News Column

'Bliss Point' examines the hunger of addiction, substance abuse

May 30, 2014

By Diana Sholley, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.



May 30--"Bliss Point" is a play about addiction unlike any other.

For starters, 14 of the 17 cast members are not actors. But these first-time performers have something many pros don't -- first-hand knowledge of the subject matter. Their lives have all been personally touched by addiction.

"Bliss Point," is the fifth production in The Hunger Cycle, a nine-play series about hunger, justice and food equity issues. However, "Bliss Point," which was to debut at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles on Thursday, has nothing to do with food.

Instead, it addresses the hunger of addiction where the need for emotional fulfillment, love, respect, connection and spirituality is fed through substance abuse.

"I did a lot of research for this story," said Shishir Kurup, who wrote the play. "One aspect of the play deals with young people struggling with addictive behavior. I went to Phoenix House, a place that helps young people between 11 and 18 struggling with addiction."

In addition to Phoenix House, Kurup did research and interviews at Beit T'Shuvah and The Hills treatment centers in Los Angeles.

For more than two decades Kurup has been part of the socially conscious, Los Angeles-based theater company Cornerstone, the group producing The Hunger Cycle. Cornerstone has also produced other multi-year play cycles including The Watts Cycle, five plays seeking to build bridges between African American and Latino residents of Watts, and The Faith-Based Cycle, seven plays exploring communities of faith in Los Angeles.

For "Bliss Point," Kurup spent about two years researching and interviewing people of various ages in various stages of addiction. He also wanted to explore the class system to see how an individual's socioeconomic status affects the level of care.

"I heard some unbelievably horrific stories; I heard amazing stories of the resilience of the human body, the human soul and the human condition," he said. "We tried not to shy away from darkness; in the darkness there was also the light of possibilities at the same time."

From those interviews and from his personal observance of addiction, the story started to take shape.

"You can't help but put yourself into the picture and how addiction may have or may not have affected your life," Kurup said. "You can't separate yourself and you use your own life to flesh out the idea and augment the stories you're hearing."

One of the primary characters in "Bliss Point" is an Indian journalist who is researching addiction.

"He starts out with an idea of what he thinks the article's going to be about, but during the investigative process it becomes more and more personal and turns the spotlight on himself," said Juliette Carrillo, the show's director. "He starts to uncover aspects of his own life and how addiction has affected himself and his family."

One of Carrillo's goals is for audience members to leave with more compassion for a community of people typically misunderstood.

"It's easy for those who don't have addition problems to judge," she said. "When I signed on, I was nervous about the cast and the potential obstacles we would have together. My preconceived notions were blown. These people are incredible, committed, sensitive, smart and talented.

"The people involved in this play are in rehab or in the process of recovery or have a family member in rehab. They are not actors, but they are speaking the words of a community; words so meaningful because they've lived them. They've been there and through those words they take the audience there with them."

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(c)2014 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)

Visit the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.) at www.dailybulletin.com

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Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA)


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