conrad, the cast member who plays Ryan’s mother, said she believes people should lift up those who are struggling and that people need to know they have options for recovery. She said she hopes there is a future and a chance for everyone struggling with addiction.

“There’s a support system out there and all you have to do is ask, and you will be surrounded by it,” Conrad said. “It’s never too dark, and it’s never the end and there is always hope.”

Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to Help Network of Northeast Ohio to help them supply addicts with the right tools they need to overcome their addiction. The other 50 percent will go to the Youngstown Playhouse to help bring more shows like “(IN)Dependent: The Heroin Project” that have a positive and encouraging impact to the community.

Demetruk said the epidemic is not just about facts and statistics, but the people facing the struggle daily. She said she wants the show to give people an open mind about the addiction and how our community can come together to become more educated on the epidemic.