IU Theatre will begin its 2020 spring season with the new devised work, Ascendant, part of the “From the Ground Up” series, by faculty playwright Peter Gil-Sheridan. As the opioid crisis tightens its grip on the United States, IU faculty members Peter Gil-Sheridan and Jonathan R. Michaelsen have collaborated with a cast of seven to create a new play about the addiction epidemic in this country. The company has interviewed addicts in recovery, first responders, scientists, law enforcement, public defenders and prosecutors, community organizers, mental health professionals, and doctors to better understand how addiction happens and more importantly how we as a community can respond humanely.
The resulting project brings a small Indiana community struggling with addiction into focus. It is the story of the very real human struggle to cope with the difficulties of life, difficulties created and exacerbated by a culture that is marginalizing and isolating. The play challenges the stigma of addiction and offers a new perspective on what it means to be human. The piece is in line with some of the most progressive thinking about dependence from the field of medicine and psychology, showing the many faces of addiction.
Playwright Peter Gil-Sheridan is head of the MFA Playwriting Program at IU. This summer, he was a writer-in-residence at The New Harmony Project in New Harmony, Indiana where he developed his new play, This Space Between Us. He is a regular writer-in-residence with the Silverton Theatre Mine in Silverton, CO where he’s generated several new plays. He also wrote a new independent film, Hungry, commissioned by Amar Srivastava that will be released in 2020. Ascendant is the first project of IU Theatre & Dance’s new “From the Ground Up” series. Works in the series build theatre from the ground up and present opportunities for exploring creativity, adaptability, and the impact of collaborative voices.
Jonathan R. Michaelsen directs this production. Joining Gil-Sheridan and Michaelsen on the creative team are MFA students Spencer Gjerde (Scenic Design) and Lee Anne Meeks (Lighting Design) and faculty member Jason Orlenko (Costume Design).