“It just brought it home how vital this work is, how theater can bring people together and how we can contribute to the story of prevention”
Tonight, 2nd Act, a “collective of artists in recovery which uses theater, film, and drama therapy to address the impact of substance use,” will host its annual fundraiser where actors will stage a reading of the program’s newest play, “I’ll Be There For You.” The show was written with source material from interviews with queer and BIPOC youth in recovery from substance use disorder from Wayside Youth & Family Support Network.
The interviewees, who were generally 18 to 20 years old, were asked questions such as “What was your safe place as a child?” and “What kind of support did you find in your community?” According to Chief Operations Officer Karen Snyder, the biggest themes of the interviews were first use, mentorship, or a healthy adult relationship and family.
According to actor Chris Everett, who is in long term recovery and has been acting with recovery groups for over 20 years, the play is about four friends, some of whom are in recovery and some are not.
“It’s about how to have conversations with friends and family members who may have issues with substance use disorder,” Everett said. “There’s a really great opportunity where they get to mock the conversation about substance use disorder, which is really great, because it shows exactly what words you can use, and it also shows words that you might not want to use if you are confronting somebody about their substance use disorder.”
Everett plays two characters in “I”ll Be There For You”—May, a connoisseur of support groups and recovery tools, and a community teacher in recovery. She also plays minor character Shanelle, who works in a barber shop.
Though Snyder is now chief operations officer for 2nd Act, she was once an actor for the troupe Improbable Players, which Everett was a member of and introduced her to.
“I had some hesitation, because a lot of my acting career was when I was doing most of my drinking, and there were a lot of emotions that came up with that,” Snyder said. “But Chris said that it’s such a unique experience because we actually, as actors, even though we’re performing a character, we also have a lot of those same emotions and understand that character. So there’s a lot of truth and authenticity in the performance.”
Everett joined Improbable Players shortly after her third anniversary of sobriety, and has now been an actor for 2nd Act since its conception in 2021.
“It just got to a point in my life, coming up on my third anniversary, where I wanted to give back and take my career to another level, and so I reached out,” Everett said. “To this day, I still find it the most rewarding job I’ve ever had—it’s the perfect combination of being in recovery, doing service and acting.”
Everett and her fellow actors recently did a reading of “I’ll Be There For You” at Watertown High School, where she was once again invigorated by the sense of purpose she feels on stage.
“Just being in front of students and people again with another play about substance use disorder, really, it just brought it home, like how vital this work is, how theater can bring people together and how we can contribute to the story of prevention,” Everett said.
The organizers note how the importance of 2nd Act’s message is especially relevant for today’s audience, as there was a high recurrence of symptoms during the forced isolation from the pandemic.
“The pandemic brought out a lot of recurrence of symptoms,” Everett said. “People discovered that they had substance use disorder, being isolated and separated from other people. … We have an even wider audience now.”
2nd Act’s Annual Encore: I’ll Be There For You Premiere plays tonight at the Roberts Studio Theatre in Boston
Ponette recently graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism. She enjoys writing about music, movies, culture and cool people. In her free time, she loves consulting Wirecutter, listening to Phoebe Bridgers and playing with her dog, Honey.