“Be a Part of the Conversation,”  Hatboro-Horsham School District’s drug and alcohol awareness program — partnered with the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation (HHEF) to present a gritty and realistic story about substance abuse. On September 21 and 22, several hundred patrons witnessed a dramatic portrayal of the life and death struggles that young people face when they abuse drugs or alcohol.

Jerome McDonough’s one-act play featured ten characters — each dealing with the impact of various substances. The 70-minute play took audience members into these individuals’ lives and showed what fueled their drug and alcohol use, including self-imposed achievement standards, stress, loneliness, low self-esteem and a desire to fit in.

Kristin Hannings, “Addict” director and Hatboro-Horsham High School English teacher, said the play is different from other productions in many ways, partially because McDonough intended for the play to be adapted to modern-day language and current drugs of abuse.

“We felt that telling the everyday stories of addiction would be more authentic and genuine by making the characters’ accounts and afflictions a bit more true to life,” Hannings added. “’Addict’ really gave us the ability to provide a renewed picture of addiction and explain that drug use and abuse is not merely a bad choice, but rather a person acting upon a deadly brain disease that compels them to use.”

“Our motivation with ‘Addict’ is to present an educational piece of theatre. We didn’t just want to entertain our audience, but wanted to inform them about the unfortunate realities of drug abuse,” Hannings said. With a PG-13 rating, the play addressed a variety of substances that may not be in the public perception as “typical,” such as K2 or Spice (synthetic marijuana), Addorall, inhalants, opioids, bath salts (synthetic stimulant), and Molly (a club drug similar to ecstasy).

“It is amazing to see how we have been able to connect and relate to one another’s struggles with addiction and use those conversations to enhance our production for the Hatboro-Horsham community,” Hannings said.

The play was immediately followed by facilitated small-group “Conversations,” which allowed participants to discuss and process the raw nature of the production, providing support and supplemental information. The 20 student cast members — whose grades range from 10th to 12th — were on hand to talk about their experiences in preparing their challenging roles.

Most importantly, audience members walked away with a realistic view of the harsh realities so many young people face.