Teatro Jacó plans play about AA origins

In partnership with New York University’s Langone Medical Center and their Initiative on Alcoholism and its Treatment, Teatro Jacó and Soho Playhouse are presenting the international bilingual tour of Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey’s critically-acclaimed play, “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” with only four dates in Costa Rica.

The official Spanish showings are on Thursday, Dec. 17, and Sunday Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m. The official English showings will be on Friday Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Further opportunities for learning and discussion will take place through talkbacks after each show led by the two playwrights and other representatives from the production, said Teatro Jacó.

“Bill W. and Dr. Bob” is described as the inspiring and often humorous story of the two men who pioneered Alcoholics Anonymous, and their supportive wives, who founded Al Anon.

In January the play will be at the Soho Playhouse in New York City and in February at the Long Center in Austin, Texas.

Directed by Darren Lee Cole, SoHo Playhouse and Teatro Jacó artistic director, this particular revival of the internationally recognized show embarks on a few firsts in the theater community.

Not only is this the first time a highly-revered educational and medical institution is using theater as a medium to educate the public and their students, but it’s also the first time the show will be presented in both English and Spanish with the hope of sparking dialogue about addiction to a wider audience, said Teatro Jacó.

Three Costa Ricans and three Americans will reprise the roles. Overall, the vision of this production is to celebrate the power of recovery, educate the public and health-care community about the disease of alcoholism by breaking down barriers and stigmas, and support outreach to all who still suffer and their friends and loved ones, said Teatro Jacó.

The theater gave this summary:

In 1929, New York stockbroker Bill Wilson crashed with the stock market and became a hopeless drunk. Bob Smith, a surgeon from Ohio, had also been an alcoholic for 30 years, often going into the operating room with a hangover.

Through an astonishing series of events, the two men are brought together and, realizing that “the only thing that can keep a drunk sober is telling his story to another drunk,” forge a relationship.

They help each other stay sober, and then pass on what they’ve learned to others. This drama that rides on humor and tells the extraordinary story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, which many studies, often from the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York University School of Medicine, have shown is the most effective long-term treatment of this disease because of its emphasis on connection and community.

It also goes to the heart of what the practice of medicine is all about: the risk of isolation, and the healing power of good connection. Nearly eight decades later, having never promoted itself, AA spans over 170 countries, with an estimated total of over 114,000 groups and more than two million members worldwide.

“Alcoholism is a great health care challenge and is deserving of attention in medical training and in the practice of medicine,” said Robert I. Grossman, dean and CEO of the Langone Medical Center.

“We believe this play can be used as a tool to help increase the focus and training of our medical staff and students on the diagnosis and the treatment of this disease, and we are pleased to be part of an initiative which uses theatre as a medium to both inspire and educate the public at large about this important topic,” he said.

Playwrights Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey said this:

“In 1986, as doctors treating alcoholics and addicts, we came across the great American success story of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith and felt The Muse tap us on our shoulders:

The playwrights said they had several goals: to write a great, historically-accurate play that anyone, not just recovering drunks, would love, that would touch, amuse, inspire, educate, do service, and heal, a play that would do good in the world.

At the Teatro in Playa Jacó, the tickets are on sale for 8,000 colons for all shows and can be purchased at www.teatrojaco.com and more information can be found at www.billwanddrbob.com.

This production is not-for-profit, through donations to the SoHo Playhouse, a 501c3 organization.

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