Operation UNITE and other organizations teamed up with actors Kathleen Chalfant, Adam Driver, Peter Frances James and Jesse Eisenberg to help raise awareness about addiction in eastern Kentucky. The actors, part of the group “Outside the Wire” are known for their roles both on the silver screen and the theater.
Kathleen Chalfant, who received a Tony nomination for “Angels in America, Adam Driver, from the feature film “J. Edgar” and the HBO series “Girls,” Jesse Eisenberg, nominated for an Oscar for his role as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” and Peter Frances James, a Broadway actor whose most recent role was in “The Merchant of Venice.”
Theatrical performances and town hall discussions on issues related to substance abuse took place at the Eastern Kentucky University Manchester Campus and the Perry County Public Library.
“The Dionysus Project: Addiction Takes Center Stage” is a public health collaboration between The Partnership at Drugfree.org, Outside the Wire, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and Operation UNITE.
Rep. Hal Rogers, ( R ), 5th District, was at the event in Manchester and said he believed it sent a message to the community.
“It shows that human nature has not changed in 2,500 years,” said Rogers.
“We are still enticed by intoxicants and we lose our way in life and that is a modern story.”
Dionysus is the Greek god of intoxication from Euripides’ Bacchae. Chalfant played Agaue, the mother of young King Pentheus, played by Eisenberg. Agaue is intoxicated by the gods and wine and ended up tearing the head of her own son and does not realize it until she has a moment of clarity in the play.
Dionysus’ goal was to intoxicate the minds of the people in Pentheus’ city to join him in his intoxication religion. Pentheus is originally against the idea, but fell victim and is killed by Agaue while she is on an intoxicated rampage with the other women of the village.
Eisenberg said he believed that the actions allowed the audience to become engaged after the show.
“Because actors are on stage, emoting and opening up and being personal, people feel comfortable discussing issues that may be taboo or private,” said Eisenberg.
Eisenberg and Chalfant agreed in their belief that the human condition had not changed in thousands of years. Though the play was about intoxication of one particular substance, abuse is still prevalent in the 21st century.
“What is interesting about this play is that it was written 2,400 years ago or something and it has so much relevance today,” said Eisenberg.
“It talks about the alluring and then damaging aspects of substance, alcohol, drugs and it talks about how they can really ravage a city and in this case it relates to substance abuse.”
Chalfant said she felt responsible and “privileged” as an actor and individual to come to the mountains and other parts of the country to try to find solutions to addiction.
“Those of us who are lucky enough to still be okay I think have a responsibility to reach out and try to snatch those who are on the edge of oblivion if you can,” said Chalfant.
Chalfant and Eisenberg agreed it was important to be part of the solution.
“I am interested in social issues like everybody else and this is kind of a unique way to use what I do as a job which is acting and performing to affect or at least be part of the dialogue of some sort of substantive issue,” said Eisenberg.
Chalfant said in her opinion, it is important to stand up and be vocal about the issue.
“The problem touches all of us either obviously or in indirect ways and it will only be solved by all of us working at a solution together,” said Chalfant.
Hundreds of people attended the performances in Manchester and Hazard.
The actors will join the group “Outside the Wire” across the country with “The Dionysus Project.” Their next stop will be in Los Angeles. For more information on “Outside the Wire,” visit www.outsidethewirellc.com
To learn more about Operation UNITE, go to http://operationunite.org or www.drugfree.org
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